Saturday, May 23, 2015

Discovering : Kamakura

In an unconventional / first birthday overseas, I indulged myself to Sushi Dai - the best sushi in Tokyo as most visitors and locals to Tsukiji Market would concur. As the plan goes, after having the sushi breakfast, we decided to pay a visit to Kamakura (鎌倉市), a coastal town in the Kanagawa prefecture. What used to be a political center of Japan, Kamakura is now a popular tourist destination for those who would want to explore slightly further from Tokyo itself.

Facing the Great Buddha of Kamakura
Getting to Kamakura takes less than hour from Tokyo itself. If you are traveling via the Tokyo Metro or the JR line, get to the Shimbashi station and you would find your way to Kamakura via the railway.

Bro Tips : For the Tokyo Metro line, get to station A10 for the Asakusa line or G08 for the Ginza line (Shimbashi station). Get to the Shimbashi station for the JR Yokosuka Line (fees would be around ¥800 one way).

Sammon (Main-Gate) of the Hasedera Temple
You can easily see up to 8 attractions in a day, from visiting the abundant Zen temples available here or go back in time and feel like a samurai for a day (after all, Kamakura was known as the Home of the Samurais, or something like that). But if you have half a day like I did, perhaps going to a few key attractions would suffice. A trip to Kamakura would be incomplete if you have not visited the Daibutsu (大佛), the Great Buddha statue homed in the Kotoku-in temple (高徳院). This iconic landmark in Kamakura can be reached by getting to the Hase station from the Kamakura terminal station, and walk about 10 minutes to Kotoku-in. Entrance fee would be ¥200 to the temple.

Entrance tickets
I was at awe at the magnificent 13.35 meters tall Amida Buddha statue which survived numerous storm events and resulted in the statue to sit at the open air till now. I am quite contented with just seeing this Great Buddha statue, but I was quite intrigued to visit another famous temple here dedicated to Kannon (觀音), the Goddess of Mercy.

The Hasedera (長谷寺) houses the massive 9.18 meters tall, gold gilded wooden statue of the goddess Kannon. Feel free to Google the images of the Kannon statue as I refrained myself from being a shutterbug in the temple out of respect (and to connect spiritually to the temple as I am a Buddhist myself).

The entrance fee would be ¥300, and upon entering you won't miss the lush green garden and to the right there is an underground cave (benten kutsu cave) devoted to Benzaiten, the sea goddess from the Seven Lucky Gods Japanese mythology.

Jizo statues
Ascending the steps up to the temple, you would also notice numerous Jizō statues that were placed by parents to mourn their departed offspring.

As the Kamakura beach was not in my check list, having the height view of the Kamakura bay from the Hasedera was suffice for me.

Komachi-dori entrance
We stopped by the busy Komachi-dori street for lunch, to me it was reminiscent of the streets of Kyoto. Quaint shop lots blending along the stylish street, finding souvenirs and things to eat here shouldn't be a problem. 

Sleepy Totoro from a My Neighbor Totoro themed store
I was interested in trying two things when I was here - Shirasu (whitebait fish, or baby sardine/anchovy) and the Kamakura ham. Hence, the ham-shirasu don combo I ordered. Pretty decent dish, maybe our palates are used to fried anchovies and more seasoned ham, I can't quite rave about them.

Kamakura Ham & Shirasu in a bowl.
I do recommend if you find this soft swirl ice cream called Cremia, try their ice cream with waffle-like cone, probably one of the best ice cream I've tasted in Japan.

Kinda regretted just having one. Gahhh...
As we had time to visit another place or two, we decided to visit the Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine (銭洗弁財天宇賀福神社). The mouthful name of the shrine came from
  1. Zeniarai - Which means 'coins washing', 
  2. Benzaiten - A Buddhist Goddess 
  3. Ugafuku - A traditional spirit ugafuku-jin (宇賀福神) associated with snakes as the shrine is said to be divined by a dream that occurred at a day, month and year of the snake.
Above : Wash your money with the spring water using the ladle & sift.
Below : Allow money to dry 'naturally'. That was the actual instruction.
The waters of a spring in this Buddhist/Shinto fusion shrine's cave are said to be able to multiply the money washed in it, I must say it is worth trying since we were there anyway right? Getting there was quite a distance, from the Komachi area it was almost a 20 minutes walk (uphill included) towards the shrine. The signboards are quite helpful, we managed to reach there by it's help.

Can I get one of those sakedaru (酒樽, sake barrels) ?
We then headed back towards the Kamakura station and stopped by Tsurugaoka Hachimangū (鶴岡八幡宮), the most important Shinto shrine in Kamakura. 

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
Once you get up the stairs to the shrine you should be able to get a good view of the Komachi-dori, but we were too exhausted from all the walking, so we gave the stairs hike a pass (unfortunate decision on our part). I was actually glad that we chose to experience this part of Southern Tokyo, and if time permits next time I wouldn't mind experiencing the other Zen temples that are available here (crossing fingers). 

Read more of what I've experienced in the Kanto region, mostly Tokyo area :)

Bonus scene : This is actually a setting in a local Starbucks here in Kamakura. Patrons can enjoy their coffee while admiring the garden (hydrangea I supposed, I *think*). Gahhhhh, why Malaysia don't have?


  1. I love to travel out to small quaint towns like Kamakura to explore their temples and hidden treasures of exotic food & shops. That Kamakura Ham & Shirasu looks yummy for my liking.
    You were so creative to don their yutaka for poses! You didn't pose in their sumo loin cloths?
    Thanks for sharing the tips and lovely photos.

    1. Food are quite decent, but being a quaint town that it is, the temples etc are actually quite refreshing to visit. The yukata was my own, LOL, brought it there for temple hopping (so to say).
      And no, no sumo loin cloths... hahaha. Kamakura is famous for its samurai history, so it would be more fitting to don their samurai costume, we didn't as we allocated half a day only there :)