During the beginning of the 12th Century, Kamakura, became the seat of power for the Minamoto Shogunate, which ruled after a fashion for the next 150 or so years. Because of its history as a power center, the city is home to many temples and relics of Japan’s past, and is kind of a Kyoto of the East.
Places to visit in Kamakura
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu owes its creation to the Minamoto, an ancient warrior clan who took power in the 12th century. After their victory of their rivals, the Taira clan, the Minamoto moved their capital to Kamakura where they governed the country in the name of the Emperor. The shrine itself is quite massive, the outer torii beginning from the sea, following a long approach to the shrine’s main building. Of note, within the shrine are two ponds: one denoting the Minamoto clan with three small islands, and the other the Taira clan with 4 small islands. In Japanese, the pronunciation of the word “four” is the same as that of “death”.
Standing well over thirteen meters, the Kamakura Daibutsu (or Kamakura Great Buddha) is Japan’s second largest statue of the Buddha. The statue was once surrounded by a hall, like its distant relative in Nara, but a series of disasters destroyed the protective structures. Since the last destruction of the temples, the Buddha has remained in the open.
Hasedera Kannon Museum
Kannon is often depicted as having multiple heads or arms. The principle icon of Hasedera, Kannon takes special importance and has been depicted in many forms, now displayed in the temple’s museum.
There is an interesting legend around Hasedera’s founding. It’s told a monk once carved two statues of the goddess of mercy, Kannon. One statue was installed in Hasedara of Nara prefecture. The other he threw into the ocean. When it reappeared near Kamakura some 16 years later, the people took it and built the temple around it. The temple has since then stood in various iterations for more than 1,200 years.