A Sanctuary Overlooking the City of Kamakura
From Kamakura station, take the main street heading to the hills not the ocean, it will be difficult to miss Kamakura’s main sanctuary : Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū. The sanctuary, dating from the 11th century, is dedicated to Hachiman, the god of war and protector of Japan in Japanese beliefs.
Enter by the big Tori, and you can first enjoy an old style Japanese bridge (Taiko-bashi) and a pine cut like a flame. On both the left and right of the alley, there are two ponds representing the two rival families: the first pond stand for the defeated Taira clan, and the second reflect the power of the Minamoto family.
A long alley leads to the hillside where the main part of the temple is located. You’ll see many locals passing by the temple for a quick prayer. You can also experience your first shinto prayer: ring the bell to drive out evil spirits and purify the place, then bow two times and clap your hands two times to indicate your presence to the god. When your prayer is done, bow once again.
From the top, you can take a good look at the city of Kamakura and the ocean. From 1192 to 1333, the Shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo made Kamakura the capital of Japan. The city was the political center of Japan for a century.
Every year, during the 3rd week of April (from the 2nd to the 3rd sunday) is held at Hachiman-gū the Kamakura Matsuri. I stongly recommend to attend Japanese Matsuri as it is a good way to experience Japanese culture and traditions with locals: dances, parades and a demonstration of Yabusame ! It is a rare opportunity to feel the samourais era.
Inside the enclosure of the temple is located a museum exhibiting national treasures and relics of the city such as swords, buddhist statutes and estampes.
Entrance fee : free for the temple and 200 yen for the museum.
Closest station: Kamakura station (1h from Shinjuku station with the Shonan-Shinjuku Line)
Matsuri: 3rd week of April