Kamakura Day Trip

 

Daibutsu

Let’s get out of Tokyo for a day, and see some of the most entertaining shrines & temples in Japan. Kamakura was the capitol of Japan during the early days of the shōguns, and it’s full of shrines & temples dedicated to very interesting pursuits.

First, let’s go to the Zeni-Arai Benten Shrine and double our money. It’s known as the “Money-Washing Shrine” because any money you wash in the shrine’s spring is said to double within the year.

ZeniaraiEntrance
We have to go through a tunnel cut right through the rock to get to Zeniarai Benten.
Waterfall
This shrine is one of the most powerfully “Shinto” places I’ve ever seen – the natural waterfalls and pools in the shrine grotto look like prime real estate for the Shinto gods who love to inhabit streams and waterfalls and rocks.

Look at the baskets in front of the little altars scattered around the shrine – they’re for the hardboiled eggs worshippers bring to the goddess Benten, who sometimes manifests as a snake. Eggs are one of her favorite foods.

Let’s go to the far side of the grotto to the cave with the money-washing stream running through it.

WashingMoney
We’ll stop at the shrine stand counter to make a ¥100 donation, and the monks will give us baskets for our money. After we put our money in the baskets, we’ll go into the cave and use one of the dippers to pour water from the stream over it.

A short walk from the money-washing shrine is Sasuke Inari Jinja, the best fox shrine in all Japan!

fox shrine to end all fox shrines! Just a short walk from Zeniarai Benten, it's an entire hillside devoted to...
Sasuke Inari Jinja is a fox shrine to end all fox shrines! Just a short walk from Zeniarai Benten, the shrine itself is just the tip of the foxy iceberg. It’s set on an entire hillside devoted to…
...mossy fox villages!
…mossy fox villages!
The thousands of foxes in the villages and on the altars of the many sub-shrines were bought by pilgrims and left there, to ask the gods for their hearts' desires. For as little as ¥1500 for the smallest pair, you can add to the population or take them home (which is great, as taking sacred items away is not always allowed at shrines.)
The thousands of foxes in the villages and on the altars of the many sub-shrines were bought by pilgrims and left there, to ask the gods for their hearts’ desires. For as little as ¥1500 for the smallest pair, you can add to the population or take them home (which is great, as taking sacred items away is not always allowed at shrines.)

When you’re ready to leave the mossy twilight zone of the fox shrine, let’s head over to the Giant Buddha.

Daibutsu
The Daibutsu is the biggest bronze Buddha in Japan, and an unmissable photo op. Want to go inside? It only costs ¥10.

After snapping all our pix at the Giant Buddha, let’s go see the Giant Kannon at Hasedera. This is the biggest gold-covered wooden Kannon statue in Japan, and it’s at a temple that has a gorgeous hydrangea garden (they bloom in June). On the path, we’ll pass hundreds of little Jizo statues.

PrayerWheel
It’s forbidden to take pictures of the giant gold Kannon figure, but visitors are allowed to spin the room-sized prayer wheel on special occasions. Kind of cool-looking, isn’t it? I was there once on the day you can spin it, and it moves with surprising ease.
Hasedera is famous for hydrangeas, so if you’re there in June, take a stroll along the paths that wend their way up the hill beyond. You won’t be disappointed!

From Kamakura Station, the big main street through town leads to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Built for the shōgun in the days when Kamakura was the capital, it’s an elaborate red and gold-style shrine with famous lotus ponds that bloom in July.

A shrine worthy of the shoguns, this is also a great place to see traditional wedding being performed, because they happen in an open pavilion near the shrine entrance.
On one side of the ceremonial bridge they bloom red, on the other side, white. The red and white stand for the two warring families that had finally been united under the shogun: the Genji and the Heike (or, as they're known through kabuki plays, the Minamoto and the Taira clans.)
On one side of the ceremonial bridge the lotus bloom red, on the other side, white. The red and white stand for the two warring families that were finally united under the shogun: the Genji and the Heike (also known as the Minamoto and the Taira.)

Not far from the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine is an unusual shrine called Kamakuragu, or (as I like to call it) the Dish-breaking Shrine.

Buy a dish and throw it against a rock to banish negative people from your life.
Kamkuragu is a shrine sacred to dragons, so you can also buy these adorable little wooden clappers to boot out the bad luck and summon in the good.

If you fancy a super nice stroll through a bamboo forest, let’s get ourselves over to the Hokoku-ji Bamboo Temple. The grounds are huge, and the walking paths are really nice.

BambooTemple
If you happen to be in Japan during the summer months, this walk is nice and cool
BambooMattcha
Afterwards, we can stop for a bowl of tea at the Bamboo Temple teahouse.

Now let’s get back on the train and get off at Kita-Kamakura Station, so we can catch come noodles for lunch. On the way is a temple I really enjoy, the Tokei-ji Divorce Temple. In 1251 it became a sanctuary for women fleeing from their husbands – if a woman lived with the nuns inside the walls of the temple for three years, she was considered legally divorced.

GrottoJizo
Also along the way is the Meigetsu-in Temple, famous for its gorgeous hydrangeas in June.

Are you hungry yet? Okay, let’s eat some noodles! From May to October, we can catch our own as they float down the middle of the table.

NagashiSomen
At Chaya Kado, we can catch refreshingly cold nagashi somen noodles with our chopsticks as they float past.
NagashiSomen1
Cold noodles + savory sauce = delish! This is a classic Japanese summertime treat, and the restaurant serves them from May through October.

MAP

Read a novel set in Tokyo

A young woman dressed as a Gothic Lolita is found dead in a car at the local shrine, and the more Yumi Hata learns about her best friend’s death, the more she’s convinced it was murder…read more

 

 

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