In the Spring of 2013, I met up with a couple of friends, husband and wife, who were traveling in Tokyo at the same time, and they suggested that I must visit Kamakura. Which I heeded and did not regret.
There are two ways you can see Kamakura; you either start from Kamakura Station or from Kitakamakura Station. For my first trip, I took the first option of starting from Kamakura Station. I don’t recommend this route unless you like going back and forth between what I think are the two main shrines: Kōtoku-in (where the infamous Great Buddha is, as noted in the photo above) and Kenchoji Temple (the oldest temple in Kamakura).
Tip: Go for the second option, the option I took the second time around, and start your journey with Kenchoji Temple which is just next to the Kitakamakura station and walk all the way down to Hase.
Once there, the hilly terrain is apparent. Together with the mountains that surrounded the city, made Kamakura a natural fortress. In fact, partly because of its natural environment, Kamakura was even once the capital of Japan albeit for a very short period of time. Kamakura is well known for its Buddhism and Shinto shrines as well, so it is as historical as it is zen.
On my way to Kōtoku-in, I met this cat. I love walking through alleys and peek into houses everywhere I travel. These walks/peeks gave me so many insights on how differently people live in different countries as compared to Singapore.
The serenity of a Buddhist temple was something I enjoyed even back at home. At Kōtoku-in, the 700+ year-old statue of the Great Buddha or Daibutsu sits in the middle of a beautiful garden with mountain and the sky as a backdrop. Very minimal, very zen. Om.
Next, Hase-dera. Hase-dera houses one of the biggest wooden Kannon (or Guan Yin) statues in the Japan. Legend has it that a monk, all the way in Nara, carved two identical statues from a single tree, and dropped one of them into the sea. This was so that two karmic forged temples can be built. One in Nara and, of course, another in Kamakura where the sea, finally, washed it on its shores. We were not allowed to take any photo of the statue though.
At Hase-dera, I saw another cat. A grumpy looking one too.
The weather wasn’t as great as I hoped for as one can tell from the photos. However, for my second visit a year later with my family, it was a much better experience.
From Hase, I took a tram, by the Enoshima Electric Railway, down to Enoshima. Enoshima is a tiny island with a lot of street food that are littered along the way to a few shrines that are up on top of a hill.
Collectively, they are called Enoshima Shrine.
Apparently, you can see Mount Fuji from here. It was there… somewhere past all the fogs and clouds that prevailed that day.
I saw some cat figurines that I did not buy.
And, there was also a beach.
After visiting Enoshima, my final stop was Hachimangu Shrine. I took a tram straight back to the Kamakura Station where people were keen to take photos of the tram and, most importantly, a figurine of a frog. I have often observed in some train stations a figurine of a frog as seen below. From the pieces of information I got from googling, I gathered that frog was a play on the Japanese word “kaeru” which meant return as well.
From the train station, I walked to the Hachimangu Shrine next. Even if it was not the most perfect weather, walking from the station to the shrine during cherry blossom was highly enjoyable. The path towards the shrine was beautifully layered with cherry blossoms and ginkgo trees and people were just hanami-ing.
Japanese pets are always clean, well-dressed, fluffy, and traveled in style… in a pram for some reason. It was hard to resist to take photos of them.
In my humblest opinion, Kamakura was like a little Kyoto. Definitely, a very good side trip to take when in Tokyo. I returned to Kamakura in Autumn 2014 when the weather was a lot more lovely. Do read about it here.