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How to Properly Explore Kamakura: Part 1 The Bamboo Forest Hokoku-ji 報国寺

First, why explore Kamakura?:

1) If you are a Medieval history buff then you'll appreciate the rich cultural mosaic Kamakura has to offer as Kamakura is the political center of it.

2) You love long walks on cobblestoned footpaths that meander through temple gardens and pristine forest.

3) You like dainty little teahouses ensconced within a bamboo forest or near a maze of flower patches while having a cup of macha.

4) You like to admire the well preserved Buddha artifacts and to learn from the ancient teachings of Zen, and all its varying schools of enlightenment.

5) You want a deep spiritual connection with the country.

6) You want to receive a handwritten "Goshuincho" a holy stamp rally sutra you collect at each shrine.   In places like Kyoto, since they are so busy, will have these printed out whereas in Kamakura 90% of the shrines and temple handwrite their sacred Kanji in your own personalized book.

These are six good reasons, and I am sure there are more.    I came up with these recommendations because I have been around this area for awhile and have been supporting The Google  Local Guides Program for some years and am eager to promote this area.

So with all the temples and shrines to cover, which one do we visit first?   Well, first let me give you some basic mass transit information.    Like Kyoto Station, the bus stops are just outside the station.  Here in Kamakura you have 7 pole stops.  All buses running from pole 1 go to Hasedera, Kotokuin( Great Buddha) and end at Fujisawa Station.    Pole 2, all buses stop at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Koncho-ji, and kita-Kamakura.   Pole 3 to Nagoe and Choshoji.   Pole 4, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Egara Tenjinsha, Kamakuragu.   Pole 5, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, and Jomoyoji.   Pole 6, Hasedera, Daibutsumae which drops you off near the Great Buddha temple.  Pole 7, last bus takes you to Kuhonji, Zaimokuza, and komyoji.  

As I have mentioned previously in reason #2, about walking.   You can reach anywhere in Kamakura on foot.  Perhaps the farthest place you'll have to trek would be to a few temples in the mountains about a 50-minute walk max!     Think Zuisenji Temple, one the great jewels of this region.   If you are planning your own itinerary then no particular order is necessary as to which temple to visit first.

I wanted to avoid the crowds so I started a little further out at Hokokuji Temple.   Famous for its Moso Bamboo, the biggest of its kind this temples

Moso Bamboo

Narrow footpaths lead deep into this garden forest where you can enjoy not only the moss and seasonal flowers, but also the principal Buddhist dieties of Shaka-Nyorai.

Teahouses sell matcha and sugar cookies to enjoy the view.

Peaceful and Relaxing
The founder of this bamboo forest temple is Tengan Ako who studied in China and brought his works back to this place for future monks to admire.

In terms of visiting this temple, the scenery itself elicits the poetry of its founder, as with many places in Kamakura.

Stay tuned for part 2 -


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