Our Kamakura trip started off with the arrival at the Hase (長谷) Station. If you dig into Kamakura’s history a little more, once upon a time in 1192, it was the capital of Japan and Japan was partially ruled by Minamoto no Yoritomo, who rose to power from the samurai class and established his shogunate military government in Kamakura. Kamakura is very laid back. When you visit Kamakura, with it’s fine seas, numerous temples and shrines, it’s hard to relate that Kamakura once had such an important role in political history. If you are a big fan of the comic Slam Dunk, you might see Kamakura with a completely different view because Kamakura is the place where the scenes are set in the comic !
With heaps of temples around the area, we walked along the road and visited temples that came in our sight. The first temple we visited was Hasedera (Hase Temple,長谷寺), set in a serene, Japanese garden.
With a bit of a climb to reach the main temple, you don’t only get to see the unusual 11-headed “kannon”, the Goddess of Mercy, and also the fantastic coastal view of Kamakura. Hasedera Official Website. Opening Hours: March – Sept 8am – 5pm. Oct – Feb 8am – 4.30pm. Admission Fee : 300 Yen.
The second temple we visited was Kotokuin (高徳院) , where the somewhat unfortunate Great Buddha of Kamakura (Daibutsu, 大仏) is housed. The Great Buddha’s history goes back to 1243, when the original Buddha was sheltered and made of wood. The wooden statue was destroyed later in a storm and rebuilt again in 1252 using bronze.
It has withstood earthquakes, typhoons, losing his shelter in the process and that’s why today we get to see an uncommon Big Buddha sitting in harmony with the surroundings in open air. Kotokuin Temple Offiicial Website. Opening Hours: Apr – Sept 8 am – 5.30 pm. Oct – Mar 8 am – 5 pm. Admission Fee : 200 yen for adults.
The temples are fairly close to each other and you might encounter some souvenir shops in between. A popular souvenir uniquely to Kamakura would be the pigeon-shaped cookie (鳩サブレー). The cookie is eggy, buttery, crispy and extremely cute with the yellow paper bag that has a white pigeon on it.
The last shrine we visited was Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (鶴岡八幡宮), one of the oldest temples in Kamakura, more than one thousand years old, housing the Warrior God. Besides its importance in the Hachiman Faith, it was also used as a military base by Minamoto no Yoritomo back in the oldern days. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Official Website. Opening Hours : Apr -Sept 5 am – 9pm. Oct – Mar 6pm – 8.30 pm. Jan 1-3 Open 24 hours.