September 15, 2010

Japan : Kamakura day trip

I've practically covered most of Tokyo, so I decided to make a day trip out of town. I wanted to go to Hakone, with the aim of lazing around the lake admiring Mount Fuji. But my friends said Hakone is best enjoyed if you stay overnight as the 2 hour journey is tiring and there are so many things to do and to see (and to shop at the nearby Gotemba outlet).

So, the next best destination is Kamakura, a small town to the south-west of Tokyo. Interesting fact is, this quiet little town was the capital of Japan during the Kamakura shogunate, from 1185 to 1333. Shogunate means a government headed by the Shogun, a title given by the Emperor to great leaders of the samurai, if you wonder.

To get here from Tokyo: Take the JR Yokosuka line and stop at Kamakura Station. The journey will take about an hour and the fare is 890 yen. Other choice is you can buy the Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass and get to enjoy the nearby Enoshima as well.

The city has many renowned temples and shrines as well as well-preserved historical treasures surrounded by beautiful hills in a rustic setting. There are so many things to see in Kamakura, and the nearby Enoshima, but my colleague weren't as interested in sightseeing as I was and she was tired from all the walking, so we didn't cover everything. Note to self: choose travel partner wisely, otherwise it'll affect the whole trip.

Anyway, the first stop was the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. It's just a short walk from the JR train station.

Ni no torii

Oh yeah, did I tell you Kamakura has a beach? This place is very famous during summer for seaside bathing. Unfortunately, I had to pass it as it was so hot that day my travel partner just wanted to go back and sleep in the hotel room! Note to self again: never ever travel during summer and fasting month.  From the beach, the Wakamiya Oji street runs straight to the shrine. And along the street, there are 3 torii gates, with the first gate (ichi no torii) being located near the beach.

Then, the second gate (ni no torii) is the entrance to Dankazura, a pedestrian path right up to the shrine, with cherry trees lined on both sides of the pathway. But there were no cherry blossoms for me to see as they burst into glorious bloom in spring. However, Dankazura still look beautiful to me. So serene! 

During cherry blossom full bloom, Dankazura will look like this!

OMG so pretty ok! I soooo wanna go there next year!

The third gate (san no torii) stands at the entrance to Hachimangu Shrine. Entering the shrine's large compound, there is the famous Taikobashi Bridge,  

which spans across 2 connected lotus ponds, known as Genpei-Ike.

one of the ponds

Sitting atop a hill, you have to climb 61 steps to get to the main hall, and be rewarded with views over Kamakura.

the main hall

carrier like those seen in epic movies

Most shrines sell fortunes called Omikuji. You draw a stick from a container, where each stick have a number on it. Based on your number, the attendant gives you a tiny roll of paper on which your fortune is written. If you draw a good fortune, take it home with you. But if it's bad luck you're getting, leave it at the shrine. They believed that the bad luck left at the shrine would be exorcised by the divine spirit.

 Bad luck fortunes are tied to this rack and left at the shrine

When you're at a shrine, you will also see a stand with hundreds of small wooden plaques attached to it. These votive plaques, sold at the shrine, are called Ema. Worshippers buy the plaque, write their wish on it, then hang it on the ema stand, in hopes that the shrine deity will grant their wish.
Ema on the stand

Next stop was the Daibutsu (Great Buddha). You can walk (it takes about 30 minutes from Kamakura Station) or take a bus at the Kamakura Station East Exit Bus Terminal.
Enoden bus no 1

There are 2 buses going there, bus no 1 and 6, with fare of 190 yen each. Bus no 1's final stop is right at Daibutsu's entrance, while bus no 6 will end somewhere else, so make sure you stop at Daibutsumae bus stop. If you're not sure, just tell the driver you're going to the Big Buddha, he'll alert you when you're there.

  Entrance fee is 200 yen

This 11.3m tall statue of Buddha is seated on the ground of Kotokuin Temple. It is seated in the lotus position with his hands forming the Dhyani Mudra, the gesture of meditation.

This Big Buddha has officially been designated as a National Treasure of Japan. With a beautiful backdrop of wooded hills, the Daibutsu is truly a spectacular sight.

After that, we just wandered around Kamakura, enjoying what the old town has to offer.

We made a quick visit to Yokohama on our way back to Tokyo. I love this harbour city as I have fond memories of happy times here.

Note that if you wanna go sightseeing or shopping in Yokohama, stop at Sakuragicho station (not Yokohama station ok!) on Keihin Tohoku line.


June Malik said...

kamakura was one of my fav weekend jalan2 ..

Lady of Leisure said...

huwaaa.. cantiknya dankazura... terbeliak mata i nengok kalau time spring tu mesti lawa kan...

rara said...

kak june: kalau ada chance, i wanna go there again! love the old town feel..

lady: tu la.. time cherry blossom tu so cantik!