No visitor to Japan should miss the Great Buddha of Kamakura, only an hour outside of Tokyo. The first time I saw it, 35 years ago, I could swear it was about to reach out and grab me, that’s how graceful and life-like it is. Depicting Amitabha, the Buddha of Eternal Life, the statue is one of the most famous icons of Japan. Cast in bronze, it’s 43.8 ft. tall and weighs approximately 93 tons. According to temple records, it dates from around 1252, during Japan’s Kamakura period.

I really like the seaside town of Kamakura, with its many temples and religious sites. It’s like a mini Kyoto, within easy access of Tokyo but without the crowds. Each time I’ve visited, I’ve stopped to pay homage to the Great Buddha, because, why not? He’s awesome! But this time, Donica and I have trekked out to Kamakura specifically to have lunch with our friend Kenta and his wife at a miraculous little vegan place called Kitotoki. Dining at Kitotoki requires 2 days’ advance reservation and you can see why, when your tiny table (one of only two in the whole restaurant), slowly becomes filled with home-made, traditional Japanese delicacies. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it took the proprietors two days just to make the meal!

Our lunch at Kitotoki represents one of those tiny, beautiful, travel moments, when all the stars align: you’re with friends (whose language abilities get you in the door), the food is subtle and amazing, and you feel like no other tourist in the world will ever have this experience.

But you can, of course. Just get a friend to call Kitotoki and make a reservation for you. Tell ‘em the Great Buddha sent you!

(It’s easy to talk yourself out of worthwhile experiences in life, isn’t it? “I could never do that!” It’s what my mom calls “a production.” But more often than not, there’s always a work around, isn’t there? You just have to ask for help … or summon up the gumption to pick up the phone and stumble around until you’re understood. Perfect is the enemy of memorable.)