Cherry Blossoms and Zen Soup: A Visit to Kamakura's Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine and Kenchoji Temple
Kamakura is a coastal city in Kanagawa prefecture, located approximately 50 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. The city's numerous historic temples and shrines make it a popular destination for tourists, and it is easily accessible from Tokyo by train.
To get to Kamakura from Tokyo, you can take the JR Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station, which will take you directly to Kamakura Station in about an hour. Another option is to take the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku Station, which also goes directly to Kamakura Station in about an hour.
During our day trip to Kamakura, we visited Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine and Kenchoji Temple. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is one of the most important and popular shrines in Kamakura, with a fascinating history. It was founded in 1063 and originally located in Yuigahama, a beach area near present-day Kamakura Station. However, in 1180, Minamoto no Yoritomo, the founder of the Kamakura shogunate, ordered the shrine to be relocated to its current location on a hill overlooking Kamakura. This relocation marked the beginning of Kamakura's transformation into a political and cultural center.
One of the shrine's most famous features is the long pathway lined with cherry blossom trees that leads up to the main building. During the spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, the pathway is particularly beautiful, and many visitors come to the shrine specifically to see the cherry blossoms. The shrine also hosts a yearly cherry blossom festival, called the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Cherry Blossom Festival, which features traditional Japanese performances and other cultural events.
Kenchoji Temple is also a significant temple in Kamakura, founded in 1253 by the monk Rankei Doryu. He was a disciple of the famous Chinese Zen master Wuzhun Shifan, and Kenchoji was the first Zen temple in Japan to receive official recognition from the Chinese Zen school. The temple played an important role in spreading Zen Buddhism throughout Japan.
Kenchoji is particularly associated with Kenchinjiru, a type of vegetable soup often eaten by Zen monks. The origin of Kenchinjiru is unclear, but according to legend, a Zen monk who was staying at Kenchoji created the soup. The monk wanted to create a simple and nourishing soup that could be made with whatever vegetables were available, and Kenchinjiru was the result. Today, Kenchinjiru is still served at Kenchoji and other Zen temples throughout Japan.
As we wrapped up our day trip to Kamakura, we stopped by KUA AINA, a burger restaurant close to Yuigahama Beach, for a tasty meal.
Kamakura is a fascinating city with a rich history, and its temples, shrines, and natural beauty make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Japanese culture and history.