Kamakura, Japan

Panoramic view of Hasedera Temple in Kamakura. Photo Creative Commons License Stefan Z.

A coastal town located just south of Tokyo, Kamakura is most famous for its Great Buddha known as "Daibutsu." It also has many other interesting temples and shrines to explore, earning it the nickname "the Kyoto of Eastern Japan." Kamakura was Japan's capital in the Middle Ages, after Minamoto Yoritomo chose it as the seat of his new military government in 1192. The Kamakura government ruled Japan for over a century, first under the Minamoto shogun and then under the Hojo regents. It declined in the 14th century and a Kyoto-centered government was established in its place, but Kamakura remained the political center of Eastern Japan for some time. Today, Kamakura's many temples and shrines combined with its beautiful beaches and hiking trails have made it one of the most popular destinations in Japan. And as an easy day trip from Tokyo, it is also one of the most accessible.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
Kamakura's most important Shinto shrine, dedicated to the god of war. Its peaceful and scenic grounds give no indication of its violent history of feudal warring.
This hilltop temple with a view of the sea houses a huge gilded statue of the goddess Kannon. Outside are hundreds of Jizo statues, dedicated to the souls of unborn children.
Zeniarai Benten
Do your "money laundering" in this cave shrine to ensure prosperity.
Great Buddha of Kamakura
This monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha was cast in 1252. It sits serenely in the grounds of Kotokuin, a Pure Land Buddhist temple.