え is also for Eisho-ji

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Eisho-ji, a nunnery, is one of the newer temples in Kamakura, having been founded during the Edo period. It has ties to both the Tokugawa Shogunate, and to Edo Castle, as the founding nun, Eisho-In-Ni, was a descendent of the founder of Edo Castle, as well as a concubine of Tokugawa Ieyasu, first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Eisho-ji is surrounded by a wall, and it’s easy to walk by and think nothing much of it, but ducking through the low door in the wall and stepping inside reveals fairly extensive (for Kamakura) grounds, and several interesting structures, such as the bell tower shaped like hakama (traditional Japanese wide-legged trousers), and the butsuden, which, though double-roofed, is a single story. The butsuden also has carvings of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac carved into it.

Also within the walls of Eisho-ji is a small but beautiful bamboo grove through which a path winds. If you wander through the grounds in the suggested direction, you’ll end up in the grove at the end of your walk, finishing things off in a peaceful, impossibly green way.

Founded: 1638

え is for Egara Tenjinsha

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Another え…

Egara Tenjinsha is in eastern Kamakura, just a few minutes from the larger and better-known Kamakura-gu. I had never been until January 2018, and had always thought it to be a rather small, minor shrine. You can imagine my surprise when I reached the top of the stairway to discover shrine grounds fairly overflowing with New Year’s visitors. The lineup to reach the main hall wrapped around the small plateau, and the lineup to receive… whatever it was everyone was filling out applications for, was equally as long.

Though the sando is pretty average now, once upon a time, it was quite extraordinary. In her book, Kamakura: Fact and Legend, Iso Mutsu writes that “a long and imposing avenue of ancient pines forms the approach, spanned by a large stone torii.”

Egara Tenjinsha’s main shrine building is a beautiful orange, reminiscent of the buildings of Heian Jingu in Kyoto. According to Guide to Kamakura, by Akemi Ohno, the main sanctuary — a National Important Cultural Property — was originally part of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. Ohno writes that it is the only wooden building from the Kamakura period still in Kamakura.

う is for Windsurfing (trust me)

Say what?! You’re probably thinking along the same lines as the English teacher I had during a home stay in France: poor girl has forgotten her English. (Truth: I hadn’t then, and haven’t now.)

In Japanese, “windsurfing” is indeed spelled with a “う”, but with katakana—> ウインドサーフィン, and if romanized, would look like this: uindo saーfu(tiny “i”)n.

Kamakura is a great place to come to enjoy water sports. Year round, you’ll see surfers (regardless of whether the waves are any good), SUP-ers, kayakers, boaters, and windsurfers; and during warmer months, swimmers, and people enjoying personal water crafts like Sea-Doos. A handful or so of rental shops are within walking distance of Yuigahama beach, from the Zaimokuza side to the Sakanoshita side and beyond towards Shichirigahama and Enoshima, and offer lessons.

If you’ve got the time and inclination, Kamakura offers visitors the chance to experience more than just history. Make your trip an overnighter (or more!), and enjoy a wide variety of activities.

え is for Engaku-ji

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I almost chose “Enoshima”, but that would have been cheating, since Enoshima isn’t actually in Kamakura (though it’s a major destination for visitors to the city). That would also have been selling Kamakura short, since one of its most important temples begins with an え: 円覚寺 (Engaku-ji). Actually, I might have to revisit this kana, as there are plenty more え places and things connected to the city.

Located in Kita-Kamakura, right by the station there, Engaku-ji is a Zen temple, and the second of Kamakura’s five great Zen temples. It’s one of the larger temples in the area, and deserves a nice, slow stroll rather than a dash through.

The temple is notable for its Great Bell (a National Treasure), and for the zazen sessions it holds. It also has a good bon festival in mid-August.

Founded: 1282

Festival: Bon Odori is late August. Other events can be found on the Engaku-ji event calendar (Japanese only).

い is for Inari

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Inari, or O-Inari-san, is the Shinto god of rice. He’s often depicted with a few foxes — his messengers — so it’s not surprising that shrines dedicated to O-Inari-san overflow with fox statues and trinkets. Sasuke Inari Shrine, Kamakura’s shrine dedicated to O-Inari-san, is no different, with foxes here, there and everywhere; in every nook and cranny of the forested hillside shrine.

One of Kyoto’s best-known shrines — Fushimi Inari Taisha — is the head Inari shrine, famous for its many (many, many, many) vermillion torii leading to the main shrine grounds. While Sasuke Inari Shrine’s torii aren’t as numerous (according to An English Guide to Kamakura’s Temples and Shrines, there are “as many as 40”), they’re still quite something to behold.

As for its origins, Iso Mutsu wrote in Kamakura: Fact and Legend, “Legend relates that during the early days of the first shogun, while he was still in seclusion at Hirugashima (Izu) the fox messenger of Inari appeared to Yoritomo, predicting that the scene of his future glory lay at Kamakura; hence the erection of this shrine.”

Founded: ~1195

Festivals: Hatsu Uma Matsuri ・ 初午祭 (First Horse Zodiac Festival), to pray for a good harvest in the coming year, celebrated on the first horse day of February (2018 will be Feb 7)

Kamakura in Kana

Image of hiragana blocks from pixabay.com.One of my goals for this year is to manage three blog posts a week. Three days out of seven doesn’t seem like much, but sometimes, it’s not so easy to get even three written. So, I’ve decided to use one of the Japanese writing systems to help me out.

Kana refers to the syllabic writing systems used in Japanese (as opposed to kanji, a logographic writing system). There are two, hiragana and katakana, and each consists of 46 symbols (well, 46 are used, but there are a few obsolete symbols, too), as well as extras made by adding ‘ ” ‘ or ‘゜’. Each post, I’ll use a hiragana symbol to help me find a topic as I share information about Kamakura.

For reference:

あ い う え お a i u e o

か き く け こ ka ki ku ke ko

さ し す せ そ sa shi su se so

た ち つ て と ta chi tsu te to

な に ぬ ね の na ni nu ne no

は ひ ふ へ ほ ha hi hu/fu he ho

ま み む め も ma mi mu me mo

や ゆ よ ya yu yo

ら り る れ ろ ra ri ru re ro

わ を ん wa wo n

**Shrine and temple information comes from pamphlets given out by the shrines and temples themselves, as well as from the following books:

Kamio, Kenji, and Willson, Heather. 2008. An English Guide to Kamakura’s Temples and Shrines. Tokyo: Ryokufu Shuppan.

Mutsu, Iso. 1995. Kamakura: Fact and Legend. Boston: Tuttle Publishing.

Ohno, Akemi. 2014. Guide to Kamakura. Kamakura: Kamakura Shunju-sha.


Image source: pixabay.com

Breakfast In Kamakura

Arrived in town early and feeling a bit peckish? Go beyond standard conbini fare and hit up one of Kamakura’s breakfast spots. From chains to more unique food—and lots and lots of pancakes—there are plenty of options. Consider this a starter guide, as there are definitely more places to get your petit-déjeuner beyond what we’ve got here.

Hase Area



Breakfast, coffee, cakes, etc., light lunch, wines, etc. Vegetarian menu available.

Hours: 8-18:00 (breakfast 8-10:00)
Day(s) off: none

Webpage: N/A
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kamakura.natudeco
Tablelog: https://tabelog.com/en/kanagawa/A1404/A140402/14054360

Address: 1-14-26 Hase, Kamakura 248-0012 (神奈川県鎌倉市長谷1-14-26)

Cafe Recette

Café Recette Kamakura

Bread, pancakes, waffles, French toast, desserts, sausages, drinks, etc.

Hours: Saturday, Sunday, national holidays 8:30-17:00 (breakfast until 11:00, last order 10:30; lunch 11:00-14:00, last order 13:30) **Weekdays from 9:30~
Day(s) off: Thursday and Friday (open in case of national holidays)

Webpage: http://cafe-recette.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Recette/580567835360238
Tablelog: https://tabelog.com/en/kanagawa/A1404/A140402/14053495/

Address: 22-5 Sakanoshita, Kamakura (神奈川県鎌倉市坂ノ下22-5)




Pancakes, eggs, sausages, bacon, toast, yogurt, vegetarian/vegan option, burgers, pasta, drinks, etc.

Hours: Monday 7:00-17:00 (last order 16:00 [food]; 16:30 [beverages]); Tuesday-Sunday 7:00-21:00 (last order 20:00 [food]; 20:30 [beverages])
Day(s) off: None (occasionally, due to typhoons and other adverse weather, hours are shortened)

Webpage: http://billsjapan.com/en/shichirigahama
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bills-七里ケ浜/404220936311301?rf=107295752735936
Tablelog: https://tabelog.com/en/kanagawa/A1404/A140402/14011661/

Address: 2F Weekend House Alley, 1-1-1 Shichirigahama Kamakura (鎌倉七里ガ浜1-1-1)


Pacific Drive-In

Hawaiian cuisine, pancakes, sandwiches, etc.

Hours: 8:00-20:00 (last order 19:30)
Winter hours: Monday-Friday 10:00-20:00 (last order 19:30); Saturday, Sunday, national holidays 8:00-20:00 (last order 19:30)
Day(s) off: None

Webpage: http://pacificdrivein.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pacific-DRIVE-IN-750157398405563/
Tablelog: https://tabelog.com/en/kanagawa/A1404/A140402/14057844/

Address: 2-1-12 Shichirigahama Higashi, Kamakura (神奈川県 鎌倉市 七里ガ浜東 2-1-12)

Kamakura Station Area


Pancakes, sausages, hash browns, burgers, coffee, etc.

Hours: 6:00-24:00 (breakfast 6:00-10:30)
Day(s) off: None

Webpage: https://map.mcdonalds.co.jp/map/14655

Address: 1F Niida Building, 1-6-19 Komachi, Kamakura 248-0006 (神奈川県鎌倉市小町1-6-19 新井田ビル)


Coffee, tea, pastries, sandwiches, etc.

Hours: 7:00-22:00
Day(s) off: None

Webpage: starbucks.co.jp

Address: 1-2-7 Komachi, Kamakura 248-0006 (小町Komachi, 1 Chome−1−2−7)


Shiawase no Pancake

Pancakes, bacon, eggs, fruit, café, etc.

Hours: Saturday, Sunday, national holidays 9:00-19:30 (last order 18:40); Weekdays 10:00-19:30 (last order 18:40)
Day(s) off: None

Webpage: http://magia.tokyo/shop?pref=神奈川
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/幸せのパンケーキ-鎌倉店-1232239060130531/?ref=nf
Tablelog: https://tabelog.com/en/kanagawa/A1404/A140402/14065610/

Address: 2F Matsuzakaya Building, 2-7-26 Komachi, Kamakura (小町2-7-26 松坂屋ビル 2階)


5 Crossties Coffee

Breakfast, toast, sandwiches, cake, etc.

Hours: 6:45-21:00

Day(s) off: None

Address: 1-1-1 Komachi, Kamakura (鎌倉市 小町 1-1-1)


Brunch Kitchen

Croque-madame, croque-monsieur, French toast, eggs, steak, chicken, stew, bread, etc.

Hours: 9-17:00 (brunch); 17:00-22:00, L.O. 21:00 (dinner)

Day(s) off: Tuesday (Open when Tues is national holiday.)

Webpage: http://brunch-kitchen-kamakura.com

Address:  2-6-28 Komachi, Kamakura (鎌倉市小町2丁目6-28)

**Information accurate at time of posting. Inn By The Sea Kamakura cannot guarantee that hours, offerings, etc., will remain as-is. Please visit store websites to confirm times, etc., before visiting.

Bon Odori Summer Festivals


tsukiji Hongwan-ji bon festival
Bon odori at Tsukiji Hongwan-ji, near Tsukiji Station, Tokyo

Japanese summers are pretty spectacular. They buzz (cicadas) and DON DON DON (taiko drums). They whistle and gong and chant (festivals). They’re burning hot and impossibly humid. But if you let the music drifting from the festival grounds carry you along, not only will you make it to fall without melting into a puddle (maybe), you’ll have a damn good time, too.

Awa odori drummer
Taiko drummer at Awa Odori in Musashi-Koganei, Koganei City, Tokyo

There are a huge number of matsuri (festivals) that take place over the summer months. The big ones are definitely worth a visit if you’ve got the time and the means (the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture, and the Awa Odori in Tokushima, Shikoku, are my favourites), but there’s absolutely no need to go far afield to find a fun summer matsuri.

Bon odori, dance festivals that take place during the period of Obon when the Japanese honour their ancestors, are held in small neighbourhoods as well as in large city centres. The dances are easy—and usually repeated several times at each dance—and there’s no costume requirement (though a yukata or jimbei adds a bit of authenticity to the experience). Some have live music, while others rely on tinny recordings played on ancient tape recorders. You might get lucky and get a fireworks show tacked onto the end, or other entertainment, like cheerleaders demonstrating routines, a taiko performance, a hula dance recital, or, if you’re really lucky, traditional Japanese clowns demonstrating their art.

Bon Odori Koganei
Bon odori stage and lanterns, Higashi-Koganei, Koganei City, Tokyo

Depending on the area, Obon is observed around mid-July or mid-August, meaning that bon odori are held in various areas throughout the summer.

Favourites in the Tokyo area include the Hanazono Jinja bon odori (August 1 and 2, located roughly 10min from Shinjuku Station), the Tsukiji Hongwan-ji bon odori (August 3-6, located near Tsukiji Station), and the Hibiya Park bon odori (August 26, 27, located near Hibiya Station).

Kamakura, of course, has a few of its own bon odori. In our little neighbourhood, there are two very small odori, one at Gokuraku-ji and one at Goryo Jinja. These are mostly for neighbourhood kids, so not surprisingly, the song selection is limited to two or three easy songs. Kamakura does host two rather large bon odori, however, that could cap off a day-trip to the city in fine fashion.

engaku-jiEngaku-ji, one of the area’s larger temples (and temple number two of Kamakura’s five major Zen temples) hosts its bon odori on August 24 and 25 this year. The temple is located right at Kita-Kamakura Station, very likely allowing it to claim the title of most convenient bon odori in the city. The expansive temple grounds deserve a good look before dusk falls, so be sure to make time for some wandering. Have a look here, here and here for an idea of what the grounds are like.

Kamakura-guKamakura-gu (Kamakura Shrine) is host to the other large bon odori in Kamakura. The dance is held on August 19 and 20. The shrine is a bit of a hike from Kamakura Station (around 20min), but there is a bus that leaves from the east exit of Kamakura Station that heads out towards Kamakura-gu. For bus information, please visit Kamakura Visitor’s Guide. (Note the Kamakura Free Kankyo Tegata bus pass that, for around ¥600, will give riders unlimited rides within the pass’s boundaries on participating bus and train lines).