Kamakura Japan, Beauty & Buddah

Kamakura – capital of the shoguns and paradise of temples(I)

I meant to write this post about Kamakura for some time now, but it seems that you do not always have the time to do whatever you want. Kamakura is just so amazing because of the exquisite combination of temples both Buddhist and Shinto

1st stop: There are five main Zen Buddhist temples in Kamakura and the one we picked to visit was Engaku-ji. Built in 1282, the temple has many of the traditional elements of the Buddhist temple, including the Sanmon main gate, but, especially, the garden.

For me, the perception that nature can be recreated at an infinitely small scale in your backyard has never ceased to amaze me and the example of the garden at Engaku-ji is great in that sense: a lake, small stone bridges, several islands in the pond. Even more so, the Japanese temple gardens (even if this is not the classical expression of Zen Buddhism, the dry landscape) seem to give out a peaceful sensation.

For an additional sensation, try to make it to the temple as early as possible (hours are 8.00 to 17.00 or until 16.00 from November to March. The admission is 300 yen), when there are no visitor crowds and you can bask for a couple of minutes in the silence and peace of the garden.

kamakura22nd stop: Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū. This is the most important Shinto shrine in Kamakura. The shrine was initially dedicated to the Emperor Ōjin (the15th imperial ruler of Japan), legendary figure deified as Hachiman Daimyōjin (Hachiman is the Shinto god of war), hence the name of the shrine, as well as protector of the family of shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo. Enjoy the shrine, temple and impressive park, but stop for a second by the enormous gingko tree just before you walk up the stairs. It was here that Kyugyo Minamoto hid before stabbing and killing his uncle, the third shogun (rough times, even within the family). The two ponds on either side are supposed to represent the Minamoto and Taira clans, rivals through history. All the Japanese symbolism made its way here as well: the Taira pond has four small isles: the number four has the same pronunciation in Japanese as “death”: shi. One could see this as a shout at their opponents from across.