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Kamakura: A day trip from Tokyo to ancient Japan

28 Oct
Kamakura Daibutsu (鎌倉大仏)

Kamakura Daibutsu (鎌倉大仏)

Kamakura (鎌倉) is a city about an hour south of Tokyo.  Known for its old temples, daibutsu (giant Buddha), and gorgeous hydrangeas of late spring, Kamakura is a popular tourist destination.

For a long time in Japanese history, Kyoto was the political center.  But in 1192 Minamoto Yoritomo chose Kamakura as the center of his military government and moved the capital there.  The reason he chose Kamakura was because of its geography – surrounded by the sea and the hills, it was a natural fortress.  The shougunate ruled the country for over a century until it was defeated by Ashikaga Takauji who then moved the capital back to Kyoto.

A few weeks ago I took a day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo. It was a perfect day trip, although one day wasn’t quite enough to see what this unique city had to offer.  There were numerous museums, temples, shrines, and historical sites.  Sometimes referred to as the “Kyoto of Eastern Japan,” Kamakura took me back to ancient times.

Jomyou-ji ( 浄妙寺) and Hokoku-ji (報国寺) are both located about 20 minutes from Kamakura station by bus.  Each temple has a beautiful garden and a cafe.  Hokoku-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple known as “Bamboo temple.”  Walking through the bamboo forest was the highlight of my day.

Jomyou-ji (浄妙寺)

Jomyou-ji (浄妙寺)

Jomyou-ji (浄妙寺)

Jomyou-ji (浄妙寺)

Hōkoku-ji garden (報国寺)

Hōkoku-ji garden (報国寺)

Hōkoku-ji garden (報国寺)

Hōkoku-ji garden (報国寺)

Hōkoku-ji garden (報国寺)

Hōkoku-ji garden (報国寺)

Hōkoku-ji garden (報国寺)

Hōkoku-ji garden (報国寺)

daibutsu 3

Before heading home I stopped by Kōtoku-in (高徳院) to see Karamkura daibutsu which was constructed in 1252.  Initially there was a temple that housed the daibutsu, but the typhoons in the 14th century destroyed it.

With a height of 13.35 meters / 43.8ft, it was as big as I remembered it.  While a steady stream of tourists gathered around and took pictures, the daibutsu sat quietly and firmly on the ground as it had done so for nearly 800 years.

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