Friday, July 6, 2012

Kamakura: The City of Shrines and Temples

Kamakura - A Snap Shot
Kamakura is a small city that is located to the southwest of Tokyo at about 45km and a very popular tourist destination. It is called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan. The first Samurai government was established in Japan by the great samurai leader, Minamoto-no Yoritomo, whose chose Kamakura as his capital in 1180. This Shogunate political and cultural system lasted for 700 years, before it finally ended in 1867, with the Meji restoration. Kamakura depicts a long history of the Samurai government and its effect on the religious and cultural heritage of Japan, with its numerous temples , shrines and many spectacular historical monuments. The Kamakura sand beaches are a favourite destination for tourists during the summer months.


Kamakura can be reached in 55 minutes by train from Tokyo station on the JR Yokosuka Line.

Kotokuin Temple (Daibutsu)

The Great Buddha at Kotokuin Kamakura
The kotokuin temple is the site for the second biggest Buddha Statues in Japan. Here you can see the bronze seated statue of Amida Buddha, which was build in 1252. It is 11 meter-tall and 121 tons. The visitors can enter inside the hollow statue through a small door provided at the rare end. The temple that housed the statue was washed away by a huge tsunami tidal wave in the 15th century.

The Great Buddha is located a 5-10 minute walk from Hase Station, along the Enoden railway line

Address: 2-28 Hase 4-chome, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0015

Phone number: 0476-22-0703

Admission ; 8:00 to 17:30 (until 17:00 from October to March)

Cost: 200yen

The Priests at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

 Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is the biggest Shinto Shrine and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kamakura. This temple was moved to the present location in 1180 by Minamoto Yoritomo to make it the core of the city of Kamakura. After being destroyed by a fire in 1191, the temple was rebuilt with the present layout. The view of the Kamakura city from Hongu, the main building of the temple, along the Wakamiya Oji street is magnificent. It is very famous for its Yabusame, (horseback archery) and a 1,000 years old ginkgo tree which was blown down by strong wind in March 2010. The tourist attractions here include Homotsuden, or a treasure house, big ginkgo leaves, Sugaraba haiku-inscribed monument, Minamoto Sanetomo tanka-inscribed monument, and the Kamakura Kokuhokan museum.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is located at 15-min. walk from Kamakura station.

Address: 1-31, Yukinoshita 2-chome, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-8588

Phone number: 0467-22-0315

Admission : 5:00 to 20:30 (Open from 6:00 from October to March)

Cost: None

Hasedera Temple

Hasedera Temple
Hasedera Temple is one of the oldest temples in Kamakura. The temple is famous for the magnificent statue of Hase Kannon. It is 9.18 meters (30.1 ft.) tall and has eleven heads in addition to its main one: three in front, three to the left and three to the right, plus one at the top and another on back. Each face has a different expression, signifying that the deity listens to the wishes of all types of people. Amida-do Hall has a golden seated statue of Yakuyoke (Protector from Evil Spirits) Amida Buddha, one of Kamakura’s six principal statues of Amida, enshrined.It measures 2.8 meters (9.2 ft.) in height.

The Fukuju Jizo, or “Happy” Jizo, is enshrined in the Jiza-do Hall. Surrounding the Hall are thousands of little Jizo stone statues standing in long rows, some wearing bibs or knitted caps and festooned with cute charms. 

Daikoku-do Hall houses the image of Daikokuten, one of the Seven Japanese Gods of Fortune. He is considered the god of wealth (or more specifically, the harvest), or of the household, particularly the kitchen.
Jizo Statue at Hasedera temple

The other attractions here include the Benten-do Hall with a small statue of Benzaiten with eight arms and the Benten-kutsu Cave where Benzaiten and 16 children are chiseled out of the rock walls. Benzaiten is a sea goddess and the only female among the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. She is the patron of music, the fine arts, and good fortune in general, and usually carries a biwa (Japanese mandolin) or plays a lute.

The garden in the temple delivers a great view of the coloured leaves of autumn and the seasonal blooms like cherry , Yulan and plum of the spring and the hydrangea, iris and lily of the summer.Also we can get a great view of the Pacific Ocean from the top of this temple’s grounds.

Hasedera Temple is 5-min. walk from Hase station .


Address: 11-2, Hase 3-chome, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0016

Phone number: 0467-22-6300

Admission: March - September 8:00 - 17:00

                   October - February 8:00 - 16:30

Cost: 300yen

Kenchoji Temple

Kenchoji Temple

Kenchoji is the first and oldest Zen temple in Japan. It is more than 700 years old. A lot of young monks still practice Zen meditation within its walls. The first temple hall afterwards is the Butsuden (Buddha Hall) which is the first hall displays a statue of the Jizo Bodhisattva. Behind the Butsuden stands the Hatto (Dharma Hall), which is known as the largest wooden temple building in eastern Japan. It has the statue of Kannon and a dragon painted on its ceiling. After passing through the Sanmon main gate, visitors will see Kenchoji's temple bell (Bonsho), designated a national treasure, on their right. Looming in front of the Main Hall are seven huge juniper (chinensis) trees, which are said to have been planted by Priest Rankei, the founding priest himself, bringing the seeds from China. Kenchoji consists of a large number of temple buildings and subtemples, and stretches from the entrance gate at the bottom of the valley far into the forest hills behind. A 15-20 minutes into the hills behind Kenchoji's main grounds, will lead to the Hansobo, a shrine for the protection of Kenchoji. The visitors also get a spectacular view of the zen gardens and also a clear view of mount fuji from the observation deck here.

 Kenchoji is 15-min. walk from Kitakamakura station.

Address: 8, Yamanouchi, Kamakura, Kanagawa 247-0062

Phone: 0467-22-0981

Admission : 8:30 to 16:30

Cost: 300yen

Engakuji Temple

Engakuji Temple
Engakuji was established in 1282 and is one of the leading Zen temples in Eastern Japan .It is the number two of Kamakura's five great Zen temples. It was established to console the souls of the Japanese and Mongolian soldiers who lost their lives in the M Mongolian invasion of Japan.The temple`s main hall Butsuden displays a wooden statue of the Shaka Buddha. The Shariden is a well designed hall in which a tooth of Buddha is enshrined. It is designated a national treasure, but can only be seen from a distance during most of the year. Another national treasure found at Engakuji is the temple's large bell (ogane). It stands on a hill next to a teahouse 

Engakuji is a popular spot for autumn colors, which usually bloom to full around early December. The temple entrance, is surrounded by many maple trees.

Engakuji is located at 1min-walk from Kitakamakura station

Address: 409, Yamanouchi, Kamakura, Kanagawa 247-0062

Phone: 0476-22-0478

Admission: 9:30-16:30 (16:00 in winter)

Cost: 300yen


Hokokuji Temple

Hokokuji temple and the Bamboo Trees
Hokoku-ji Temple is also called “Take-dera (bamboo temple)” as it is famous for the beautiful bamboo grove behind the main hall. One can get an enchanting view of about 2000 thick and fine moso bamboos growing densely and vigorously towards the sky. Visitors can enjoy a carefree moment, sipping Japanese Matcha green tea in this wonderful garden. The principle image housed at the sacred hall of this temple is the Shakanyorai statue. The temple has many temple treasures designated as important cultural properties such as Butsujo-zenji. The main hall of Hokokuji-Temple originally had a straw roof. However, it was destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. Today, only the bell tower has a straw roof and adds a quaint flavor to the scene.The small stone garden with the mossy stones gives this place a nice Zen temple atmosphere.

Hokoku-ji Temple is 15-min. bus ride from Kamakura Station

Address: 7-4, Jomyoji 2-chome, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0003

Phone number: 0467-22-0762

Admission: 9:00 - 16:00

Cost: free ( Bamboo garden admission fee :200yen Matcha green tea: 500yen)


Zeniarai Benten Shrine

Washing Money at Zeniarai Benten Shrine

Zeniarai Benten Shrine is a popular shrine in western Kamakura. The Shrine dates from the era of Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate . During the earlier days the farmers washed rice seeds with the spring water here for a bumper harvest. Later on the practice of washing coins started off based on a superstition belief that one would be able to double their money by doing so, Zeni means coins and arai washing. The Zeniarai Benten Shrine is a fusion of Buddhism and Shinto. The torii gates and the incense burner indicate a reconciliation of Shinto and Buddhism elements. 
Zeniarai Benten Shrine is located about a 25-30 minute walk northwest of Kamakura Station

Address: 25-16, Sasuke 2-chome, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0017

Phone number: 0467-25-1081 0467-25-1081

Admission: 8:00 - 17:00

                                                                                   Cost: free

Kamakura Beaches

Kamakura beach

Kamakura lies on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. One can get a breathtaking view of a dramatic sunset from Zaimokuza beach. If you are lucky enough on a clear day, you can enjoy the majestic form of Mt. Fuji behind Enoshima island from Zaimokuza beach or Inamuragasaki beach.

The beaches are a 20 minute walk south of Kamakura Station.One can walk to the beaches from most stations of the Enoden local line.


Kamakura access Map

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