kamakura, japan.

March 05, 2014

Kamakura has been described as a sleepy, seaside town and a natural fortress with a rich history, and we found these descriptions fitting; on one side sits the Pacific coast, dotted with surf shops; on the other, lush green forests and ancient temples and shrines. It is an ancient city surrounded by mountains and sea, which made it a perfect military stronghold. Kamakura served as the political center of Japan for over 100 years under feudal military dictatorship, and therefore houses a great number of important shrines, temples, museums, and monuments. To me, the whole city resembled one large, beautifully contained garden, like so much of Japan.

Time did not allow us to walk the famous Daibutsu Hiking Trail, a well-loved and serene manner of exploration. Instead, we rented bikes and cycled around the city, stopping at one point to sample some purple sweet potato ice cream, a local speciality. For me, the highlight of the day was visiting the Kamakura Daibutsu, or Great Buddha. It is an overwhelming sight to behold, standing 13 meters high. The bronze Buddha statue dates back to 1252 and was previously housed inside a temple building. The temple was repeatedly destroyed by typhoons and never rebuilt after the 15th century; the Buddha survived and has remained outdoors since. No photograph can adequately capture the experience of beholding the Buddha, who towered so elegantly over us. We spent a good while simply sitting and looking up at him.

Kamakura was a quick train ride from Tokyo and worthy of a day visit - as long as you leave very early in the morning and stay until sunset. There is so much to see, you could spend a weekend away here. An American friend of mine who lives just outside of Tokyo commented recently that he makes sure to visit Kamakura several times a year.

Photos taken during our trip to Japan in September, 2013.

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  1. What a happy accident is was to ride along the coast before veering off to finally find the amazing Great Buddha. I would have to second what you said, and suggest a much fuller day or even a weekend visit.


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