A determined traveler is a force of nature: undeterred, unwavering, and uniquely positioned to take joy in very minor triumphs.
It was, after hours of searching, an unremarkable beer. Several hours later, ‘cold’ is the best word I can come up with the describe it.
But it was a travel success that only those on the road can enjoy.
Bereft of the usual things that bring us joy – friends, family, work or hobbies – travelers must seek their rewards elsewhere.
I visited a large Buddha statue outside of Tokyo in the town of Kamakura. It’s the largest Buddha in Japan and pushing 800 years old. Restoration work means the Buddha now sits on a shifting plate of some kind that shimmies under the Buddha in an earthquake to prevent damage to the statute. Daibutsu, as he is called, is clearly a cut above the rest when it comes to Buddha statues.
But it was something in the gift shop that caught my eye. In a refrigerator with water bottles, juice, and soda. There, on the bottom shelf, I spotted a bottle of Kamakura beer.
This is not a famous beer or one that is well known in Japan. But it was new. I decided then and there I needed to try it. Dave wholeheartedly endorsed my quest. Our respects paid to Daibutsu, we set out to look.
Walking through town after leaving the temple, we stuck our head in at least a dozen bars and restaurants looking for Kamakura beer. Several were closed. Others didn’t have it. One place had several beers from California, but no Kamakura. Another place had sweet potato ice cream (it’s pleasing purple color topped only by the subdued sweet taste), but no Kamakura.
Obsessively, we trod through back alleys and up promising stairways, only to be let down by a ‘closed’ sign or a disappointing ‘no’ when we asked what’s on tap.
Before that day I had never heard of Kamakura beer. I had not read a single review that said anything amazing about it. I doubted it would be anything special. There was no way I was leaving Kamakura without one.
Signs posted in a labyrinth of narrow side streets pointed us to a restaurant that promised to have Kamakura. It was empty – well past lunch but too early for dinner – and the staff outnumbered Dave and I two to one.
“Two Kamakura please,” I said.
If I were to rank it on my all-time list of best beers ever, it would be somewhere in the forgettable middle. Out meandering tour through Kamakura under the watchful eye of Daibutsu, however, will not fade from my memory so quickly.
One day I’ll be wandering through the specialty beer section of a grocery store and I’ll spot a Kamakura, on the bottom shelf. I’ll probably pay twice what I did in Japan, but I’ll gladly buy it and toast the memory of a mediocre cold one.