Kamakura was Japan’s administrative capital during the Kamakura period (est. 1185 to 1333). This coincided with the spread of populist Buddhism in Japan, which is reflected in the area’s proliferation of temples. Today it has 19 shinto shrines and 65 Buddhist temples, including two of Japan’s oldest Zen monasteries.
In 1180 aspiring warlord, Minamoto no Yoritomo, set up his base at Kamakura, distancing himself from the influences of Kyoto (then the capital of Japan) and choosing an area close to other clans loyal to his family. Kamakura’s location, with the sea on one side and densely wooded hills on the other, made it easy to defend. Yoritomo was appointed shogun in 1192 and governed Japan from Kamakura.
Ruling power remained in Kamakura following Yorimoto’s death until 1333, when the Hojo clan was defeated and Kyoto once again became the capital. By the Edo period Kamakura had returned to being little more than a village, however the opening of a rail line from Tokyo turned the sleepy town into a popular summer resort and holiday homes of wealthy Tokyoites now line the Kamakura coast.
Located one hour from Tokyo by train, Kamakura has also become popular with tourists, due to its many renowned historical sites and its beautiful beach. Kamakura’s best known historical sites include The Great Buddha and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, which draw a great many visitors each year.
- Practical Travel Guise – 307: Hakone and Kamakura
- DK Eyewitness Travel – Japan
- Lonely Planet Japan