Kamakura - old capital city of the samurai government

The main shrine building of Tshurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura Japan.
In 1180, Minamoto no Yoritomo [源頼朝] founded the 2nd samurai government of Japan and became Shogun of the Kamakura shogunate. Because he set Kamakura City as a capital of the government, it came to be known as one of the important city in history of Japan until today.
The original government house of Kamakura Shogunate was built in the east of current Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine [鶴岡八幡宮]. The 2nd and 3rd government house was built near current Kamakura Station. So, the station area can be said to be the center of Kamakura city historically.
We'll guide this central area of Kamakura City in this page.

Central Kamakura area sightseeing guide

Where to go & what to do?
  • Especially recommended for... Families / Friends / Couples
How far? (from East Exit of Kamakura Station, by walk)
  • 2 minutes (115m) to Komachi-dori Shopping Street
  • 5 minutes (270m) to Ni-no-torii gate, the entrance of Dankazura way
  • 14 minutes (770m) to entrance of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
  • 20 minutes (1,055m) to main shrine building of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
Free Wi-Fi spot
  • Kamakura Station of Enoden Line (*Odakyu Free Wi-Fi)
  • Kamakura Station of JR Line
  • Both side Exit of Station
  • Kamakura City Tourist Information
  • Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
  • 7-11, Lawson and Familymart in the area
  • Some shops in Wakamiya-oji street
When you are in case of emergency situation here, please see the page.

The way which leads to the Kamakura era

Ni-no-torii gate is the starting point of Dankazura way.
The major street of Kamakura City since old days goes along the station square to the north and south. This Wakamiya-oji avenue [若宮大路] links straight about 1.8 km between a famous historical site "Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine" and Yuigahama beach.It was built by Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1182 as the first phase of city planning.

There are 3 Torii gates in the street. The first gate is in front of the Kamakura Police Station on the way to the seaside from Kamakura Station. From the pedestrian bridge near here that you can see other 2 Torii gates and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine which stands in line.
The first torii gate in Wakamiya-oji street. The overview of Wakamiya-oji street.
However, many tourists do not drop in here, and they often go to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine from Ni-no-Torii (the 2nd Torii gate) that stands near Kamakura Station.
In the center of Wakamiya-oji avenue, there is the footpath that is several steps higher than the roadway. It called as Dankazura [段葛] way.
This 465 meters long footpath begins to make a way higher in the center of the road during the Kamakura era, to prevent water and mud from flowing into the road on rainy days and making it difficult to walk. There used to be a similar path in other Japanese cities, but now it is a valuable historical structure road that remains only here in Japan.
This Dankazura way is also made to narrow the road width from the Ni-no-torii gate near the station towards the direction of the shrine, and it looks longer than the actual distance by the effect of perspective. The road width is 4 meters in the Ni-no-Torii gate, but it narrows to 3 meters in front of the shrine.
A view from Dankazura way in Kamakura. Wakamiya-oji street and Dankazura way.
Here was a famous cherry blossoms sightseeing spot where more than 200 cherry trees were lined up in the past. But since the trees were re-planted along with renovation work of the path in recent years. It will take a while to return to the sight like before is.

The heart of history of Kamakura

The entrance of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine in Kamakura.
When walking to the end point of Wakamiya-oji avenue, you can see a vast shrine covered with trees opposite the traffic light. Here is Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine [鶴岡八幡宮] the heart of ancient capital city of samurai government of Japan.
It is regarded as a guardian god of Genji [源氏] and samurai of Kamakura, also known throughout Japan as a shrine which is related to Minamoto no Yoritomo, the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate and its precincts is one of the national historic sites of Japan.
  • [Opening Hours]
    • 5:00 - 21:00 (9:00 pm) on April to end of September
    • 6:00 - 21:00 (9:00 pm) on October to end of March
    • Open 24hrs during new year days (January 1 to January 3)
  • [Admission]
    • Precincts: Free
    • Museum [宝物館](Homotsukan): 200yen for Adults, 100yen for children
  • [Movement with wheelchair] Possible except for main shrine building
  • [Major festival and events]
    • Bonbori Lantern Festival: Aug.7 - Aug.9
    • Annual Festival: Sep.14 - Sep.16
    • Relocation memorial Festival: Dec.16
    • *Many other events are held every month, Please see official site for detail.
  • [Official Site]
At the entrance of the precincts, there is a small and steeply inclined stone bridge with a height of less than 2 meters. It is called as "Taiko-bashi" (means The bridge of the drum), because its shape is similar with Japanese drum.
A stone bridge is in the entrance. Side-view of Taiko-bashi stone bridge in Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.
View from Taiko-bashi bridge in the shrine.Originally, there was a red wooden bridge here and called "The red bridge" in 1182. It existed as the boundary between the sanctuary of the shrine and the world where people live.
In 1697, the red wooden bridge was replaced with the new stone bridge, like what is currently. In the past days, this Taiko-bashi bridge was able to cross, but access is prohibited currently.
Cherry tree on the island at Genji Pond in Tsurugaoka HachimanguThere are ponds which is said to be made by order of Hojo Masako (wife of Minamoto no Yoritomo), on both side of the bridge. There are 4 islands in the small "Heike Pond" on the left and 3 islands in the big "Genji Pond" on the right.
Around of Genji Pond is a good place to see cherry blossom.
The long straight footpath in the precincts of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Kamakura.The shrine originated in 1063 when Minamoto no Yoriyoshi [源頼義] (who succeeded in unifying the Tohoku region) invited Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine in Kyoto that was praying for the victory, and enshrined it in Yuigahama.
Since Minamoto no Yoritomo [源頼朝] relocated the shrine to the present place in 1180, it was developed as a center of government facility.
Later, thanks to under the asylum of Edo Shogunate, large scale construction and development was carried out during the Edo era.
Walking along the approaching path straight from the bridge, you will see a red flat building in front. This is "Maiden" hall building [舞殿] that used for rituals and "Shizuka no Mai" [静の舞] traditional dance exhibition.
Maiden, a traditional dance hall and main shrine building. The venue of Yabusame archery track.
There is a way intersecting in right on the way to Maiden hall building. On this way, the traditional ceremony that shoots the arrow while running horseback called "Yabusame" [流鏑馬] archery is sometimes performed. The schedule is as follows.
  • 3rd Sunday of April, from 13:00 (1:00 pm) [during Kamakura Matsuri festival]
  • September 16, from 13:00 (1:00 pm) [during "Reitaisai" annual festival]
  • 1st Sunday of October, from 13:00 (1:00pm)
  • *A ceremony will be held before Yabusame archery performance, the actual performance will start around 14:00 (2:00 pm)
If you have a chance, please take a look at the event that convey the cultures of brave samurai that continues about 800 years.
The stairway to the main shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Kamakura.There is a large stairway to main shrine building behind the maiden. The stairway has 61 steps and able to see the center area of the city from the top.

On the left of the stairs, there used to be a huge old ginkgo tree of 1,000 years old. It was a symbolic presence of the shrine with a height of 30 meters and a trunk size of 7 meters, but in March 2010 it fell down due to the storm. Currently, the branches that grew out of the fallen trees are growing up in their original place and a part of the fallen trunk are planted nearby.
Fallen trunk of old ginkgo tree. The tower gate and main shrine building of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.
The main shrine (upper shrine) building was re-built in 1828. It consists of a tower gate and 3 halls (Honden - the main hall, Heiden - the offering chamber and Haiden - the worship hall.).

A must-see shopping street

Komachi-dori shopping street is one of the sightseeing spot in Kamakura.
Another road connecting Kamakura Station and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in parallel with Wakamiya-oji avenue is Komachi-dori [小町通り].
The entrance of Komachi-dori shopping street in the city center. Komachi-dori shopping street is crowded everyday with tourists.
Komachi-dori street is one of popular tourist destination in central Kamakura for shopping and dining. On both side of the street, there are wide variety of restaurants, cafes, sweets shops, snack shops, miscellaneous shops, Japanese style items shops and more.

Hidden tranquil space in the center of the city

Precincts of tranquil Jufukuji Temple.
If you turn left at the end of busy Komachi-dori street near Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. There is a narrow street heading to the west between the houses. When you walk down the street, you can see the railroad crossing.
At the back of railroad crossing, suddenly there are thick forest that can not be thought as being in the center of Kamakura city. Here is Jufukuji Temple [寿福寺].
  • [Opening Hours] Open throughout the day
  • [Admission] Free
  • [Movement with wheelchair] Possible (but some steps in the entrance)
  • 17 minute (940m) walk from Kamakura Station East Exit.
The entrance of Jufukuji Temple in Kamakura. The Middle Gate of Jufukuji Temple.
Jufukuji Temple is not open to the public, but it is possible to enter freely until the Middle Gate. The precincts of the temple is designated as a national historic site.
Jufukuji Temple was founded by Hojo Masako [北条政子] in 1200, the following year when Minamoto no Yoritomo (her husband and the founder and first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate) dead.
The temple is ranked 3rd in the Kamakura's 5 major temples of Zen sect of Buddhism. The famous priest Eisai [栄西] (the founder of Rinzai sect) served as first priesthood and was once large temple with many halls and towers.
This is the place where there was a house of Minamoto no Yoshitomo [源義朝] (father of Minamoto no Yoritomo) too.

The temple mourning for the clan who lost power struggle

Precincts of Myohonji Temple in Kamakura
Walking from the bustling Wakamiya-oji street to the eastern mountain, there is a big temple quietly standing in the back of the residential area.
Here is Myohonji Temple [妙本寺].
  • [Opening Hours] Open throughout the day
  • [Admission] Free
  • [Movement with wheelchair] Possible
  • 10 minutes walk from Kamakura Station East Exit (570m to Somon main gate)
The main entrance gate of Myohonji Temple in Kamakura.There is a classical building stands in the back right of the Somon - the main gate, and you may be interested. Originally, it was an associated temple of Myohonji Temple, but it becomes a kindergarten managed by the temple and unable to see inside.

There is a small gate on the left after few steps, and you can go to the main temple building by climbing the stone steps.
As you walk down a gentle slope under the trees, there is a red gate above the stairs. This is Nitenmon Gate, one of the famous autumn colors spot in the area.
Passing through the gate, you can see Soshido hall building, which is the largest wooden Buddhist temple building in Kamakura.
The around area of the hall is known as a beautiful place where cherry blossoms and hall crabapple flowers are in spring, and autumn leaves of Momiji (maple tree) in autumn.
Nitenmon Gate of Myohonji Temple in Kamakura Soshido hall building of Myohonji Temple.
Myohonji Temple was founded in 1260 by Nichiren [日蓮] and Hiki Yoshimoto [比企能本] to mourning his deceased family.
Originally, here was the place where family of Hiki clan (a followers of Minamito no Yoritomo) lived. Hiki clan had a deeply close relationship with Shogun of Kamakura Shogunate, but it becomes more likey to make conflict with Hojo clan the Shogun's wife's parents family.
In 1203, from the confrontation to decide the next Shogun, the two clans became war, and the losing Hiki clan fire on their mansion and committed suicide.
Hiki Yoshimoto who was one of the few survivors, donate this land to Nichiren and founded a temple.

Unique lucky charm of unique building temple

Hongakuji Temple in Kamakura
In the east side of Wakamiya-oji street, there are many small temples and shrines.
Among them, one of relatively large temples is this Hongakuji Temple [本覚寺].
  • [Opening Hours] Open throughout the day (office opens 9:00 - 16:00)
  • [Admission] Free
  • [Movement with wheelchair] Possible
  • 7 minutes (400m) walk from Kamakura Station East Exit
The entrance gate and Ebisu-do building in Hongakuji Temple in Kamakura. The main temple building of Hongakuji Temple.
When setting up the Kamakura Shogunate in around 1185, to protect the southwest direction of the government house based on the feng shui method, a temple called Ebisu-do [夷堂] was built around the current entrance gate of Hongakuji Temple.
After that, there was a time when Nichiren stayed around in 1274 and used as a base of missionary work in the neighborhood.
Later in 1436, this Ebisu-do was founded as Hongakuji Temple of Nichiren sect Buddhism. Current Ebisu-do is an unusual octagonal building as a temple building in Japan.
The buildings of the temple are relatively new, but the entrance gate has relocated from other temple built in the Edo period.
The unique Nigiri-fuku lucky charm of Hongakuji Temple.This Hongakuji Temple is famous for its unique lucky charms called "Nigiri-fuku" [にぎり福].
It is a small lucky charm of about 2cm, there are 5 types depending your wish.
  • Love [愛]
  • Health [健]
  • Wealth [財]
  • Study [学]
  • Fortune [福]
A wish gripped in this small body and it is said that wishes come true when you put it on your palm and grasp it everyday.
Nigiri-fuku is all handmade by monks of the temple, there is no one is the exactly same color, shape and facial expression.

This Nigiri-fuku lucky charm is sold at the shop near the entrance gate (There is a signboard written in Japanese as [受付] ).

Small temples and shrines between the houses

Joeiji Temple, one of small temple in the area.
Hokaiji Temple, another small temple near Kamakura Station.In the area of the east side of Kamakura Station, there are many small temples dotted between houses. Such as...
  • Hokaiji Temple [宝戒寺]
  • Myoryuji Temple [妙隆寺]
  • Daigyoji Temple [大巧寺]
  • Joeiji Temple [常栄寺]
  • Yakumo Jinja Shrine [八雲神社]
  • Anyoin Temple [安養院]
  • Myohoji Temple [妙法寺]
  • Ankokuronji Temple [安国論寺]
When walking randomly, there may be unexpected discoveries or encounters.
inserted by FC2 system