From the Kenchoji Temple we walked downhill to the main site in Kamakura. The Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine is about 15 mins by foot and is the most important Shinto shrine. Therefore it is also the most crowded and packed place that we visited in Kamakura. Everyone wanted to see the lucky charm in the shape of a pigeon that (apparently) has the ability to make your dreams come true.
We climbed the stairs to this shrine, but had to stop every few metres for someone to take a picture. It was a little annoying – despite the fact that the shrine is meant to provide a full view of the city of Kamakura. But it was just too crowded to enjoy. We quickly backed down again, without exploring the pigeon charm or other exhibits that are on show at the shrine.
Flanking the main approach to the shrine are two ponds. One pond represents the Minamoto Clan and has three islands, while the other represents the Taira Clan, the Minamoto’s arch rivals, and has four islands, as the number four can be pronounced the same as “death” in Japanese (similar to Chinese).
We left the shrine area and followed the path through the main street of Kamakura, lined with dozens of souvenir shops, restaurants and people offering you a tour or ride on the rickshaws. We walked through the under path of the railway station, to the other side and climbed the hill to the famous Daibutsu at the Kōtokuin Temple.
We underestimated the walk from the shrine to the Buddha, it took us almost 45 minutes. By the time we were in the Hase district, we were hungry and exhausted. We found a local noodle place and had some amazing soba (cold with wasabi and hot with mushrooms and soup) as well as some green tea to drink.
By the time we left, the weather had changed. The blue sky disappeared and it was overcast. We made our way to Daibutsu, which means great Buddha statue. Its formal name is Amida-nyorai-zazou.
The Buddha statue was made in 1252. It used to be housed inside a building, but the building was washed away by a tsunami at the end of the 15th century, and since then it has remained outside. With a height of 13.35 meters, it is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. From the front you can see the different lines of how the statue was put together – but more interestingly is actually the back, which reveals two windows to let air circulate inside the statue. For 20 Yen you can go inside the statue.
Best part of the visit to the Buddha? For me it has to be the Taiyaki in shape of a Buddha, filled with red beans. So yummy! They sell them opposite the Buddha at a small food store.
- Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine can be reached from Kamakura Station either through the busy Komachi-dori shopping street, or along the Dankazura, a pedestrian path in the center of Wakamiya Oji Street. Via either route, the walk from Kamakura Station to the shrine takes about 10-15 minutes
- The Great Buddha at the Kōtokuik Temple is located a 5-10 minute walk from Hase Station, the third station from Kamakura along the Enoden railway line. The Enoden is a streetcar-like train that connects Kamakura with Enoshima and Fujisawa. Its terminal station in Kamakura is located just next of JR Kamakura Station
- Both sites are free to visit