Know New Things by Learning from the Past! Kamakura, an ancient city

The Main hall in Tsurugaoka Hachimangū shrine

Kamakura – the origin of Japan’s first feudal government
Kamakura is conveniently located by the sea in Kanagawa Prefecture, just a short, 60 minute trip from Tokyo by the JR Yokosuka Line. In keeping with its status as an ancient city, many temples and shrines are gathered in this area. The city is also famous for colorful hydrangea in early summer. Ten minutes by train from Kamakura station takes you to Inamuragasaki beach as well. The beach is known as sacred ground for surfers, where you can get the feel of a tropical country even though you are in Japan. Kamakura also offers you all four seasons, including autumn leaves in fall and snow in winter, so no wonder Kamakura has an overwhelming popularity with visitors.

The Kamakura Great Buddha with 765 years of history

The national treasure, Amida Nyorai Zaou, a bronze statue

Kamakura Daibutsu was enshrined as the principle image of Kōtoku-in in 1252, now 10 minutes by foot from Hase station, Enoshima Dentetsu Line. Since the Great Buddha hall was lost due to widescale disaster,s such as typhoons and tsunami, the current Buddha is exposed. It’s said when the Great Buddha was built, it was golden, shiny, and gloriously covered with gold leaves. It was shifted about 30 centimeters off its seat by the Great Kantō earthquake, but the main body was not affected. The Great Buddha is 11.3 meters tall and weighs 121 tons. Having twice undergone massive repairs, in 1959 and 2015, to provide adequate safety measures, you can visit this shrine in relief.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangū shrine, in central Kamakura

Another notable site in Kamakura is Tsurugaoka Hachimangū shrine. It is said Minamoto no Yoriyoshi relocated the shrine in 1063 when he came back to Kamakura after conquering Oshu (now part of the Tohoku region), bringing with him Iwashimizu Hachimangū from its original location in Kyoto and placing it in Yuigahama.

After that, Minamoto no Yoritomokou, famed for his role in the Minamoto renaissance, moved Hachimangū from Yuigahama to its current place in 1180. Then, in 1191, remodeled with both upper and lower palaces, it became central to Kamakura.

Tsuruoka Hachimangū holds annual Yabusame Shinto Rites in September, during Reitaisai (regular rites and festivals). Yabusame is a type of mounted archery where you ride a galloping horse and quickly shoot three targets along the track. Yabusame existed in the Heian period (794 AD – 1185 AD), but it is said Minamoto no Yoritomokou started the shrine ritual. You can also hold a Shinto style wedding at the dancer’s hall in Tsuruoka Hachimangū. The saishu (master of religious ceremonies) announces the marriage before God, and recites a Shinto prayer. There is a live performance with gagaku (ancient court music) while attendant shrine maidens dance.

Maidono (Dancer’s hall)

Koichiro Takahashi of the Kamakura City Tourist Association, an Incorporated Public Interest Association, talks about their services, targeted to visitors from outside Japan:

“The Kamakura City Tourist Association provides a free volunteer guide service for those who visit Japan from overseas. The service supports various tour routes, with 10 supported languages, including English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and more, so you can take your pick of the best sightseeing routes.

Koichiro Takahashi, Department Chief, Kamakura City Tourist Association, the Incorporated Public Interest Association

Many shops are lined up in front of the approach to Tsuruoka Hachimangū. Toshimaya, established 1894 (Meiji 27), is famous for Hato Sabure (dove shaped butter cookies). Their long standing Hato Sabure with over 100 years of tradition have enormous popularity as a souvenir for foreign visitors, so don’t forget to get one when you visit Kamakura.

Kamakura, surrounded on three sides by mountains and with a bird’s eye view of Sagami Bay to the south, has been front and center in history for its natural fortifications and strategic location. When I see young people coming and going in Kamakura, I feel it is a curious town where the evolution is visible, a mixture of old and new generations, and even new culture is closely guarded and passed down to the next generation. I feel proud of the Japanese people, who created many towns like this and never forget a sense of respect towards their ancestors.

@japan introduces Kamakura with Idol and main reporter Urara Tachibana, active in Akihabara

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *