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Story Behind the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura, Once the Center of Japan

Kamakura was once the center of political power in medieval Japan and within the city lies the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.

An important shrine that was built to give thanks to the Shinto Deities for their help in suppressing the rebellion. Doves fly in the distance as if to welcome the visitors that enter the shrine grounds.

Brief History

Minamoto Yoriyoshi, built the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine in 1063. His descendant Yoritomo, later moved the shrine and built it on its current location.

Yoritomo greatly respected his ancestor and to honor him, built a magnificent shrine where the Hachiman Kami (The Deity of Warriors) was enshrined. Yoritomo managed the government within Kamakura and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu became the religious authority of his shogunate.

Many leaders were inspired by his dedication and affection towards the shrine and because of this, they built shrines to honor the Hachiman Deity all across Japan.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

The way towards the shrine is a wide long road that is marked by multipe Torii Gates. One of the most notable feature of this path is between the Nino Torii Gate and the San’no Torii Gate. What makes this path special is that, it is flanked by Sakura trees on both sides. During spring when the Sakura is in full bloom, this path towards the shrine is a magnificent site to behold.

Another thing that you’ll notice are the doves. Doves in temples and shrines are not uncommon in Japan. However, it is believed that the doves played a significant role in guiding the Hachiman Deity, towards Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine when it was relocated. As if to reinforce this belief, you’ll notice a pair of doves on the “name board” of the shrine that represents the character “八”.

Like many other shrines in Japan, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu also specialize in charms, blessings and prayers. Among them are academic success, good health, long life, prosperity, love and stronger family ties.

Hatsumode in Kamakura

After New Year, the Japanese celebrate a tradition called Hatsumode (the first shrine visit of the year). Millions of people go to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu because it is one of the most popular shrines in Japan.

During this time of year, going to the shrine is a bit of a challenge. Even so, people still go to Kamakura to make a wish and receive their blessing for the new year. If you’re going with your friends or family, holding hands is advisable so that you won’t get lost in the crowd of people.

The Famous Giant Ginkgo Tree

A tree that is well known for an “Urban Legend”, on which an assassin hid himself to assassinate a shogun.

Unfortunately, the tree was damaged and uprooted on March 10, 2010 by a strong winter storm. Today, efforts are being done to preserve the tree and new leaves are seen growing on the damaged trunk.

Address: 2-1-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura, Kanagawa
Opening Hours:5:00 am – 9:00 pm
Shrine Museum Entrance Fee: ¥200
Telephone Number: 0467-22-0315
Directions: Head to the east exit of Kamakura Station. It takes approximately 10 – 15 minutes on foot to reach Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.

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