Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu 鶴岡八幡宮
The torii marking the entrance to the sanctuary.
The sanctuary Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu seems like recessed into the hill.
The steps to access the main building of the shrine.
Entrance to the sanctuary Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu.
Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu, the most important Shinto shrine in Kamakura, saw the city unfold gently around it. Even today, this shrine represents the ancient power of the Minamoto clan.
A small shrine that became something bigger: when Tsurugaoku Hachiman-gu was created in 1063 it was only a secondary building of Iwashimizu Shrine, dedicated to the god of war, Hachiman, in Kamakura.
But after a crushing victory against the Taira clan, Minamoto no Yoritomo - founder of the Kamakura shogunate - saw fit to give thanks to Hachiman. He then began to aggrandize and move the existing shrine to the heart of the city.
Gradually, Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu became the cultural, political and religious center of Kamakura, a town that had recently been promoted to capital of Japan.
Here, Buddhism formerly coexisted with Shinto. The disappearance of Buddhist buildings on the site results from Shinbutsu Bunri, the ban forbidding the mixing of Shinto and Buddhist deities, dating from 1868.
The architecture of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu was not left to chance. It was built to show the superiority of the Minamoto clan over the Taira clan in the Genpei War (1180-1185). On the site, two ponds represent the opposing families. One symbolizing the death of the Taira clan, the other the birth of Minamoto.
From the long driveway leading to the main building, the shrine overlooks the city from the hillside. At the top of the broad stone steps, Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu and its museum calmly await visitors. The latter, housing the relics of the city, contains national treasures and important cultural items. Among them prints, Buddhist sculptures, swords and more...
The return of the warriors
Today, Kamakura continues to relive the glory days of the samurai through traditional ceremonies.Every year in April, Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu hosts the Kamakura Matsuri. On this occasion there are ritual dances, parades portable shrines and samurai training, yabusame - a horseback archery technique which involves setting off at a gallop on a 200-meter-long track and shooting an arrow at three targets set-up along the way.