Exploring Japan Our Slice of Tokyo

The Hidden Treasures of Kamakura

We thought we have seen most of Kamakura – the Great Buddha, the beach, and its rich heritage and history. But we did not expect that we will see a different Kamakura from yesterday’s trip with two of my evening English class students.

Very early in the morning yesterday, my husband and I were already on our way to Tokyo to take and early trip to Kamakura. We met Yoshi and Mika at the east exit of Kamakura station around 9:00 in the morning. From there we rode a bus going to Houkokuji Temple. The temple is one of the Zen Temples which was established in 1334. It was built to commemorate Ashikaga Ietoki who is the head of the Ashikaga shouguns. It is also known for its bamboo garden which consists of more than 2,000 Mousou bamboo trees, the biggest species of bamboo. While we were not allowed to go inside the main temple, we were able to enjoy the inside garden.

Bamboo temple in Kamakura
The Gate of Houkokuji Temple Welcomes the Guests with Awe and Warmth

 

Kamakura Bamboo Temple
Beautiful Strip Garden Fascinates the Visitors Inside the Compounds of Houkokuji Temple

 

Bamboo temple
Inside Houkokuji Temple

 

Bamboo Temple Main Hall
The Main Hall of Houkokuji Temple

 

Bamboo Temple
Spectacular Bamboo Garden inside Houkokuji Temple

 

Bamboo Temple Kamakura
At the Bamboo Forest Garden with Yoshi and Mika

 

Bamboo Temple Garden
Traditional Japanese Garden Inside Houkokuji Temple

We also had a brief moments to enjoy the view of the bamboo forest while enjoying a cup of green tea and some sweets.

Bamboo Temple Tea
Green Tea Served on Crafted Wooden Tray

While we were having a look at the facade of the temple, Yoshi gave us a small book. It was called Goshuin Chou or the Honorable Red-Stamp Notebook. He said that this where we can keep the stamps of the temples and shrines we visited in Japan. The name of the shrines are handwritten by the monks and then they put a red-inked stamp on top of it. 

Kamakura
The Front Cover of Our Goshuin Chou

 

Japanese Temple Stamp
A Monk Writing on My Goshuin Chou

 

Bamboo Temple Kamakura
Our First Stamp From Houkokuji Temple

After that we head to Kamakurayama to have a traditional Japanese lunch at Rai Tei Restuarant. The restaurant was located quite far from the city center. Going there we took a taxi since we need to catch our 11:00 am reservation time. But one can also go there by car or bus. Depending on the traffic, the trip going there would take around 15 minutes from Kamakura station. Reservation is a must for the traditional Japanese meal because the restaurant only caters to a limited serving per day.

Rai Tei Restaurant
A Cute Lamp Welcomed Us at the Gate of Rai Tei Restuarant

 

Rai Tei Restaurant
On Our Way to the Main Restaurant inside Rai Tei

 

Rai Tei Garden
View of the Main Restaurant from the Rai Tei’s Garden

Since we arrived 30 minutes earlier than our scheduled reservation, we made a brief tour around the restaurant’s  garden. The main restaurant is located uphill which enabled us to enjoy the overlooking view of the mountains as well as the forest-like hike around the garden.

Rai Tei Garden
Hakkaku-dou Hall Inside Rai Tei Garden

At exactly 11:00 am, we went back to the restaurant where ladies in kimono greeted us. We first stayed at the reception room to have some hot tea while they prepare our room. From here, we had a spectacular view of the outside world. We were even fortunate to see Mt. Fuji and portions of Hakone.

Rai Tei Restaurant
A Relaxing Time Inside Rai Tei Restuarant

 

Rai Tei Restaurant
View of the Garden from the Reception Hall of Rai Tei Restaurant

 

View of Mt Fuji
Mount Fuji Welcoming Us at Rai Tei Restaurant

Our lunch was one of a kind. Our sumptuous  9-course meal was very delicious! Plus the view from our room was spectacular. We also had a very nice conversation with Yoshi and Mika while enjoying the freshness of the oysters, urchins, and fishes; hand-made soba noodles; and traditionally-cooked chicken and vegetables.

Rai Tei Food
Sharing a Traditional Sumptuous Japanese Meal with Friends at Rai Tei Restaurant

After our elegant yet hearty meal, we again made a short trip to the garden before we headed back to Kamakura station.

Rai Tei Garden
Stone Statues Inside Rai Tei Garden

 

Traditional Checkers Board
This is How They Play Checkers and Chess Back Then

 

When we reached Kamakura station, we walked along Komachi Dori, Kamakura’s shopping street, to visit Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.

Shopping in Kamakura
The Busy Shopping Street of Kamakura

Just recently, my husband and I visited this shrine. But yesterday’s visit felt like it was our first time there. Instead of following the crowd going to the main shrine, our walk started from the small entrance on the our right near the great red Tori-i. It lead us to the peony garden. Although there were no peonies blooming, the structure of the garden itself is still captivating. From there we also had a great view of the Genpie pond, the Hataage Benzaiten Shrine which is located on a small island in the middle of the pond, and the resting area.

Hachimangu Shrine
The Great Red Tori-i of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

 

Hachimangu Shrine
Hachimangu’s Peony Garden

 

Hachimangu Shrine Scene
View of the Genpie Pond From the Peony Garden

And after we had some green tea and sweets at the Saikan or guest house, we spent some minutes marvelling at its inner traditional garden.

Japanese Tea House
The Guest House: View from the Alley of the Peony Garden

 

Hachimangu Shrine Scene
Enjoying a Hot Green Tea Inside the Saikan

 

Hachimangu Shrine Scene
The Inner Garden of the Saikan

On our way to the main shrine or the Hongu, we saw some couples getting on their traditional wedding dress. It was my first time to see a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony.

Japanese Wedding
Japanese Couple in Their Traditional Wedding Dress

 

Japanese Wedding
A Traditional Wedding Ceremony Held at Hachimangu’s Lower Worship Hall

After paying our respects to the gods at the main hall, we then went to Kencho-ji, the first-ranked of the five great Zen temples of Kamakura. Its Karamon (Chinese gate) and Butsuden (Buddha Hall) are both important cultural properties including the juniper trees which are more than 750 years old. We also had our first meditation experience in its Zendo (Meditation Hall) which is located at the temple’s monastery. It was another first for me yesterday, first time to sit for an hour of Buddhist meditation. The whole experience was both good and challenging. Good because I was introduced to another religious practice. Challenging because I got hit by a monk and my feet died for some minutes 😉

 

Kenchoji Temple
Sakura Trees Adorning the Way to Kencho-ji’s Chinese Gate

 

Kencho-ji Temple
The Priced Juniper Trees of Kencho-ji Temple

 

Kencho-ji Temple
Kencho-ji Temple’s Main Gate or Sanmon

 

Kencho-ji Temple
The Buddha Hall Behind the Dharma Hall

 

Kencho-ji Temple
The Kencho-ji’s Chinese Gate: An Important Cultural Property

 

 

Kencho-ji Temple
Getting Ready for My First Buddhist Meditation

And to end the great and tiring day, we went home using the green car of Yokosuka Line. The final first of our trip.

 

 

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