Last week there was yet another Monday public holiday, Health and Sports Day. The holiday commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, and exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle.

With the day off from school and work, we headed for Kamakura. Kamakura is a seaside Japanese city about 50 kilometres (31 miles) south-west of Tokyo; about 90 minutes by train.

Formerly the political center of medieval Japan, modern-day Kamakura is a prominent resort town with dozens of Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. With so many options, we started by visiting Tsurugaoka Hachimangū. Built in 1063, this shrine is commonly regarded as the most important Shinto shrine in the city and the geographical/cultural center of Kamakura.

Our next stop was Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine. In spite of its small size, this Shinto shrine is the second most popular spot in Kanagawa prefecture (after Tsurugaoka Hachimangū). Its popularity comes from the belief that the waters of a spring in its cave are said to be able to multiply the money washed in it. So, of course, we had to give that a try!

Our last stop of the day was Kamakura’s most recognizable landmark, the Kotoku-in Temple. This temple’s Great Buddha bronze statue was completed in 1252 and stands roughly 13 meters high (43 feet). The bronze Buddha statue was preceded by a giant wooden Buddha, which was completed in 1243 after ten years of continuous labor; but, was damaged beyond repair during a storm in 1248.

Kamakura is simply a beautiful and historic city, with plenty of shopping, dining, and activity…a place that is near the top of the list of day-trips from Tokyo.


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