Tsurugaoka Hachimangu was founded in 1063 by Minamoto Yoriyoshi. In 1180, Minamoto Yoritomo, commander-in-chief of the Genji clan and a descendant of Yoriyoshi, moved the shrine to its current site and constracted a magnificent new shrine. Present building of the main shrine was rebuilt in 1828 and well known as a typical Edo period’s architecture, and designated as nationally important cultural prosperity today. Many visitors from all over the world enjoy the historical precinct and seasonal festivals.
Kamakura’s most important Shinto shrine—Tsurugaoka Hachimangu—is dedicated to Hachiman. Hachiman is the patron god of samurai and the Minamoto family (founders of the Kamakura government). Founded by Minamoto Yoriyoshi in 1063, and moved to its current site by Minamoto Yoritomo in 1180, who was the first shogun of the Kamakura government, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is reached by a long, wide road leading away from Kamakura’s waterfront. Today’s Hachimangu was rebuilt in 1828 and is famous for its Edo-period architecture. It’s even been designated a National Important Cultural Property.
The 1.8-kilometer approach to the shrine is lined by giant vermilion “torii” gates making the shrine easy to find. It lies at the geographical and cultural heart of Kamakura, which has expanded around the shrine since it's relocation. Directly affected by the Buddhist-and-Shinto shrine-and-temple split policy of Meiji-era Japan, Hachimangu lost many of its Buddhist treasures and buildings due to the laws of the time. Yet, in spite of its difficult history of poverty, the shrine retains its Buddhist layout and regained the splendor of what has attracted guests from around the world to its major city-wide festivals.
At the shrine itself, you can view the Genpei ponds, named for the Minamoto and Taira clans, bitter enemies, and planted with white lotuses in one and red lotuses in the other as well as four islands—a wish for triumph over the Taira with four being symbolic of death. As one of the most popular shrines in the country for “hatsumode” more than two million visitors will go to the shrine the first three days of the new year to wish for good fortune and health.
Wakamiya, a sub-shrine is popular with writers and artists throughout Japan’s history. As the tale goes, Yoritomo’s brother and rival, Yoshitsune, had a mistress—Shizuka, a famous and beautiful dancer. But when Yoshitsune fled to the north of Japan, Shizuka alone was questioned about her lover’s whereabouts and she was forced to dance in front of the shogun and his wife as punishment and to shame her. The story is a favorite theme with many storytellers.
“Yabusame”, archery from horseback, and “kyudo”, traditional Japanese archery, are both practiced within the shrine. You may be surprised by everything on the shrine grounds; ranging from an extensive peony garden, there are also office buildings, a dojo, a kindergarten, and three coffee shops. You can also visit the Kamakura Museum of National Treasures and prefectural Museum of Modern Art, both also on the shrine premises. The Kamakura Museum of National Treasures contains treasures from Kamakura’s various temples, as well as items which originated in China. The Museum of Modern Art—designed by Junzo Sakakura—overlooks the shrine’s Heike Pond and boasts a collection of more than 13,000 exhibits, both western and Japanese. Events are happening around the calendar so be sure to visit Tsurugaoka Hachimangu at various times to experience the full range of charm this Shinto shrine has to offer
Early Morning Sightseeing
The best time to visit a shrine is in the morning, so start your day with a visit and breathe in the crisp morning air.
An imposing shinto shrine founded in 1063, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is the spiritual center of Japan's ancient capital Kamakura, so important that the city was built around it. In spring, the 1.8 km approach from the station is lined with vibrant pink cherry blossoms.