Kamakura, City of Samurai Soul

By | Category: Travel destinations

Great Buddha of Kamakura

Just sixty minutes from Tokyo you will find the city of Kamakura. Never heard of it?  You may not have done but you will certainly be aware of the importance of the city when I mention to you that it is forever linked with the samurai.

Whilst Tokyo as a national capital has many attractions is it really the “real japan”. To find that you should go outside the city and one place within easy reach is Kamakura.

Almost 850 years ago, Kamakura was where the first shogunate (military government) was formed in 1185 and it remained the centre of political and military might for some 150 years. This is what makes the city today a must-visit: it has a distinctly historical ambience that offers a tantalising glimpse into the Japan of a thousand years ago.

A towering 13m statute, the Great Buddha of Kamakura which has national treasure status is hard to miss when you get to the city. That and five great Zen Buddhism temples as well as the gardens of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu give the city a sense of the values of simplicity, spirituality, and wabi-sabi that developed during the Kamakura era. Go to the Tokozenji Zen temple for an introduction in English to Zazen meditation, to make handwritten copies of sutras, or experience a traditional tea ceremony.

the teaching begins

But it is the samurai history that attracts visitors. You can experience this historical aspect of Japanese culture using special tools with special people in special locations. The programmes are provided in a quiet, private environment where no tourists are usually allowed to enter. Experts specialising in each art teach you and there are also programmes Zen meditation, Iaido (the art of drawing a real sword) and tea ceremony, etc. are available.

Kamakura doesn’t only offer its samurai traditions to attract visitors. Off shore is the island of Enoshima.  The Enoshima Electrical Railway operates along a picturesque 10km coastal route and provides an alternative heritage attraction to that of the samurai. Also here is a 60 metre, high lighthouse and observatory which is the perfect place to end a day trip to this attraction-packed island as the lighthouse illuminates the area at night.

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