Kamakura’s main shrine
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is the most important shinto shrine of Kamakura, a city in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture. The huge complex, which is visited by many people, can be discovered by walking up Yuigahama-dori, a broad street bordered by sakura trees that runs through the heart of the city.
Visitors can easily identify Tsurugaoka Hachimangu hundreds of meters away. Its red torii ⛩️ gate stands on the street only a few meters from Kamakura Station.
Originally built in 1063 by the powerful Minamoto clan shogun Yoriyoshi, the shrine was largely expanded by his descendant Yorimoto at the end of the 12th century, when Kamakura served as Japan’s capital city. Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu reached its current size at that time. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, an agricultural deity who became the god of war after the Minamoto clan’s victory against the Taira clan.
Just like Kiyomizu-dera temple, this vast shinto shrine can be explored as a stroll more than a religious tour. Two large ponds at the entrance symbolize the rival clans and evoke the samurai spirit of this place. Ascending the stone stairs provides visitors a beautiful view of Kamakura’s city center.
Although quite touristy, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu’s park is well maintained. It experiences seasonal peaks at the following times:
- On the first day of the year, when the shrine welcomes the most visitors of any in Japan (more than 2 million!);
- In mid-September during for Reitai-sai, a festival that features an impressive demonstration of yabusame, or horseback archery (arriving hours before is highly recommended).
Please note that taking photos inside the main shrine is forbidden.