Kamakura is one of the famous tourist attractions in Japan.
Recently, more people are visiting this place with interest as a location for NHK's historical drama TV show, Kamakura-dono no Jusan-nin (鎌倉殿の13人: 13 people for the lord of Kamakura).
Typical attractions of Kamakura include one of the best-known shrines, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu; Kamakura's icon, Kamakura Daibutsu (鎌倉大仏: the Great Buddha of Kamakura); the temple that gives you Shonan's ocean view, Hasedera (長谷寺); the shopping area, Komachi Dori (小町通り). However, I'd like to share with you an atypical route for exploring Kamakura. It's very historical, but not well known even among a lot of Japanese people in Kamakura.
The place to go is KOMACHI OJI
This street played a significant role to develop the medieval capital of Kamakura. It looks similar, but don't mistake it for Komachi Dori. The street to hit is Komachi Oji.
During the Kamakura era, houses of important politicians/samurai, temples, and political and economic centers used to exist around Komachi Oji. If you walk along this street, you still will see various temples and shrines like in Kyoto.
1. Wakaejima (和賀江島)
The Japanese first harbor, Wakaejima was the place where zaimoku (材木: timbers for construction) were shipped from all over the country as building materials for Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, houses for samurai, shrines, and temples, which led the coast to be called Zaimokuza (材木座: the place for timbers).
Functioning as the hub harbor where items from around the country were shipped, Wakaejima played a great part to sustain Kamakura's economy.
Later on, a number of earthquakes and tsunami hit this area and ruined the harbor, but the remaining stones used for it still can be seen at low tide.
2. Komyoji (光明寺)
Komyoji is the first temple you will see when walking up Komachi Oji toward Tsurugaoka Hachimangu from Wakaejima. To the people who landed in Kamakura from Wakaejima in the old days, the temple's gigantic gate would probably seem to represent the dignity of Kamakura.
3. Bengayatsu no Ishibumi (弁谷の碑: Stone monument of Bengayatsu)
Bengayatsu is the place where Chiba Tsunetane, a samurai who governed the area around the current Chiba City, built a residence to take part in Kamakura's administration. Here and there around Komachi Oji, residences of such powerful samurai used to exist. Those samurai moved to Kamakura from all over the Kanto area, following the governor-general of the Kamakura shogunate, Minamoto no Yoritomo.
4. Moto Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (元鶴岡八幡宮)
This is the original Tsurugaoka Hachimangu built by Minamoto no Yoriyoshi, the ancestor of Minamoto no Yoritomo. The present Tsurugaoka Hachimangu was newly built as a more magnificent shrine after the revival of the Minamoto clan.
The temple, Myohonji, is more tranquil compared to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. Once entering from its huge gate, you can feel the ambience of the old Kamakura days as if you traveled back in time. Around this site, there was said to have been a residence of the Hiki clan that used to rule the central area of the current Saitama prefecture.
6. Hongakuji (本覚寺)
Inside the splendid Niou gate of this temple, a powerful-looking statue of Niou stands on each side. It is said that the present gate was built in the Edo era.
7. Houkaiji (宝戒寺)
The site of the temple, Houkaiji, was originally owned by the Houjou, the clan of the main character of the NHK's drama show. Since the general took a wife from the Houjou, they became more powerful and built their house at this place to engage in the Kamakura's administration. Houkaiji was built later by Ashikaga Takauji who overthrew the shogunate.
Final Point: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (鶴岡八幡宮)
This shrine is about a three-minute walk from Houkaiji.
On your way back, don't forget to enjoy shopping along Komachi Dori.
How did you like it?
Komachi Oji which connects the harbor of Wakaejima to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is fun to explore, being surrounded by the residence remains of samurai that came from all over the Kanto area and the magnificent temples and shrines.You can walk up in about 40 minutes. Even those who have already been to Kamakura would be able to enjoy a little different profile of the former medieval capital by strolling along this street.