On our second day in Tokyo, Julia and I took a day trip down to Kamakura. Kamakura is a short one hour train ride from Tokyo. Situated along the coast, Kamakura was the political capital of Japan under the Minamoto shogun in 1192. Kamakura remained the center of Japanese politics until things moved to Kyoto in the 14th century. Nowadays, Kamakura is known for it’s abundance of beautiful shrines and temples, as well as having beaches that make for the perfect summer getaway.
Getting to Kamakura was a breeze with our JR Rail passes. We took one local JR train to Kamakura and then purchased an all day Enoden train pass to get around the immediate area. We started out with grand plans for the day and wanted to see 5 or 6 different temples, but rainy weather slowed us down a bit. We purchased umbrellas at a local convenience store and ventured on foot to our first spot, Hasedera Temple.
Hasadera Temple is most well known for its statue of Kannon, the 11 headed goddess of mercy. It’s a 10 meter tall wooden statue, making it one of the largest in Japan. The temple itself is built on a hill, so be prepared to climb up a few steps when visiting.
Before entering the temple, there is a stone terrace that offers views of the coastal area. Our views were obscured by storm clouds, but we could still make out views of the ocean and hear the occasional crashing wave.
One of my favorite parts of visiting Hasedera Temple was getting to see the gardens. Despite the rain, we spent some time walking around the gardens and tried to soak up as much inspiration from the landscapes in hopes of brining a small piece of the design elements home.
After Hasedera temple, we made our way towards the giant Buddha, which Kamakura is famous for. Many people just head from one spot to another, but doing so in a town like Kamakura can leave a visitor missing quite a bit. Julia wanted to stop in a few of the antique stores, and I’m glad she did. While traveling, it’s pretty easy to get burnt out on the abundance of massed produced garbage being sold as a souvenir. If you’re looking for something authentic and original, there are a number of store in Kamakura where you’ll be able to find it. After spending some time avoiding the rain in a few of the Kamakura shops, we finally made it the Giant Buddha.
The bronze giant Buddha is Amida Buddha and stands more than 13 meters in height. This is the second tallest Buddha in Japan. The statue was originally created in 1252 and was originally inside the nearby Kotokuin temple. The temple was destroyed int he 15th century, and the Giant Buddha has been outside ever since.
After visiting Giant Buddha, Julia and I had plans on visiting a few other shrines and temples…unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. The rain began to fall much heavier than the morning showers and we decided it was best to make our way back to Tokyo. We got to see the two major sites of Kamakura, but missed a few of the secondary attractions we had on our list. I guess there’s always next time.