The magic emanated from the thoughtful, meticulous planning for our group by the Kamakura-Nashville Friendship Association (KNFA). Some of us who participated in the October delegation have gotten to know this amazing group over the years, and we were excited to introduce them to new friends. Their detailed planning exceeded our expectations the moment we arrived in Kamakura.
The KNFA arranged a charming combination of history and modern experiences for the group. Kamakura was the capital of Japan from 1192 until 1333 and is replete with stunning temples, shrines, and merchants. Our delegation donned slippers to visit shrines, participated in meditation in a temple with a Buddhist priest, folded our knees to experience a tea ceremony, gazed in wonder at Kamakura’s famous Great Buddha, and devoured flavorful and traditional Japanese cuisine – palatable to all! Of particular interest was a visit to a woodworking enterprise whose ownership has been transferred down the same line for centuries. Kamakura’s Mayor Matsuo also invited the delegation to his office allowing the two mayors to develop a friendship that will last for years to come. Certainly, finding unique Japanese souvenirs for friends and family at home was an easy and enjoyable task!
The highlight of our visit to Kamakura was an evening of celebration with toasting, dining, games, and entertainment.! The KNFA prepared an abundant feast of Japanese and American cuisine. They took great care to mix our delegation with new Kamakura friends at the table for dinner. They served every wine and form of spirit imaginable (of course including sake!). They planned a program that was high energy and filled with love and laughter. In sum, they provided an experience that will forever be a part of the heart and soul of the 23 Nashvillians who participated.
Fortunately for the 23 on the mission, the trip extended into a several days tour of the Tokyo area thanks to arrangements led by group participant, Tokyo native, and Nashville Metro Council member Mina Johnson. An amusing and fascinating side trip was a stop at the Ramen Museum in Yokohama. There we learned the history of ramen and toured a reproduction of a Tokyo neighborhood from the ‘50s where a variety of absolutely delicious ramen was served in small shops.
The highlight of the Tokyo visit was a special audience at the residence of Nashville native and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty. We arrived 30 minutes early for our visit, and Ambassador Hagerty’s wife Chrissy stepped in without missing a beat! Chrissy took us on a special tour of their beautiful home and led us out to their expansive garden for photo opportunities. The residence is on prime real estate in Tokyo and is indeed an island unto itself. Following our impromptu tour, the ambassador emerged from a meeting and graciously spent almost one-half hour briefing the group on U.S.-Japanese relations and developments in East Asia. He also bravely opened the floor for questions from the inquisitive group.
Most visitors to Japan do not have the opportunity to visit Japan’s Supreme Court, but the judges on our trip were thrilled to be able to do so thanks to Mina’s help. Particularly illuminating and unusual was a visit with a Japanese Supreme Court judge. He was a friend of group participant and Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee and happily led a conversation and fielded questions about his court.
A visit to Japan is incomplete without the opportunity to view Mt. Fuji and Hakone, and we were not disappointed! The weather can be iffy with abundant clouds. We lucked out and were able to have a beautiful view of this iconic Japanese mountain. The visit to the Mt. Fuji area was enhanced by the opportunity to take a cruise around beautiful Lake Hakone and walk on a brand new suspension bridge that offers a view of Mt. Fuji on a clear day.