Visiting an Old Friend: Kamakura Daibutsu

Kamakura is one of my favorite places to visit in the Tokyo area of Japan. It’s pretty removed from the capitol, but from my wife’s house, we can take the Yokosuka Line all the way there, so for the third and final day of New Year’s in Japan, we decided to go there.

As with every trip we’ve made to Kamakura, we like to see two sights in particular: Tsurugaoka Hachimangū Shrine and the Great Buddha of Kamakura, known as Kamakura Daibutsu (鎌倉大仏). In an earlier post, I talked about Hachimanu Shrine already, since we went there for Hatsumode, so this post is focused on the Daibutsu instead.

From the Yokosuka Line, we got off at Kamakura Station. Right next to the station is a famous street called komachidōri (小町通), which is a tiny but long street leading to Hachimangu Shrine:

Komachidoori Street in Kamakura, Japan

This street is packed with excellent restaurants, nice souvenir shops, and just about everything you could find. The street is about 5-6 blocks, but they’re long blocks, and because the streets were soooo crowded it took us more than 30 minutes to get through. The photo is terrible because I was taking this with one hand on my iPhone, and the other hand stabilizing the four-year-old on my shoulders.

Once you finally get through, Hachimangu Shrine is to the right. If you want to read more about that adventure, please see the linked post above. Anyway, once our visit there was complete, we realized we completely forgot how to get to the Great Buddha from there. We asked directions, and walked back to the station, before we set out on another road. Turns out we were pretty lost, but after asking more directions, we discovered we were on the right road, but that it would be another 30 minutes of walking. The smarter solution was to take the local “Enoden” train line from Kamakura Station to Hasé Station (長谷駅). I felt it was a waste to walk back, so we carried on, though in hindsight that was a bad idea. 30 minutes was not an exaggeration.

For those traveling to Kamakura to see the Great Buddha, the station you want is Hase Station. It’s a fairly small station, but you can either take a train line from Tokyo and switch to the Enoden train line at Fujisawa Station, or you can take a train to the larger Kamakura Station and just switch trains there instead. Either way, you need to get on the Enoden line to reach Hase Station, and you can choose to do it from either end (Fujisawa or Kamakura Station). Either way, walking all that way wasn’t such a good idea. :p

The good news is that we did eventually reach there, and just before closing time at 5:30pm.

Here is my photo of the Great Buddha, probably one of millions on the Web:

Great Buddha of Kamakura

My daughter also took some photos with my iPhone. I liked this one the best. Note the lower angle, since she’s shorter ;) :

Great Buddha of Kamakura, daughter's photo

Pretty good for a little girl!

Up close you can see the great incense brazier here:

Great Buddha Brazier

I am not 100% sure, but I believe these are the two attendant Bodhisattvas of Amitabha Buddha: Kannon and Seishi. Per custom, we waved some incense smoke on ourselves to purify us, then we recited the nembutsu as a family, happy to see the Great Buddha once again.

Also, I stopped at the gift shop next to the Buddha (the pilgrimage book office was closed, so no stamps), and I saw the same rosary I have at home and still use after all these years. Also I took this photo of the Buddha from the side:

Great Buddha side profile

Visitors know that you can actually climb inside. There’s a window on the back of the Great Buddha, which you can see a little bit here. After this was done, we did the smart choice and took the Enoden train back from Hase Station to Kamakura Station. We left the station and went back one more time to Komachidōri Street and found an excellent restaurant to eat at. Here was my plate:

The restaurant was called Yakura (八倉) and was about halfway up the street, and on the left if you’re heading toward Hachimangu Shrine. I highly recommend it. This was my dinner:

Dinner at Kamakura

I also found, earlier in the day, a fantastic coffee shop just inside the street, again on the left, called Cafe La Mile (カフェ ラ ミル). The coffee and cake were expensive, but worth every penny! I never had such good coffee and cake before.

Anyway, as this was my third time visiting Kamakura, and seeing the Great Buddha, it was like coming back to an old friend I hadn’t seen in 4 years. Things hadn’t changed much, and it was nice to come home in a way. :)

Namu Amida Butsu



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8 Comments on “Visiting an Old Friend: Kamakura Daibutsu”

  1. johnl says:

    Kamakura in general and the Dai Butsu in particular are very recommendable for visitors. However, I am pretty sure that there are no trains from Tokyo to Hase. There are trains from Tokyo to Enoshima, which is also the last stop on the Enoden. From there, you could take the Enoden to Hase. (Doing this from memory, correct me if I’m wrong). Enoshima is actually an island, as the name implies. From Enoshima station, you can walk across a bridge to the island, where there is a large shrine to Benten, as well as a famous Shingon (non-Koyasan) temple. The priest there is (or used to be) often seen on TV doing psychic stuff. As for the Dai Butsu, another possibility for visitors is a bus from Kamakura station. There are guide people that hand out flyers (in English) about how to use the buses, and some of the guides speak English as well. (These people are volunteers, so be sure to be nice to them!) The train line where I live is also relatively convenient for Kamakura, so I have made several visits recently–there are lots of interesting temples there!

  2. Marcus says:

    Lovely post, on a lovely place, thank you.

    (You know there’s a great hike up through those trees behind the Buddha, have you ever been there? Me and Ikumi walked it one evening, coming down on the other side just before it got dark. A very precious memory. It really is a magical place.)

    Thanks again,

    Marcus

  3. Tornadoes28 says:

    I love Kamakura. I visited there for the first time in June 2010. I loved visiting Daibutsu even though there were a million school kids there. And Hachimangu shrine is amazing. we also visited Enoshima. Very nice.

  4. Doug 陀愚 says:

    Hi Everyone,

    Got back from a business trip and fought jet-lag and fatigue all weekend, hence the late reply:

    Johnl: You’re right! I mistated that in the post, so I’ve corrected it. Thanks for the good eye there.

    Marcus: I never knew you could hike there. Thanks for the tip! I should try that next time. ;)

    Tornadoes28: Yeah, the Daibutsu, Hachimangu and Enoshima are the Trifectra of Kamakura in my opinion. I made the exact same trip in 2005, and it always remained with me. :)

  5. Muriel Kline says:

    It may be more convenient to change to the Yokosuka Line at intermediate stations where it is as simple as a same-platform or cross-platform transfer If the Narita Express terminates at Yokohama change at Musashi-Kosugi if it terminates at Ofuna change at Totsuka..Regular JR commuter trains depart Narita Airport once per hour some trains offer one-seat rides to Kamakura station or else change at wherever the train terminates to the next train bound for Zushi Yokosuka or Kurihama About 2 1 2 hours 2210 . These trains offer a 950 Green Car seating upgrade Green cars feature more comfortable seats and a drink and snack service..From Haneda Airport take any Keikyu Line Airport Express train bound for Shin-Zushi or Kanazawa-Bunko and change at Yokohama station for the JR Yokosuka line One hour 800 ..If you plan on staying at a Ryokan it may be a good idea unless your plane lands in the morning to spend your first evening in or or else you might miss out on and be charged for dinner at the ryokan or worse you may be locked out of and be charged for your room at the ryokans curfew time if there is one. The will get you a roundtrip from Shinjuku Other Odakyu Seibu and Sotetsu all stations and unlimited use of the Enoden line for one day…

  6. Doug 陀愚 says:

    Hello and welcome to the JLR! The travel tips are appreciated, because I always stay at my wife’s home in Japan, so my travel experiences are slightly different than the average visitor. :)

  7. hansen says:

    May I copy your nice photos?
    I would like to share it.
    Thank you and be ;)

  8. Doug 陀愚 says:

    Hi Hansen,

    The pictures are hosted by me on Flickr under the Creative Commons license. Please follow the license, but otherwise, use them anyway you like. :)

    Thanks for asking and sorry for the late reply.


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