Kamakura is a popular tourist spot not just for foreigners, but also local Japanese, both young and old. The reason is simple: it offers a wide spectrum of attractions, from historical spots to religious temples of endangered Buddhist sects, from the most breathtaking nature scenery to the stylish restaurants and cafes that dot all over the area.
Kamakura is also known as Home of the Samurai, as it was the first establishment of a full-fledged samurai government during the Kamakura period (1183 ~ 1333).
Another huge attraction of Kamakura is the Great Buddha, also known as the Daibutsu. It is an outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha located at the Kotokuin Temple in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture. With a height of 13.35 meters including plinth, it’s the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. (The tallest is the statue in Todaiji, Nara prefecture.) It weighs 121 tons, and the average thickness of cast is 5 cm. Kamakura Buddha is widely regarded as the symbol of Kamakura.
The statue was cast in 1252 and has never been damaged by fire, earthquake, or tsunami, so its original appearance remains pretty much intact. It was originally located in a large temple hall. But halls were destroyed by storms in the 14th and 15th centuries. The last building housing the statue was washed away in the tsunami of 1498. Since then, it has been standing in open air.
The statue is hollow, so visitors are able to go inside the statue if you pay additional admission of only 20 yen! It’s unique to look at a sacred object like that from both outside and inside!
The statue was cleverly designed with stooped shoulders so that it looks down at you through half-closed eyes, giving the impression of being much closer and smaller than it actually is. Its very calm and benevolent expression has been loved by visitors.
Access from Tokyo
To get to Kamakura: 60 minutes from Tokyo station to Kamakura station on the JR Yokosuka Line, or 60 minutes from JR Shinjuku station on the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line.
To get to the Great Buddha, take Enoden (city tram) from Kamakura station and get off at Hase station, then walk 5-10 minutes.
Weather in Kamakura
About the same as that in Tokyo. It might be wise to bring a warm jacket, as it gets windy in the evening due to its proximity to the sea and hills.
What to Eat in Kamakura?
There are some famous shojin-ryori restaurants in Kamakura where you can enjoy a traditional Buddhist vegetarian meal. Shojin-ryori is a meal originally served in temples. It is said that the well-known kenchin-jiru vegetarian soup was first created in Kenchoji temple.
Fun Facts about Kamakura and its History
At the end of the 12th century, Japan’s first full-fledged military government, ‘Kamakura shogunate’ was established in this city. One of the reasons for that was the geography. Kamakura is surrounded by hills and the sea, which formed natural fortifications. The only civil engineering work done to the hills that surrounded the city on three sides was to create a few narrow paths through them. Some of them have been left virtually untouched to this day.
The shrine situated in the middle of the city center is Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. For centuries, it was venerated as the home of gods of war.
Kamakura developed its own culture based on samurai values, and it is clearly evident in Kenchoji, a temple in northern Kamakura. Kenchoji was one of the first temples in Japan to adopt the tenets of Zen Buddhism. Zen places emphasis on practical methods for attaining enlightenment, such as zazen meditation and mondo dialogue, and the nature of the religion went well with samurai values. In Kyoto, the culture of the nobility in earlier times was magnificence and elegance.While in Kamakura, samurai culture which advocates a life of simplicity and fortitude was flourished.
We are specialist of Kamakura. If you want to enjoy Kamakura more, please check our Kamakura tour. More knowledge, more fun!