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Writer:Yuta Sakaguchi

Hi, I’m Yuta. I grew up and live in Yokohama, a port city of Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo. I once lived in Kichijoji, located in the western part of Tokyo. I love walking around a street and taking pictures. On my article I introduce attractions mainly of Tokyo and Yokohama with many wonderful pictures. Please enjoy them!

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

June 30, 2015

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The view of Honden (the main shrine) and the stone steps from Maiden (stage)

Outline

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is a representative shrine in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture, whose vermillion-lacquered buildings and the Great Stone Steps attract notice. The shrine is a popular sightseeing spot and many people visit there. Especially during the first three days of the New Year about 2.5 millions people visit there for Hatsumode (the practice of visiting a shrine or temple at the beginning of the New Year).
With Wakamiya Oji Street (the approach to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine), the shrine serves as the center of Kamakura city. Kamakura is the place where the Bakufu (Shogunate government) was once based from the end of the 12th century to the early 14th century and there remain a lot of shrines and temples.


Map; quoted from the official site

In 1063, MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi established the shrine near Yuigahama beach in Kamakura by transferring in deities from Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine in Kyoto. MINAMOTO no Yoritomo who established the Bakufu in Kamakura relocated the shrine to the present place in 1180. After that Kamakura has developed mainly around the shrine.
The enshrined deities are the Emperor Ojin, Hime no kami (Munakata Sanjojin [Three Goddesses of Munakata, those are considered as one goddess]) and Empress Jingu. The Emperor Ojin is identified with Hachimanshin (God of War) and the three gods are called “Hachiman Sanshin” (the three Hachiman deities). Hachimanshin is the god deemed to be the ancestor of Imperial Family and had been worshiped by many Samurai. Hachimangu shrines, which enshrine Hachimanshin are said to be the most numerous shrines in Japan. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is one of the three great Hachimangu shrines in Japan along with Usa Jingu Shrine and Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine.

Then, I would like to introduce the attractions of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine beginning with the approach, Wakamiya Oji Street.

Wakamiya Oji Street


"Ichi no torii (the first gate)". Licensed under GFDL via Wikipedia

The approach to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is called Wakamiya Oji Street and extends from Yuigahama beach towards the shrine. There are three torii (a gate of a shrine) on the street. Ichi no torii (the first gate) is located near Yuigahama beach. It is a fine torii made of granite. It is a formal way to visit the shrine from here but it is located on the opposite side of the shrine from Kamakura station, so many people don’t visit the torii.


Ni no torii (the second gate)

Ni no torii (the second gate) is close to Kamakura station. Its vermilion color attracts notice and the stone monument saying “Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine” (written by Heihachiro TOGO, a hero of the Japanese Imperial Navy) and two big Komainu (shrine guardian dog statues) stand at the front of the torii. So the torii is just like the main gate and actually many people visit the shrine from here.


Dankazura

There is a sidewalk called Dankazura from Ni no torii to San no torii (the third gate), which is slightly higher than a roadway. It was constructed by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo to pray for a smooth delivery for Masako, his wife in 1182. It is also famous for its cherry blossoms. For military reason, Dankazura gets narrow as you approach Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, which makes you feel the shrine is in the distance more than it really is. Dankazura is now under repair and it is scheduled for completion on March 2016. There are various shops along Wakamiya Oji Street, so it is very fun to walk. After passing through San no torii, you will enter the precinct.


San no Torii (the third gate)

Genpei-ike Pond and Taiko-Bashi Bridge


Taiko-Bashi Bridge

As you enter the precinct, you first see Genpei-ike Pond and Taiko-Bashi Bridge, and you can see Maiden (Stage) and Main Shrine ahead.


Genpei-ike Pond

Genpei-ike Pond is a pond fish are released into, which is originally based on Buddhist commandments. Genpei-ike Pond consists of two ponds. The right one is Genji-ike Pond and the left one is Heike-ike Pond. Genji (Minamoto) clan and Heike (Taira) clan are the representative family lineages of samurai and they were hostile towards each other. There are three islands on Genji-ike Pond. In Japanese three is called ‘三 (san)’, which imply a homonym, ‘産 (san)’ meaning prosperity. On the other hand, there are four islands on Heike-ike Pond. Four is called ‘四 (shi)’ in Japanese, which imply a homonym, ‘死 (shi)’ meaning death.


Hata-age Benzaiten Shrine

At an island on Genji-ike Pond there are Hata-age Benzaiten Shrine and Masako Stone that is regarded as having divine favor in harmonious marriage. Though Hata-age Benzaiten Shrine is a small subsidiary shrine, I recommend this shrine because it creates unique scenery with a bridge, a torii and white battle flag of Genji clan. At the edge of Heike-ike Pond there is a cafe called Kazenomori and you can relax seeing the pond.


The approach to the shrine

If you go straight down the approach you'll be able to see Maiden (Stage), the Great Stone Steps and Romon Gate.

Maiden (Stage)


Maiden (Stage)

Maiden (Stage) is a vermillion-lacquered building featuring a roof of 'karahafu' (cusped gable), which was built in 1193. The building is located at the place where Shizuka Gozen, a concubine of MINAMOTO no Yoshitune who was a samurai in the end of the Heian period (794 _ 1185) and is popular still today, performed a dance and recited a poem that spoke of her love for Yoshitsune. Wedding ceremonies are performed at Maiden and you can see a Shinto-style wedding if you are lucky. Also various ceremonies are performed there for each season.

The Great Stone Steps and the Great Ginkgo


The Great Stone Steps and Romon Gate

There is the Great Stone Steps of 61 steps at the back of Maiden and it leads to Romon Gate. The view of the Great Stone Steps and Romon Gate is representative scenery of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.


The view of Kamakura city from the top of the steps

When you go up the steps, you can see wonderful view of Kamakura city centered around Wakamiya Oji Street.


The Great Ginkgo

At the left side of the steps, there was once the Great Ginkgo that was said to be 1,000 years old but it collapsed by strong wind in 2010. There remains only the root at its original place and the about 4 meters trunk was relocated nearby, which is expected to reproduce. It is the site of a historical event where MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, a Shogun of Kamakura Bakufu was assassinated in 1219.

Romon Gate and the Main Shrine


Romon Gate

The present Romon Gate and the Main Shrine were built by Ienari TOKUGAWA, a Shogun of the Edo bakufu in 1828. They are representative shrine buildings of the Edo period (1603 - 1868). The vermillion building is beautiful and splendid. The Main Shrine is designated as a national important cultural property.
Zuijin statues are enshrined on the left and right sides of Romon Gate. Zuijin was the guardian of noblemen in the Heian period. The character ‘八’ of the frame of “八幡宮 (Hachimangu)” being hung at the gate has the form of pigeons. It is because a pigeons is believed to be a messenger of the deity. It is also the origin of Hato Sabure, a famous confectionery in Kamakura. Don’t miss it!


Honden (the Main Shrine)


Honden (the Main Shrine)

Wakamiya Shrine


Honden (the Main Shrine)

Wakamiya Shrine, which is a shrine dedicated to the Mikogami (the child) of Hachimanshin (the Emperor Ojin), is located at the right side of the Great Stone Steps. It was built by Hidetada TOKUGAWA, a Shogun of Edo Bakufu in 1626 of the early Edo period and is designated as a national important cultural property.

Shirahata-Jinja Shrine


Shirahata-Jinja Shrine

Shirahata-Jinja Shrine is a subsidiary shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. It is a black lacquered building built in 1885 at which MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and MINAMOTO no Sanetomo are enshrined. By the way, Shirahata means white battle flag in Japanese and is the banner of Genji (Minamoto) clan. Many people pray for victory because the leaders of samurai family are enshrined there.

Saikan


Saikan

Saikan is a facility for welcoming the messenger for bringing offering from the Association of Shinto Shrines and entertaining very important persons in and outside of Japan. It is located at the edge of Genji-ike Pond. Though you can’t enter the building it is a Shoin style splendid building.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine features beautiful vermillion-lacquered buildings and the Great Stone Steps. I highly recommend you visit the shrine when you come Kamakura.

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