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Explore Japan – Kamakura, the capital of samurai

About an hour from Tokyo, Kamakura, located in Kanagawa Prefecture, once prospered as the base of the Kamakura Shogunate. There are shrines, temples, and historical monuments built by samurai, and you can feel the atmosphere of the ancient city here and there. Surrounded by the sea and mountains, it is an area rich in nature and is famous as a resort. Let’s look at its history and sightseeing spots.


History of Kamakura

Kamakura faces the sea to the south and is surrounded by mountains on three sides. It is not difficult to imagine that the location is suitable for blocking the invasion of enemies. It was Minamoto no Yoritomo, who established Japan's first samurai government, to take advantage of this "natural fortress." Yoritomo destroyed the Heike clan at the end of the 12th century and took over the political power, and decided to open the shogunate in Kamakura as the capital.

In 1180, Yoritomo moved the Hachimangu Shrine from Yuigahama beach to its current location as soon as he arrived in Kamakura, and made it the center of Kamakura's development as "Tsuruoka Hachimangu Shrine".

In Kamakura, the new center of Japan, a simple and robust samurai culture was formed by mixing the spirit of samurai and the gorgeous aristocratic culture. The Song/Yuan Dynasty cultures from China were imported and played a role as well. In addition, as Buddhism was widely spread among samurai and the common people, new Buddhist denominations were born one after another, and many temples were opened.

The Kamakura period lasted about 150 years, but when it ended its history in 1333, the capital returned to be a small fishing village as originally. It wasn't until the Edo period that Kamakura shined again when many people started visiting the sights in the suburbs of Edo.

The Meiji era was another turning point. The opening of the Yokosuka Line made the scenic Kamakura with warm weather popular and a perfect resort. Many writers such as Kyoka Izumi, Soseki Natsume, and Ryunosuke Akutagawa moved there and were later called "Kamakura Bunshi." The city loved by cultural figures still attracts many tourists.


Recommended sightseeing spots in Kamakura

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

It is the symbol of Kamakura. The bright red-painted main shrine is designated as a national important cultural property. There are many attractions such as "Shirahata Shrine" where Minamoto no Yoritomo and Sanetomo are enshrined, "Hataage Benzaitensha", a spiritual place in the precincts, and "Ooicho (Giant Ginkgo Tree)", which is said to be 1000 years old.

Kamakura Daibutsuden Kotokuin

A temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect where the sitting statue of Amida Nyorai, famous as the "Kamakura Daibutsu", is enshrined. The height of the Great Buddha is 13.35m including the pedestal, and the weight is about 121t. Various flowers bloom in the precincts, and you can enjoy the scenery of each season.

Hasedera Temple

It is known as "Hase Kannon" built in the Nara period. The eleven-faced Kannon Bodhisattva statue of the principal image is 9.18 meters high and is the most prestigious wooden Buddha in Japan. The precincts are decorated with flowers of the four seasons and are also popular as a "flower temple".

Hokokuji Temple

Famous as "Takedera (bamboo temple)" in Kamakura. The number of Moso bamboos growing in the garden is about 1000, and some of them reach a height of 25m. There is a tea room in the precincts, and the taste of matcha that you can enjoy while looking at the bamboo garden is exceptional.


Let's get on the "Enoden"

If you come to Kamakura, let's take the "Enoden", a train that runs only 10km between Kamakura and Fujisawa along the coast. You can visit many places, regardless of your age or interests, such as Kotokuin, Hasedera, and Gokurakuji Temples, Enoshima island, Enoshima aquarium, and Yuigahama beach.

"Kamakurakokomae" station, facing the sea and featured in the popular cartoon anime, welcomes every year many visitors from home and abroad.


Kamakura is blessed with historical heritages such as shrines and temples and abundant nature such as the sea and mountains. If you go a little further, you can enjoy beach resorts in Enoshima and Yuigahama. It is the destination to spend a relaxing time throughout the four seasons.

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