Head south out of Tokyo on the train and you’ll find yourself in Japan’s second largest by population city, Yokohama, within minutes. Head further south again and suddenly you’ll emerge into an ancient town of Buddhist temples, bronze statues, gardens, and ocean views. A trip to Kamakura is one of the best ways to spend a weekend away from the deafening roar of Tokyo life. Home to its very own bamboo groves and historic shrines, Kamakura is very much the Kyoto of the East, with as much charm and beauty as can be found in its more famous counterpart.
History and Background
Many know that the old capital of Japan was Kyoto, but fewer know that the nation has had many capitals, one of which was Kamakura – during the aptly named Kamakura period of 1185–1333 CE. This was the period of Japanese history which saw the rise of the samurai class, the expansion of schools of Buddhism across Japan, and the beginning of intense Japanese feudalism.
So much of what is globally famous in Japanese ancient history occurred or began during the Kamakura period, making this town rich in fascinating and tantalizing local history. Kamakura was Japan’s capital during the two famous Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281, which were both largely thwarted by a “divine wind” in the form of a typhoon.
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