22 May 2015

If you are looking to see some of the best shrines in Japan, then you should take a day trip from Tokyo to Kamakura. The area boasts some of the most famous and prestigious shrines in all of Japan, and we have selected the best three for you to visit:

Zeniarai Benten Shrine

Three of the Best Kamakura Shrines

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Zeniarai has the meaning of “washing money”. The popular shrine has the legend that if you wash your money in the spring water there, then it will multiply. Pray at that spring inside the mysterious cave. The dreams of people who are concerned about money haven’t changed then and haven’t changed now. Zeniarai Benten Ugafuku Shrine, one of Kamakura’s famous sites, is a lucky place in which if money is washed in its spring water, then it will increase by many times.

The shrine is located 25 minutes away on foot from Kamakura Station. Since the area was long known as an isolated village, it is filled with a spiritual atmosphere within its cave surrounded by cliffs. It is in that cave that a spring exists where money is placed into a zaru (bamboo basket) and washed in its waters to bring fortune.

This legend began with the institution of a warrior regime at the end of the 12th century, when the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate, Yoritomo Minamoto experienced a spiritual dream. One night in April 1185, an old man appeared at Minamoto’s bedside and identified himself as Ugafuku-no-Kami who lived in a hidden valley to the west. The shogun was told to travel to that area and worship at the spring there upon which the world will be at peace. As commanded, Minamoto worshiped at the water and prayed for Ugafuku-no-Kami, and soon after an unstable nation settled down into peace. The area was enshrined as a shrine of good fortune. The episode of its good fortune with money began during the 13th century. Tokiyori Hojo who was the ruler at the time washed his money in the spring water and prayed for the prosperity of his entire family which started the legend.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Zeniarai Benten Shrine
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Zeniarai Benten Shrine
Tours of Zeniarai Benten Shrine

Hachiman-gu Shrine

Three of the Best Kamakura Shrines

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Tsuruoka Hachiman-gu is a shrine located next door to Tokyo in the city of Kamakura. It was established in 1063 by Yoritomo Minamoto, the first shogun of the Kamakura Era. It is the most famous shrine even among 80,000 shrines.

Even among the numerous Hachiman shrines, Tsuruoka Hachiman-gu is a famous shrine that is one of the three great shrines of its type in Japan. Entering the shrine grounds, there is a large and impressive stone stairway. The Senior Shrine at the top of the stairs has been designated as a National Important Cultural Property. Within the grounds, there are various structures but in the back of the main shrine, there is the shrine repository. There, the National Treasures of the sword and sacred clothing along with the Important Cultural Properties of the Bodhisattva mask and the bugaku dancer’s mask are able to be viewed. In addition, structures such as the Maruyama Inari Shrine and the large torii gates on the grounds are also Important Cultural Properties. Another reason for the many visitors to the shrine is the variety of festivals that take place throughout the year such as the Setsubun, Shobu and Tanabata Festivals. It is also popular among young people and families as a place to pray for safe childbirth and romantic success. At Hata-age Benzaiten Shrine, there is a stone which is said to bless children and safe childbirth, and it is visited by many people to pray for these things.

Tsuruoka Hachiman-gu is famous for the beauty of its surrounding nature with flowers blooming throughout the four seasons. The spring cherry blossoms, azaleas and peonies, the summer lotus and the fall foliage can all be enjoyed. Wakamiya-oji Street which stretches from the train station to Tsuruoka Hachiman-gu is famous for its cherry trees. It is said that the street was built in prayer for the safe childbirth by Masako Hojo, the wife of Yoritomo Minamoto. The raised pathway of Dankazura is also flanked by cherry trees. In spring, it transforms into a tunnel of cherry blossoms.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Hachiman-gu Shrine
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Hachiman-gu Shrine
Tours of Hachiman-gu Shrine

Sasuke-Inari Shrine

Three of the Best Kamakura Shrines

(image by flickr.com)

There’s a rising tunnel of over 100 red torii gates. Sasuke-Inari Shrine is a branch shrine of the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine in Kyoto. If you are lucky, you may even encounter a squirrel.

After destroying his archenemy, the Heike clan, the first shogun of the Kamakura Era, Yoritomo Minamoto established Sasuke-Inari Shrine in gratitude. Following Yoritomo’s success, the shrine was said to have been beneficial for prosperous business, good luck in work and academic achievement. The Inari god became known in olden times to bring results for the harvest.

Climbing the stone steps of the brilliant red torii gates, there are statues of foxes everywhere on the shrine grounds. At the conferment place, you can purchase a statue of a fox which you place anywhere on the grounds. To the left of the haiden front shrine is an old collection consisting of a countless number of inari foxes of varying sizes that are crowded together as if they are celebrating a festival which makes for a wondrous sight. To the right is a cave known as the Reikosen where a fountain is located. Taking a look into the cave, cool air hits the visitor’s face and there is a divine feeling. Squirrels can often be seen within the shrine grounds, and they are so accustomed to people that they can come close enough to pet. The path to the haiden and honden main shrine is on a slope, and the mountain road going past the honden becomes very steep. That road is the Daibutsu hiking course, and since it continues on to Zeniarai-Benten Shrine, it’s good to see the two shrines together. The path up is somewhat steep so for those with the physical strength, it’s best to start from Sasuke-Inari while for others, it’s best to start going down from Zeniarai-Benten.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Sasuke-Inari Shrine
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sasuke-Inari Shrine
Tours of Sasuke-Inari Shrine

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