Saturday 25 May 2019

Extended Golden Week: Zushi, Enoshima, and Kamakura (Part 2)

In the last post, I introduced Zushi, a small sea-side city a couple of hours from Tokyo just to the east of Kamakura. While it is widely known that Kyoto, where the emperor resided, was the old capital of Japan until it moved to Tokyo in 1868, fewer people know that Kamakura was the other 'old capital', one that was home to Japan's first military government or shogunate (bakufu =幕府) which ruled from 1192 to 1333. Friction between Kyoto (where the emperor resided) and Kamakura (home to the shogunate) saw frequent conflict - effectively civil war - until the overthrow of the shogunate in 1333 though conflict continued between two competitors to the imperial throne until 1392.

Today, Kamakura is a bustling tourist-packed city full of shrines and temples reflecting its historical importance. The city may be smaller than either Kyoto or Nara but it has a long history that goes back to even before the shogunate; Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in the center of the city was built in the year 1063. This "shrine" has both Buddhist and Shinto features reflecting the fact that until the Shinto and Buddhism Separation Order (神仏判然令) of 1868 the two religions were mixed. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shows plenty of traces of its shrine-temple (jingū-ji =神宮寺) history in its layout and architecture. Starting from the coast, there is a long straight 1.8km road that climbs up to the Shrine at the top of the hill. When I was there I was lucky enough to see a Shinto wedding taking place: in the video at the bottom you can see the bride with her tsuno-kakushi headwear (introduced here) serenaded by traditional court musicians playing gagaku (雅楽) classical music on flutes and pipes (the vertical panpipes-like instrument is called shō or ).

Walking back from Tsurugaoka Hachimangu you can take the famous  Komachi-dori Street a narrow street packed with souvenir shops and some 60,000 visitors a day. It has become so crowded with foreign tourists that authorities have had to crack-down on eating while walking - seen as bad manners in Japan - following complaints from businesses (somewhat ironic given that these businesses are the ones selling the food in the first place!). One of the best-selling snacks is the Buddha soft cream (pictured) which is presumably acceptable to eat while heading towards the famous Big Buddha. There are actually quite a few Big Buddhas (daibutsu =大仏) in Japan, with the most famous being the one in Nara. The Big Buddha here is neither the oldest nor the tallest (13m) but the fact that it sits in the open air and can be viewed inside is pretty unique - not to mention that it is also the subject of a poem by Rudyard Kipling!