Do you simply love the art and philosophy of Japanese Zen? Have you ever wondered about its history and how it came to be such a unique expression of pure simplicity now so ubiquitous in many aspects of life in Japan today? If you are perhaps curious about the history of Japanese Zen culture and are possibly even considering a stay in or near the Tokyo area sometime soon, then you will almost certainly want to schedule a day to explore the nearby capitol of Zen known as Kamakura, so that you may enjoy its many beautiful temples and cultural treasures.
There is truly no other place quite like ancient Kamakura, and its close proximity to the bustling modern metropolis of Tokyo is truly a wonderful blessing. It is conveniently located within reach of a relatively short and inexpensive train ride from Tokyo, so many of the city’s residents themselves also make a day trip to Kamakura a couple of times a year for a refreshing and invigorating breath of nature’s fresh air and Japan’s traditional culture. The trees are abundant and beautiful and the temples are too, so even those not believing in any religious aspects of the area will still likely feel energized by the lively air and beautiful scenery.
Let’s take a look at some of the locations of interest in the Kamakura area so that you may better spend your time enjoying what this wonderful town has to offer.
This is likely the number one attraction in Kamakura and the primary reason many international travelers make the journey to this seaside town. Daibutsu essentially means “Great Buddha” and it is truly a fitting name for this rather gigantic bronze statue. It is an iconic and picturesque location, so be sure to see it if you have time and try to make time otherwise. One interesting feature of this particular statue is that you can actually go inside as it is essentially a building made of bronze.
This is popularly considered Kamakura’s most important Shinto shrine. Shinto is Japan’s more animistic natural side and in concert with Buddhism makes for a relatively good balance of human and nature. This balance is truly a major part of the success of Japanese culture. The balance is particularly evident in places like Kamakura where Buddhism and Shinto have such a strong harmony that some locations are truly a blend rather than distinctly one or another. This shrine is very popular for its new year’s festival and around a million or so people gather at this shrine to watch the sun rise on January 1st every year. If you should visit on the week following the new year you may be surprised to see gigantic video screens along the way, truly showing the blend of modern and ancient so common in Japan and its culture. Another attraction at this shrine is in April and also in September, when there are traditional horseback archery competitions.
There are many more temples and shrines and other attractions in Kamakura, but these two are a great place to start. In all honesty, one could easily spend weeks or more exploring all that Kamakura has to offer its visitors. Enjoy your stay!