TEXT : Ryosuke Ozaki
I'm sure you have all heard of the movie, "The Last Samurai" before... The 2003 film with Tom Cruise in it? Yup, that's it. Well, the movie, thanks to Hollywood, briefly introduced and brought samurais into our lives via big screen.
But... do you really know where samurais came from?
Over 1000 years ago, Japan was in a relatively peaceful period; when the capital were in both Kyoto and Nara. The country's government was run by royal descents and aristocrats.
However, due to the long political regime by the same royal families, the gap between the rich and the poor augmented immensely. Therefore, corruption spread everywhere in the society. At last, the commoners' anger and frustration reached a certain limitation and the rural societies organized themselves into their own governments to claim their independency. Commoners, such as the farmers, took in weapons from the adjacent clans and prepared for the invasion. A group of people called "Samurai" then emerged - and the Warring State Period began.
The biggest conflict that occurred was between the Taira Clan and the Minamoto clan. After immense amount of blood, sweat, and tears, the Minamoto clan defeated and completely got rid of the Taira clan. Soon afterwards, the Minamoto clan established the first shogunate, or bakufu (literally, "tent government"), at his headquarters in Kamakura in 1192.
This was the first military regime; the first Samurai regime.
Minamoto-no -Yoritomo, the king of the Minamoto clan, and the now-samurai leader, shaped the samurai philosophy which is still believed today. The philosophy is: " Living frugally with an esteemed mind and body." You may encounter the same samurai spirit, here and only here, in Kamakura. Truly, this really is the motherland of SAMURAI!
Today, Kamakura is a peaceful, comfortable city that is known for having many awe-struck sightseeing locations. This beautiful city also offers as one of the best seaside resorts in Japan with its amazing deep green and sparkling blue ocean.
Kamakura, however, was essentially developed by tens of thousands of sacrifice from samurais. They fought in bloody battles in retaliation for violence with even more violence; they fought fire with fire. In most of the tranquil temples you will find in Kamakura, you will also find profound stories laying right beneath your grounds. The serene valley around you will turn out being very eloquent too. Please, take a moment to listen to the ancient breeze - after all, it may just be whispering out to your heart...
Are you ready to hit the road? Our knowledged drivers are ready to drive down memory lane and whisk you the depths of Kamakura!
The landscape of Kamakura is nothing but a stronghold itself. The central area of Kamakura is perfectly surrounded by sharp mountain ridges. Only seven narrow mountain paths exist and allow people to penetrate through these natural wall-like ridges.
Minamoto's victory over the Tairas never brought peace to the new government. The Minamoto clan had to prepare for the everlasting continuation of threats of the other opponents' invasions
Minamoto-no-Yoritomo adapted Zen Buddhism to elevate the samurais' mental strength while also encouraging martial arts to keep their physical fitness up.
Shintoism, a Japanese indigenous religion, also played an important role during the Kamakura period. The origin of the word "shinto" means "way of the kami". Therefore, Shinto beliefs focuses on the existence and power of the kami, or gods, that exist in the world, in nature, and especially in Japan.
Other major doctrines of Shintoism are worshipping ancestors and making sure that life is simple and conflict-free by staying true and following their beliefs.
Minamoto-no-Yoritomo, to this day, is repeatedly named "a dream boss" in this nation. He always made sure to treat his people equally and aimed a goal to have a war-free, civilized country on this small island country that you are here visiting today.
Please leave some time to take a stroll on the beautiful beaches here in Kamakura. Even a park - or yes, even a hill will do. You can really escape and pretend that YOU are the one residing in the lovely vacation homes that you will spot alongside your walk. Many Japanese people build their dream houses in Kamakura and commute to either Yokohama or Tokyo for their jobs.
Some famous artists even locate their ateliers here as well. And last but not least, don't forget to look out for one of the best view of the famous, Mt. Fuji right here from the beach, too!
Sorry to the fellow men out there - but Kamakura has another, let's say... "girlier" side to it. Not only are there many restaurants and cafes of different cuisines, Kamakura is also full of unique 'here-only' shops. From various fashionable boutique shops to fun souvenir shops - you will encounter many groups of women at all ages on the streets just having a great time. You can also imagine walking into your choice of Italian, French, Hawaiian, and many other types of restaurants and walk in to a lively, chattery "girl's night" happening. With lovely, small accessory shops tucked into almost all of the back streets, Kamakura has become a great 'bonding city' for women. Husbands and boyfriends - I'm just giving you a little heads-up! Stay calm, follow your loved ones, and mostly, ENJOY!
In the heart of Kamakura, this dignified shrine dominates this ancient capital by all means. Here, the king, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo is enshrined and quietly watching over the worshipers and tourists, one by one.
Known as 'the big buddha', the construction of this handsome, sturdy buddha statue is still up in the air. Originally, the statue was completely covered in pure gold and sat in a wooden building for years. But understandingly from Japanese history, the awful storms, earthquakes, and tsunamis damaged and destroyed its housing repeatedly. It is said that the buddha is out now - out to the public, due to not reconstructing a new building for it. So when you do visit, please make a deep bow to the landlord of Kamakura who has been patiently awaiting for your visit for more than 800 years now!!
In Zen Buddhism, the major doctrine is to practice living simply by communicating with nature. Leave your words and prayers just before you enter the gate of Houkokuji Temple. Fulfill all your senses with the messages in the wind. I'm sure you've come across this wisdom before:
"Everything is nothing. Nothing is everything."
In AD 721, Tokudou, a saint, found a divinely gigantic camphor tree in the deep forest of Nara. The best sculptor in the city was chosen carefully and two pieces of Bodhisattva statues were made. One of the statues was soon offered to a temple nearby while the other, was thrown into the ocean as a prayer for a calmer climate. A few years later, the statue that was thrown in was found washed up on shore near Kamakura - it drifting over a surprising 400 km!! You can find this statue today, at Hase Temple as it welcomes every and any visitor with graceful hospitality.
Many of the temples in Kamakura are well known for having beautiful plants and flowers. Among them, Zuisenji Temple makes a great example. It is outstandingly unique and has an astonishing garden. Personally, I see this garden of theirs to be more than just a garden. How? Why? I dare you to check it out with your own naked eyes.
On the day, month, and year of the serpent, the deity serpent appeared in the dream of King Minamoto. The deity then whispered in his ear to dig a well in the middle of Mt. Kamakura. It was a divine revelation promising the prosperity of the Minamoto family. Today, this shrine is one of the most popular tourist site which doubles your cash by money-laundering - like, literally!
Enoshima is an island that has a candle-like lighthouse observation tower which is one of the largest beacons in Japan. It is known as the "lovers' sacred place". If you want to "lock" your love, please go up the tower with a padlock ready. The fence of the lighthouse is covered with countless locks already. Join in and do the same - the bond with your beloved one will become closer than ever! Families with children may also enjoy a short picnic over the rolling hill.
Zushi marina, a nearby beach resort, is also used as a base camp for all sorts of marine sports and activities. It's also famous for hosting and being the perfect venue for wedding ceremonies and parties. Lunch in Zushi at an ocean-view restaurant promises that you will to spend a luxurious, refreshing "day off".
The street from Kamakura Station to Tsurugaoka-Hachimangu is the busiest, yet most exciting, action-packed street. However, please be careful with pickpocketing and being trapped in 'tourist traps'! Here, I recommend you renting a kimono, a Japanese traditional garment, and riding in a rickshaw! Enjoy the experience of riding in a rickshaw while slipping back in time to the Kamakura period.
there are Meigetu-in, Kencyouji, Myouhouji, Toukeiji, Engakuji, Jyouchiji,
... and so much more!
There are so many top-of-the-notch restaurants in and around Kamakura. The following are just a short list of them. Please don't forget to make reservations; even if it's just for lunch! A successful tour always includes amazing cuisine. Enjoy! Bon apetit! Itadakimasu!
Soba, which is Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour, is one of the most delicious, popular type of Japanese cuisine. On top of a hill, in an old Japanese house surrounded by a large Japanese garden, greenery, flowers, and singing birds; is Rai-tei. Enjoy the smooth touch and the bitter flavor.
*Soba is believed as one of the secret medicine for the longevity of the Japanese people. They are waiting for your visit to come taste their secret-filled soba.
Buddhists see human and non-human animals as closely related. Therefore, monks or cordial worshippers only intake vegetables in their diet. Why don't you experience the real taste of vegetables, here, on the land of the Great Buddha? Your image of the vegan lifestyle may change! It's both healthy and delicious! The scenic beach right in front of you also won't hurt...
Go ahead and give it a try!
This iconic restaurant is found in this beach resort located near Hayama marina, the home of the first yacht club in Japan. This area is also famous for being the home of oh-so-hard-to-please local residents. Only fine restaurants can survive here! Inside their traditional Japanese-like building, staffs are ready to serve you with their wide, open arms.
If the weather is nice, I recommend you to take a long lunch break on the balcony of this "hidden", hard-to-find restaurant. You will be under the illusion of having fine cuisine inside a private beach house instead. Each of their modern Japanese dishes will be so special and memorable. Prepare yourself to be blown away!
This restaurant is named after an old Japanese folk tale: Tsuru-no-ongaeshi. A wounded crane was once taken care of by an old farmer. The crane went to his home to show him gratitude by... wait for it... taking in the form of a beautiful girl! This beautiful girl is now known to be an elderly, but don't let her looks let you forget about her gratuity she showed before. Please confirm this beautiful, gratitude story by tasting her thanks in the udon noodle. Personally, this is by far, one of the most heart-warming restaurant in Japan that I know of!
This restaurant is located in front of the yacht harbor of Zushi marina. Of course, their seafood dishes are recommended. However, among them, I always order the "fresh sea urchin creamy spaghettini". Please enjoy luxurious moments in this gorgeous restaurant with your precious people. 'Jus make sure you don't melt right into the "GRAND BLUE". Bon apetit, indeed!
Why do you need to drop into a Starbucks in Kamakura? This is because this Starbucks is so unique among the rest in the nation. After being renovated from a ma... Ok, shh, you deserve it to go check it yourself! Enjoy!
On-the-go snacking is also very enjoyable on the streets of Kamakura.
These are just some of the examples of the 'Kamakura-specials':
Ten-musu - a rice ball stuffed with prawn tempura.
Matcha ice cream - even President Obama came and ate it here!
Daibutsu beer - Kamakura craft beer.
Hand-made rice cracker - it's as big as your face!
Chocolate croquette - no comment necessary.
Hannari-inari - rice ball wrapped with thin, fried tofu.
Shirasu takoyaki - octopus dumpling with young sardines (Kamakura's staple seafood).
Our enthusiastic drivers each have our own specials and will go the extra mile for you!
Please don't hesitate to give us your extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime requests!
We are very eager to hear from you.
We offer clean, luxurious limousine taxis at reasonable prices. The following below are some of our recommended tours. Feel free to call us or send us an e-mail! We have English speaking operators and drivers waiting for you.
- This is a tour with lunch and/or dinner break
(although meals must be paid by the customers).
- This tour covers most of the popular, iconic locations.
*Luxurious limousine-style cab with a maximum of 6 passengers. 3,6000 Japanese Yen.
- This tour is a more relaxed and/or eventful tour (all up to!).
The longer you spend your time in Kamakura, the longer you will fall deeper within the ancient city. Because it takes more than an hour and a half just to commute to Kamakura, we truly recommend this tour.
- This is also of course, a tour with lunch and/or dinner break
(although meals must be paid by the customers).
- This tour covers and goes further deeply in history and culture at most of the popular, iconic locations.
*Luxurious limousine-style cab with a maximum of 6 passengers. 48,000 Japanese Yen.
Let us know your request. Our drivers are willing to customize a tour especially for you.
Admission fees at some facilities, toll fees and parking fees must be paid by the customers.
Optional: English speaking driver/guide Japanese Yen 5,000 additional.
The above price is only for a round trip from Minato-mirai area.
The price of the package may vary depending on the departure and arrival location.
Please contact us if you have any questions.