Have you ever heard of Kamakura?
To me it's a small Kyoto, just with less temples and tourists but with such an old an unique history.
Kamakura is a beautiful historical Samurai and Zen town about 45min ~ 1 hour down from Tokyo.
That's right, Samurai went all bad ass in this town a couple of 100 years ago!
Did you know?: Get off at Kita-Kamakura station so you will walk down-hill towards Kamakura-station; between these stations there are some interesting temples and restaurants!
Back in the days, the Samurai would get hired by wealthy landowners that had grown independent of the central government and built armies for their own protection.
Somewhere during the 12th century, two of the most powerful clans owning so much land and samurais was the Minamoto and Taira clan. Of course they fought, Minamoto no Yoritomo (the leader) won and seized power from the central government and aristocracy and established a feudal system based in Kamakura.
Minamoto build a whole Shogunate in Kamakura (called the Kamakura Shogunate) and ruled from 1192 - 1199. The Kamakura Period (Kamakura Jidai) was until 1333.
Why did they pick Kamakura and not any other place?
It was because of its convenient location, tucked between mountains and forests but close to shore and not too far from Tokyo.
So, next to Kamakura being a samurai town, it's a major Zen and Buddhism place where its traditions where introduced around the 8th century. The oldest Zen teaching monastery in Japan is Kencho-ji.
Check out these temples, shrines and graves in Kamakura we visited with our interns during their internship in Japan!
Did you know?: Shinto shrines are free to enter but Zen temples you need to pay?
Right next to Kita-Kamakura station, can't be missed.
Kamakura has 5 great Zen temples and this is the oldest one.
Entrance Fee: 300 yen
About 10 minutes walk from Kita-Kamakura station. There are signs direction you in the right way :)!
Meigetsu-in is a Zen temple and popular for it's hydrangea blossoms during the rainy season in June.
Entrance Fee: 300 yen (summer 500 yen)
TIP!: On the way to Meigetsu-in, make sure you visit one of the local (small) cafes usually operated by a married couple and their parents. There are some starting from Kita-Kamakura station, all the way to Meigetsu-in.
Aprox. 10 minutes walk from Meigetsu-in
Founded in 1282, this temple is Number 2 of Kamakura's 5 greatest Zen temples!
This temple is also popular for it's leaves turning colors (momiji) in early December.
Entrance Fee: 300 yen
- Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
Just a 10 minute walk from Kamakura station, it's the most visited shrine in Kamakura (no entrance fee needed because it's a shrine!). This shrine was built during Minamoto no Yoritomo's reign.
- Daibutsu (Great Buddha, Kotoku-in)
Within 10 minutes of Hase-station (Enoden Line) or 20 minutes walk from Kamakura Station.
This is a huge Buddha but not the biggest one in Japan! It's the second biggest after the Buddha station in Nara.
Tip!: You can actually get in the Buddha statue for an extra 10 or 20 yen.
Entrance Fee: 200 yen
- Hase Kannon
Close to Daibutsu and a 5 minute walk from Hase-station (Enoden line).
This temple is pretty awesome! It has the biggest statue statue of the 11-headed! Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy in Buddhism) in Japan and some great views of Kamakura.
Entrance Fee: 300 yen
- Hoku-ji (Bamboo temple)
One of my favorite temples in Kamakura. Easiest way is to get here by bus (Jyomyo-Ji stop). This temple has a small bamboo forest with a very nice teahouse. Definitely a recommendation!
Entrance Fee: ~200 or 300 yen
Easiest way is to get here by bus (Jyomyo-Ji stop). Number 5 of the 5 Great Zen temples! Within the temple there is a classic Matcha place, we had a small tea ceremony!
Entrance Fee: 100 yen
- Tomb of Minamoto no Yoshitomo
A bit hard to find, it's actually hidden in the back of a neighbourhood, near to a high-school. There is apparently a "volunteer" guy working there who came out of his house to stop us; you are allowed to check out it but the chances that you meet this guy, who freaks out like crazy, is pretty high. Oh Japan, just chill! We're not Lara Croft ;).There are actually sooo many temples in Kamakura, it's crazy. You might need 2 full days to just check them all out.
The city Kamakura itself is very nice with many restaurants and local boutique shops. Because of the touristy area, it's pricey too. You can expect lunch to be over 1,000 yen.Did you know?: There's a Ghibli Shop near Kamakura station! Make sure to check it out, they have lots of cute stuff.
For our students who have their internships in Tokyo, Kamakura is a great place to go to! Our students with an internship in Osaka or Kyoto are lucky; we always have the option to check out Uji, Nara, Himeji and of course Osaka and Kyoto.
Your internship in Japan is your #1 priority but having fun and enjoying life here is just as important.