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If you know this, you’ll have an even better time! Information about Kamakura

Kamakura is an area with plenty of popular sightseeing spots including temples, shrines, and famous areas, as well as plenty of cuisine. It was an area that shone as a center of government during the shogunate. Here is some information about Kamakura that you should know before you go so you can have the greatest time possible.

2017.04.20

The History of Kamakura

Kamakura is near the ocean and surrounded by three sides by mountains, and is the area where the shogunate (samurai government) originated. It's an area built by samurai. Since it was once the center of government, there are plenty of sights that will let you feel that history, so it's become a popular sightseeing area that has a historical atmosphere. Here is a chronological history of Kamakura.

*The shogunate, or samurai government, refers to a system of government where a few military families controlled other samurai warriors in each ruling area in a hierarchical manner.

Ancient Kamakura

People first began living in Kamakura more than 10,000 years ago. There are many remains from 14,000 years ago to the 7th century, and there are even temples and shrines built in the 8th century that still remain.

Kamakura in the Middle Ages: The Creation and Development of the Kamakura Shogunate

In 1185, after the influential Taira clan was destroyed, Minamoto no Yoritomo established the shogunate in Kamakura, an area affiliated with previous generations. He began urban development as he created the political system. Kamakura became the center of Japanese government, military, culture, and more. It played a part in developing trade and business with other countries, and was also the site of cultural developments such as Zen Buddhism, Zen-style architecture, Buddhist carvings, carved lacquerware, and more.

Kamakura in the Middle Ages: Downfall of the Kamakura Shogunate

After the death of Minamoto no Yoritomo, there was a power struggle but in the end the Hojo clan, the family of Minamoto no Yoritomo's wife, Hojo Masako, gained power of the shogunate. That continued for around 150 years. However, the Kamakura shogunate fell in 1333 because of various factors like the defense costs of the military against the Mongolian army and attacks against the shogun spearheaded by the Imperial Court. The city also lost its urban energy.

Kamakura from Early Modern Times to Now

During the Edo Period, the shrines and temples were revived. In 1685, Tokugawa Mitsukuni, an influential person at the time, introduced Kamakura's famous places and historic landmarks in his traveler's journal, Shinpen Kamakurashi, and it became famous as a leisure region. It can be said that this was the beginning of Kamakura's transformation into a sightseeing area. It is now visited by around 23 million people yearly, making it a popular tourism region.

If you know the history, it will be even more fun! Shrines and Temples

Here are some shrines and temples you should definitely stop by if you visit Kamakura.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is a shrine connected to Minamoto no Yoritomo, and is called the guardian deity of Kamakura samurai. Within the grounds is the Genpe-ike, a lake said to have been dug by Hojo Masako.


Meigetsu-in

This temple is famous for the mystical round window. This temple was built by Uesugi Norikata, a man of influence during the Muromachi period. It's also famous for its beautiful hydrangeas.


Meigetsu-in

Kencho-ji

Official name: Kofukusan Kencho Kokoku Zenji
It's the top temple of the Five Mountain System, a ranking of Zen temples according to the Kamakura shogunate. It was built by Hojo Tokiyori of the Kamakura shogunate. Right after it was built, the original buildings burned down, but there is still plenty to see such as the garden and temple bell.


Places to enjoy Kamakura culture

Kamakura culture is a mix of elegant nobility and simple, powerful samurai culture that co-existed evolved from the end of the 12th century to the early half of the 14th century. There are plenty of fun spots to check out.

Kotoku-in

Official name: Dai-izan Kotoku-in Shojo Senji
The Dozo Amidabutsu, also known as the Great Buddha of Kamakura, is a Buddha statue that is a registered national treasure and represents Kamakura culture. It has an impressive size of 13.35m, including the platform, and you can even enter the statue.


Zuisen-ji

This temple is home to a rock garden by the Zen priest and gardener Muso Soseki, famous for having created the garden at Tenryuji in Kyoto.


Kamakura Museum of National Treasures

This is actually a treasure safe to protect Kamakura's important cultural properties from disaster that is also open to the general public. There are about 4,800 pieces on display, including paintings, crafts, and Buddhist sculptures said to date back from the Kamakura period (1185 - 1333).

Kamakura Museum of National Treasures

Cuisine to try in Kamakura

Kamakura, surrounded by sea and mountains, is full of delicious cuisine. It's especially famous for "shirasu," whitebait. Akimoto, a restaurant where you can enjoy tempura made with Kamakura vegetables and a rice bowl topped with shirasu, is popular.

Cuisine to try in Kamakura

Shopping to enjoy in Kamakura

There are plenty of places to shop in Kamakura. Here are some of them.

Masamune Sword and Blade Workshop

This workshop has been in business since the end of the Kamakura period, when it primarily made swords. It's currently in its 24th generation, and they don't make just Japanese swords anymore, but also products using traditional techniques such as Japanese knives, butcher knives, scissors, and more.

*Photo is of the short sword Unsigned Masamune from the Kamakura period (Tokyo National Museum)

Masamune Sword and Blade Workshop

Kamakura-bori Kei

Kamakura-bori is a type of lacquerware that was influenced by the Chinese Song dynasty. It has a history of 800 years, and is characterized by the deep colors and the carvings that catch shadow. This shop has plenty of Kamakura-bori items perfect for daily life.

*Photo is an illustration of Kamakura-bori

Kamakura-bori Kei

Please use this information to have a great time sightseeing in Kamakura!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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Writer: o-dat

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