This is the second article of the series “Kamakura through time” written by Storyteller Yokosuka-With-Love. With Kamakura being host to over 100 temples, shrines, and other historic sites, this series guides you through the history of Kamakura while presenting some of the significant sites for travelers to visit.
Read more articles of the series “Kamakura through time”
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The Kamakura period spans from 1185 to1333 and during that time, which was the start of the shōgunate, Kamakura was the political center of Japan. The first shōgun was Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝), who arrived in 1180 with a slew of samurai warriors. His rise to power defines the beginning of the samurai’s rule, feudalism in Japan, and the warrior caste. After Yoritomo’s arrival, Kamakura continued to prosper for over 150 years.
Egara Tenjinsha Shrine (荏柄天神社) (1104)
While this shrine predates the Kamakura period, Yoritomo designated this shrine as the main shrine for protection of his office and residence. As per legend, it was founded by an unknown priest and enshrines the spirit of the politician-scholar Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真) – also known as Tenjin (天神). The kami (神, deity) in this shrine is the protector of intellectual gain, so I believe it is a good stop for any academic. Around the shrine, there are wooden plaques called ema (絵馬) with prayers and gratitude for the kami. Egara Tenjinsha Shrine is a spectacular red architecture nestled in the mountain amidst bright greenery. The plum trees are beautiful and the ginkgo tree is rumored to be over 900 years old.
- Price: No fee.
- Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Website: http://www.tenjinsha.com (in Japanese)
- Address: 74 Nikaido, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0002
Tsurugaoka Hachimangū Shrine (鶴岡八幡宮) (1180)
When foreigners and nationals alike visit Kamakura, they will make a pilgrimage to this impressive shrine without fail. Tsurugaoka Hachimangū is both the geographical and cultural center of Kamakura City. While the shrine dates back to 1063 when Minamoto no Yoriyoshi (源頼義) founded it, Yoritomo moved it to its current location in 1180. The patron god of Yoritomo’s family was Hachiman (八幡) and represented the samurai and the shogun in general. Atop the hill and staircase, the main hall stands above the Wakamiya Oji Avenue (若宮大路). When your eyes follow the torii gates, they would lead you down to the waterfront. Make sure to check the small shrine museum for a small fee while you are there. Kimono, swords, masks, documents, and many more various shrine treasures are kept in the museum. There are many seasonal events, festivals, and gardens within the grounds of the temple.
- Price: No fee (Museum: ¥200)
- Hours: 6 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
- Website: http://www.tsurugaoka-hachimangu.jp/
- Address: 2-1-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-8588
Wakamiya Oji Avenue (若宮大路)
Not often is a street declared a historic site, but Wakamiya Oji Avenue has taken that title in Japan, as well as being considered one of the best 100 streets in Japan. The road splits for cars, so there are walking paths on the sides of the street and through the center. Not only does it lead from the main shrine to the shore, but it is also lined with cherry blossom trees. In classic hanami (flower viewing) fashion, at the end of March and the beginning of April, women will be dressed in yukata and the lanterns will be put up in gorgeous matching pink. Many restaurants, tourist shops, new cafes, and ceramic goods line the storefronts that flank you. According to the myth I was told on a tour, the avenue was made for Yoritomo’s wife to walk to the temple and pray for their first child. The name Wakamiya Oji means “Young Prince Avenue”, and the feeling of walking in the footsteps of those of the past with the falling cherry blossoms gives rise to an emotion I wish we could all experience.
To the left of the main entrance of Tsurugaoka Hachimangū is a small cafe. Cafe Kazenomori (風の杜) is one of my mother’s favorite stops in her entire trip. Take the time to sit, have coffee or tea, and a sweet. They have sausages during lunch time, and always have pastries or pancakes in stock. My favorite activity is to write or read with a cup of coffee and the view of the lotuses in front of me.
- Times: Vary, temple hours.
- Adress: 2-1-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0005