KAMAKURA: THE INSIDERS
AKEMI OHNO KAMAKURA RESIDENT AND GUIDEBOOK AUTHOR
GO: About an hour by train from central Tokyo and overlooking Sagami Bay, Kamakura draws tourists for its culture and history. Take the outbound JR Yokosuka Line or JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line from Tokyo and get off at Kita-Kamakura or the next station, Kamakura; japanrail-pass.com.
SEE: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, a Shinto shrine, is the most visited spot in Kamakura, where the story of the rise and fall of the first military shogunate unfolded for about 150 years from the end of the 12th century. The Kamakura shogunate was established by Minamoto Yoritomo, a descendant of the Emperor Seiwa, and it emerged as a challenging force against the Imperial Court in Kyoto. Kamakura is also a religious place with about 100 Buddhist temples and 40 Shinto shrines, many of which were built by Minamoto, his ancestors or members of his wife’s Hojo clan. Churches and old westernised buildings built in the early to mid-20th century are also part of the fabric of Kamakura. After the Meiji government lifted the ban on Christianity in 1873, Western missionaries started to visit Japan; tsurugaoka-hachimangu.jp.
DINE: Authentic cuisine is served at the Michelinstarred Gentoan and Hachinoki. It’s refreshing to have a cup of matcha (green tea) in an open, bambooshaded teahouse at the Hokokuji Temple, or in the tatami room of Kisen-an, a teahouse facing a dry garden at the Jomyoji Temple; gm.gnavi.co.jp/home.
DO: At Kenchoji, Japan’s first Zen training monastery, established in 1253, Zen meditation sessions are held in English several times a year. Yabusame (horseback archery) draws large crowds at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine in April and September; an archer galloping on horseback aims at three diamondshaped marks arranged along a 250m-long riding ground; en.kamakura-info.jp; jnto.org.au.
HIKE: The 3km-long Kuzuharagaoka Daibutsu trail goes by Zeniarai Benten shrine and ends near the Hasedera Temple and the Great Buddha of Kamakura at Kotoku-in, a landmark 11.3m-tall bronze outdoor seated statue that has been declared a national treasure; kotoku-in.jp/en.
BEACH: At Wakaenoshima Beach you may find a fragment of celadon ware brought by ship from China, thrown overboard in a storm and deposited under water for centuries; en.kamakura-info.jp.
SUNSET: Cape Inamuragasaki is a popular spot to watch the sun go down with emblematic Mount Fuji in the background.