This is the third 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”

  1. Heian period and earlier
  2. Kamakura period, part one 
  3. Kamakura period, part two (this article)

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Koyurugi Jinja Shrine (小動神社) (1185)

Koyurugi Shrine, main building

Sitting only a short walk away from the Fujisawa city limits, Koyurugi Shrine is atop a hill silently awaiting visitors. Koyurugi means to quiver or shudder, and it comes from the pine tree in the area that would flutter without a breeze. It offers a view of the Hakone mountains and Enoshima Island. If the day is clear enough, just a small walk to Fujisawa can give you a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji. While the shrine originally was built earlier by Sasaki Moritsuna (佐々木盛綱), Nitta Yoshisada (新田義貞) rebuilt the shrine in 1333. Yoshisada prayed for victory over the Kamakura shogunate at Koyurugi. Many come to the location to pray for their own victories as well, but the view and unique statues are what attracted me the most. With the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics, you can watch windsurfers train in the waters near Enoshima Island. Between the first and second Sunday in July, the Tenno Festival (天王祭, link in Japanese) is held here each year.

Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Jinja Shrine (銭洗弁財天宇賀福神社) (1185)

Zeniarai Benten Ugafuku Shrine, torii gate

In some cases, the myth around a shrine is as interesting as the shrine itself. It is said that Minamoto no Yorimoto (源頼朝) prayed during a famine to save his people and Ugafukujin came to him in a dream. Being the harvest and fertility deity, Ugafukujin told Yorimoto of a spring. This unusual spring requires visitors to pass through a tunnel and at least 16 torii (鳥居) gates before arriving at this beautiful spring nestled in the mountains. The springs then brought prosperity to Yorimoto and his people, and the tradition of prosperity continues.

Zeniarai Benten Ugafuku Shrine, chozuya

Stop at the chozuya (手水舎) to cleanse yourself and then enter the cave. Inside there is not only a beautiful shrine to admire but also reed bowls and ladles. Pray for prosperity first, and then place some yen into the bowl. Be careful not to slip on water on the ground as you lean over to dip the ladle into the spring. Pour the water over the yen and wash your money, but do not spend it. It is said that the money you wash will prosper the longer you hold it in your wallet. Make sure to explore the grounds to see the shrines and multiple small falls of running water from this natural spring.

Jomyoji Temple (浄妙寺) (1188)

Jomyoji, Kamakura, main temple

This traditional temple once consisted of seven buildings and 23 pagodas but was destroyed by fire sometime after 1386. Now the temple consists of the main gate, reception hall, and warehouse. The grounds are considered a national historic site, and it is a surprise how many tourists and nationals alike bypass this temple. Upon exploring the grounds, you will learn to find that there is not only a karesansui (枯山水, rock garden) by the tea house, but so much more lies behind. Have a mix of Japanese culture with a surprising bit of Western culture, as you walk through the grounds and up the stairs behind the teahouse to the English garden. The English garden has a garden and cafe (link in Japanese) where you can get stone-kiln bread. Enjoy some bread, jam, coffee, and admire the seasonal flowers from the terrace.

Foodie stop!

Japanese traditional sweets showcased with match green tea at a temple

The foodie stop of this article is actually at the last temple. Jomyoji is home to a tea house in the rock garden. While the rock garden was made in 1991, the tradition of priests gathering for tea ceremonies in this area dates back to the 1500s. So take in some Zen, have a cup of matcha, enjoy a seasonal wagashi sweet. When I was there fall wagashi (see above), made of rice flour and sweet red bean paste, had the gorgeous fall colors that surrounded us in the rock garden. The tea house is open air, so the view of the garden and trees are not disrupted. The prices vary on what you decide to order. The last order is an hour before the temple closes.

Read more on: Kamakura through time


My name is Sarah R. Peets: historian, adventurer, expat in Japan. Profile Photo Credit: Robin Randolph Photography - Facebook: @robinrandolphotography
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