Anyone you know who has been to Japan probably talks about Kamakura. Home of the Giant Buddha, shrines, temples, Enoshima and nice beaches. So let us give you the rundown on why this place is so famous and brings in thousands of tourists every year.
Firstly, the Giant Buddha. Literally, its giant. The Japanese call it 大仏 (Daibutsu) which literally translates to ‘Giant Buddha’, they’re just so creative. Daibutsu stands at an incredible 13.35m and weighs 121 tonne! What you probably don’t know is that this magnificent statue is actually hollow. For just 20 yen, we walked up the tiny stairs inside Daibutsu. It was quite amazing to be in there, even if it was 30 million degrees inside.
By just walking a little towards the ocean after witnessing the might that is Daibutsu, you will most likely run into Hasedera temple. Again, only 300 yen to get in, what a bargain. Hasedera temple is surrounded by several other shrines, carp fish, great views, and caves. It is an incredible sight, but one of the most incredible sights had to be the 9.18m tall wooden carved ‘Eleven-headed Kannon’ statue that resides inside the temple. The statue was said to be carved in 721AD and is covered in gold/bronze paint, making the statue a magnificent site to behold when you enter the temple.
Day 2 in Kamakura led us to the island of Enoshima, just a walk across from mainland Kamakura. This ancient island served us several shrines (collectively known as ‘Enoshima Shrine’), an island-top garden, observation tower, and caves. The shrines on the island are dedicated to Benten, goddess of good fortune, wealth, music and knowledge. Many Japanese visitors pray to these shrines using very specific routines involving bowing, clapping, and bowing again. We watched this process for awhile in awe of Japanese traditions and watched as parents taught these traditions to their children. In addition, the Enoshima shrines were accompanied by おみくじOmikugi. Omikugi are fortune telling papers. You may find these at many shrines around Japan and most foreigners don’t really know what’s going on. Papers can either fortell 大吉daikichi (good luck), or 大京daikyo (bad luck). The next step is to tie your paper to the branch of a tree to make good fortune come true or avert bad luck. It was a great experience to join in with these Japanese traditions and we would highly reccommend joining in!
Although there are many, many stairs on Enoshima, it is definitely worth hiking to the top! The top of Enoshima island houses the observation tower, Gardens, and Caves. Although these have a slight extra cost, they are definitely worth it. The ‘seacandle’ or observation tower at the top of Enoshima Island offers fantastic views over the ocean and back towards the mainland, great for photos! After wandering through the incredible Samuel Cook gardens surrounding the seacandle, we headed on to find the Iwaya caves. The ancient Iwaya caves were said to connect to the ‘wind cave’ in Mt. Fuji, that’s why it blows cool air all year round. The caves also house several statues and monuments that were once created there. Only the ‘first cave’ was open on the day we visited due to rough seas (a typhoon in the west of Japan), however this cave still expanded a long 156 metres. This island is such a time capsule, it was a fantastic day out and safe to say we definitely got our step and stair count that day.
Our last stop before departing Kamakura was the beach of course! August in Japan has a ‘feels like’ temperature of 43 degrees and by the end of a day out at Enoshima, we were dripping with sweat. Fortunately, it made for perfect weather to go to the beach…with the thousands of other locals and tourists who thought the same thing. The black sand beach was very pleasant after a long day! Its no Sunshine Coast (sorry for being an Australian beach snob) but still very relaxing despite the rubbish floating through the ocean with you as you swim.