KAMAKURA / ENOSHIMA
Soak up the sun while paying a visit to “Big Buddah”.
A beautiful and ancient historic town, the bright sea and sun at Enoshima is one of the main attractions on our trip to Kamakura this time. With numerous places to see, Kamakura is a place you can visit over and over.This being the peak season to see hydrangea and iris, be prepared for it to get a little crowded.
The Charm of Ancient Kamakura
In 1192 Kamakura was transformed from a small fishing village into a city where politics thrived when forces led by Minamotono Yoritomo overturned the Heike clan and the Kamakura Shogunate was founded. This ancient history still lends Kamakura its old world atmosphere today with ancient structures and artifacts still intact.
From Tokyo, you can reach Kamakura and Enoshima by either Odakyu or JR lines.
This time we took advantage of the Enoshima/Kamakura Free Pass. Good for one day, it allows you to get on and off the train freely going in either direction on the Odakyu line (from Fujisawa to Katase-Enoshima, and also includes the entire Enoden line, from Fujisawa to Kamakura).By presenting this card at participating attractions, you can also receive all kinds of freebies.
Get off at Katase-Enoshima Station, (the station building is inspired by Ryugu Castle from the famous fairy tale “Urashima Taro”.This station was featured in the Kanto area’s best hundred stations.)
First on the list of things to see is the newly opened Shinenoshima Suizokukan (Enoshima Aquarium). The aquarium offers Japan’s largest elephant seal and dolphin show with Mt. Fuji and the wide-open sea as a backdrop.
Crossing the Bridge to Enoshima Island
Getting on the Enoshima “Esca” (short for escalator) is the fast track to reaching the peak of Enoshima it takes you there in 5 minutes -or you could take the more scenic route along the “holy road” up to the top.
Hetsumiya Shrine, Nakatsumiya Shrine, and Okutsumiya Shrine together make up the three famous shrines of Enoshima. Devoting your feet to each shrine path, one path after the next, you will find you have traveled full circle around Enoshima. One of Japan’s three famous Sarasvati deities is enshrined in Hetsumiya Shrine.
Enoshima Cave was created over some 6,000 years, eaten away by the ripping tide and the passing of time. Despite it’s mysterious untouched atmosphere, the cave has a walking path, so negotiating the cave is easy and safe. From the path that leads outside there is a stirring view of the seascape.
Toward the centre of the island stands the Enoshima Observation Tower in Samuel Cocking Gardens (Samueru Kokkingu-En). Standing 60 meters high, the observation tower has a 360-degree, glass windowed observation room and an outdoor area as well. There is also a souvenir corner and cafe in the gardens.
We now head back to Enoshima Station via Subana Dori. On this road, some 500 meters in length, traditional and modern Japan meet. Lining the street are historic Japanese inns,yokan shops (selling traditional Japanese sweet bean cakes), and the Kosuibin (perfume bottle) Museum.
The Enoden train covers 10 kilometers of track running from Fujisawa to Kamakura Station, completing the route in 34 minutes. Looking out the windows, the scenery changes from residential to a magnificent view of the coastline. The carriages themselves are pretty cool too -60s retro!
Three minutes from Shichirigahama (Shichiri Beach) Station is, of course, Shichirigahama, a beach town teaming with surfers that are active year round.
Get off at Gokurakuji, Temple and if you get a chance, stop by Jojuin Temple alive this season with hydrangea blooms, and beautiful scenery that overlooks the ocean.
Hase is another good place to stop. From long ago, Hase was known as a place where commoners devotedly gathered to pray. At Hasedera Temple different flowers come into bloom each season. Make your way up the stairway of stone, lined with flowers, to the wooden Kannon (goddess of mercy) statue. This is Japan’s largest Kannon statue, towering over 9.18 meters, called Juichimen Kannon. From here you can also catch a sweeping view of Yuigahama and the Miura Peninsula. Its well-kept garden provides a space for relaxing.
Daibutsu-The Big Buddah
Head to Kotokuin Temple, where stands the famous symbol of Kamakura, and one of the most famous sights in Japan, the “great statue of Buddha” (Daibutsu), surrounded by the invigorating sight of azalea blossoms. Though the sheer size is overwhelming, the face of the statue seems to be benevolently giggling.The construction of this great 13.35-meter tall, 121 ton statue was carried out in 1243 AD. One eye alone measures 1 meter across. The statue is hollow and visitors are allowed to look around inside.
Hase Dori has had quite a share of temples since days of old. Aside from souvenir shops, you also get a chance to experience the interesting local life and see shops selling local specialities.
On the train yet again. As we’ve been on and off the train, using it so much, we can really see how much this Free Pass is working in our favor.
After getting off at Kamakura, we set out for Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, where we find a wide and stretching path called Wakamiya Oji. This is the road that the devout travel to meet the shrine. What used to be the center of action, the place of the Kamakura Shogun can be seen on the eastside of the path. There are numerous shops selling kamakura-bori, a local craft of carved and engraved and lacquered wood. If you are interested in having one of your own, we suggest you go to the Kamakura-bori Kaikan to familiarize yourself with the art first.
Go straight along Wakamiya Oji and you will come to see the red torii gates. marking the entrance of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.
With some 800 years of history, this ancient shrine was erected by Minamotono Yoritomo, the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate. Hachimangu Shrine was central to the development of the Shogunate. It is where generations of successive shoguns honored Kamakura’s gods of protection.
It’s spacious shrine grounds have many interesting things to you shouldn’t miss out on seeing. Walking straight after passing San-no-torii, is the Maiden (mai means dancing and den means palace or hall), the Hongu (main shrine), and the Homotsuden “(palace of jewels”). After checking them out,take a stroll around the premises. Maiden has supreme silence and calm.
Hundreds of shops line Komachi Dori, a little 600-meter street that runs parallel to Wakamiya Oji. This is the liveliest street in Kamakura. Off to the side are antique shops, shops selling Japanese sweets, souvenir shops, tea shops and eateries clustered together – perfect for shopping and strolling.
Speaking of which, Kamakura, a town of countless temples and shrines, has a long tradition of pottery and earthenware, as those seen in the tea ceremonies and traditional parties. Pottery from the kilns of all areas countrywide flooded the daily lives of selective collectors in this area.
Kamakura pottery shops offer a selection from all over the country, pottery which craftsman pride from Hokkaido all the
way to Okinawa.
It is impossible to see everything Kamakura has to offer in just one day. But if there’s one place you shouldn’t miss, that would have to be Kita Kamakura (North Kamakura) with the ancient traditional atmosphere of the ancienttown experience still lingering here.
After our little adventure at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, we face two tough choices: keep walking and exploring, or hop on the Yokosuka Line and head out to Kita Kamakura Station for some new scenery.
Continuing on, we make our way to Kenchoji Temple. It is one of Kamakura’s Gozan-Japan’s first Kamakura era Zen Buddhist temples. It still carries out the strictest practices and training. The temple bell, a national treasure, is just one item of cultural importance among many other historic artifacts and things to see on the spacious temple grounds.
Towards the back of the temple we continue up a long and winding stairway that reaches far up to Hansobo, halfway up the mountain, built in a location that overlooks a breathtaking view of the Sagami Gulf. At Kenchoji temple is the guardian deity, an embodiment of Tengu (the long nosed goblin in statue form). The trailhead for a 3-hour hike starts here, so if you’re planning to come this way, then you’d best have come prepared.
After we visiting Kenchoji Temple, we find the Kamakura Koto Art Museum. In an old farming house built over 170 years ago, this museum displays chinaware and pottery from Muromachi to Kamakura eras 1190~1300s). Quality pottery of many styles including Bizen, Tanba, Echizen, Tokoname,and Seto can be seen on exhibit. They were certainly made to last. As this is the season for hydrangea, we head for Meigetsuin Temple. On the way there, stop by Yoshomei’s Art Meuseum. Yoshomei was famous for picture books. The museum’s distinct architecture looks like that of a European mansion. On the way to Meigetsuin watch for hydrangea blooms. The shopping streets are full of life – much like the scenery you would see at a festival.
Engakuji Temple is a Zen Buddhist temple built in the Kamakura era, built in dedication to the local victims of two separate military invasions by the Yuan Chinese in the region’s history. The spreading temple grounds are surrounded by cedar woods, giving it a deep mountain atmosphere, accentuated by cherry blossoms or irises depending on the season.
Here ends our day trip in Kamakura as Kita Kamakura Station lies within the temple grounds of Engakuji. From here we can make our way back to Tokyo.