Translated by MATCHA
Savor The Slow Life: Kamejikan Guest House, Kamakura Interview
Written by Ito Kentaro
An interview with the owner of Kamejikan, a relaxing guest house conveniently located in Kamakura, Kanagawa. This is an ideal place to kick back, relax, and really take in the charming, peaceful atmosphere of Kamakura.
Do you feel tired of the city life? Would you like to escape from the hustle and bustle, and really take your mind off your busy schedule? Well, then you're in luck! It only takes an hour to reach Kamakura Station from Tokyo by train, and this is where you will find a guest house that can meet your needs.
Zaimokuza Shopping Street, a place with a relaxing atmosphere
Zaimokuza is an area near the sea and a short distance away from Kamakura Station, that is exceptionally laid back. In fact, you might be shocked by this but, there are no convenience stores in this district. You'll see old fashioned fish shops, vegetable stores, sake shops, and, in one corner of the area, this charming old style house.
This is Kamejikan, a fantastic guest house. We had the chance to sit down and speak with the owner, Mr. Sakurai.
Kamejikan Got Its Name From...
Why you decided to open this guest house?
When I turned 29, I decided to start traveling around the world and the voyage lasted for two years and ten months. While traveling, I often stayed at guest houses. When I came back to my home town, I felt like starting a business there. Then, fun memories of my voyages came back to me. I'd never run a business by myself at that time, but I was kind of confident because of my wide experiences in many guest houses.
I had been in Africa for about two years and really enjoyed my life there, which was very relaxing. As many of us know, there are a large number of problems that so-called developing countries have to solve, but I found that people had great communication between family members and friends. Then, I realized that that kind of communication is essential for human beings to live their lives happily. I was sure I could create an ideal place like this in Japan as well if I really tried to, regardless of the current trend. That's why I decided to start this guest house.
Doraemon Bed, made by modifying former closets
So why did you name the guest house Kamejikan?
I came up with this name right after I made up my mind to run a guest house. The name comes from a turtle ( "kame" in Japanese ) which appeared in the story, "Momo", written by Michael Ende. The story is about "time". In current world, many of us often use the excuse "I'm quite busy, too busy to..." and miss something truly important in our lives. Then I just thought I want to regain something we have lost in this busy world. So I thought the name suits the idea of this guest house.
What We Can See Only When We Pause
I think many people are unsure of what to do with themselves when they are suddenly given free time. What do you think about that?
Well, I want people who are REALLY busy to know what their lives could be like. Fortunately you can go to the seashore near the guest house and above all, you don't have to stick to your schedule. Local people or members of the guest house can give information about nice places to visit or you can just wander around the area. By doing so, I'm sure people can relieve stress and see what is important in their lives.
I also believe that there are certain things we cannot find out unless we pause to take a breath. I hope Kamejikan will help people discover those things.
Don't worry. Leading a slow life is accepted here in Kamakura.
Well, I have the impression that a slow life is accepted and appreciated here in Kamakura, right?
That's true, thanks to the atmosphere of the place and the peaceful bonds between people who love this natural environment, who like surfing...etc. They all enjoy their slow lives. I think those things contribute positively to the overall atmosphere of Kamakura.
You can see the sea nearby
Where Local People and Travelers Meet
Kamejikan has a good relationship with local people as well, doesn't it?
Right. Before I started this guest house, I wanted to make it a place where people meet. Of course travelers will meet other travelers, but at the same time they"ll be able to meet local people as well. Well, many of the locals only speak one language, so communicating with one another won't be very easy, but visitors from other countries may have the chance to communicate with local people using gestures. Once a guest from Canada, who couldn't speak Japanese at all came back to the house and said "Someone gave me shirasu (*1)!" I assume some local person must have given it to him.
*1 Shirasu: young sardines, a famous food in Kamakura.
A unique atmosphere different from other buildings
Many local people come to the events
New and Old, its Charm Differs from Tokyo
What attracts so many to Kamakura, in your opinion?
Well, Kamakura is a historical place, but at the same time it includes modern aspects of life, such as surf culture. As for young people, I have the impression that they connect Kamakura with the image of California or Hawaii. Also we can see top-of-the-line fashions and are able to meet with people that are well established in such trades here. People live their lives individually but harmoniously within this small area. I believe that this is the charm of Kamakura.
Tokyo is always the center of the latest information and trends and that's why people gather in Tokyo. But Kamakura has developed distinctive styles of information and cultures. Being different from Tokyo also attracts people, I think.
However, recently a few old buildings have been taken down. I'm proud Kamakura was the trigger for the adoption of the Ancient Capitals Preservation Law, but yet I don't think we are preserving those historical buildings enough.
Now we live in a world that's quite busy but convenient and a place where we can find enjoyment anywhere. However in Kamakura, time flows more gently. This atmosphere is unique to Kamakura. Not only visitors but also local people should appreciate that. Then, I believe more people, especially local people, will be aware of the importance of preserving these old historical buildings.
Where Visitors Can Become Friends
What kind of place do you want Kamejikan to be?
Well honestly, my ideal world is the one without wars. I know it's very difficult to realize. The other day I had the chance to talk with Mr. Morimoto, a clerk at the Tsutaya book store in Daikanyama. He said "I would like to spread the culture of travel. We can get to know other cultures through traveling and by doing so, I believe we can make this world more peaceful". I think he's totally right.
I want to provide more chances for people to meet individually and make good relationships. Imagine, if you have friends in a foreign country, you'd never agree to go to war against that country. The relationship built in this guest house will be a small step toward that high ideal. I'd be very happy if this house could become the place where grassroot exchanges of people take place.
My definition of a guest house is that it has common rooms where people begin to talk to each other naturally. I don't want guests to be satisfied with only staying here. I want them to do something more at their own pace in this house.
The other day in this house, a college student who was job-hunting met a man who worked in human resources in a company. She got a lot of helpful advice from that man. If they had met anywhere else, they would have just been strangers to each other. I believe a guest house is a place where people can be friends.
Address: Zaimokuza 3-17-21, Kamakurashi, Kanagawa
Hours: 24 Hours ( Front desk opened: 8:00-21:00)
Closed: Always open
Wi-Fi: Available (a PC is available in the common room)
Credit Cards: Unavailable
Language: Japanese, English
Nearest Station: Kamakura Station, JR Yokosuka Line
Access: 20 minute walk from Kamakura Station
Price: from 3200 yen, refer to website for details