Kamakura column

History, culture, highlights and good stories.
There are so many wonderful stories of Kamakura that once you’ve started to uncover them you can not stop!
Please enjoy these columns that will help introduce you to the many interesting anecdotes of Kamakura.

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History of Kamakura: The city where the Kamakura Shogunate government was established. Historical and cultural town of over 20 million visitors annually

The history of Kamakura is very old. Pottery in the early years of the Jōmon period has been excavated from Kusuharagaoka and pottery of the Yayoi period has been found in the precincts of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. There are many tales which describe the naming of Kamakura. One of which is owned by the Shosoin. Treasure House is called the “Kamakuragō or Kamakurazato” and is dated from Tempyō period or approximately 735. Despite the mystery surrounding the name of Kamakura City, generally, the name of “Kamakura” is associated with Minamoto no Yoritomo and Hōjō Masako.

Reached the population of 30 thousands at its peak?

The origin of the relationship between Kamakura and the Genji is through the political office which the Genji held. The Genji officiated as Sagaminokami (the secretary of Sagami province) for 4 generations from ancestor to ancestor (Yorinobu, Yorhiyoshi, Yoshiie, Tameyoshi) until Tameyoshi who was the grandfather of Yoritomo. Yoriyoshi built Motohachiman in Ōmachi as a division of the shrine’s tutelary deity of Iwashimizu Hachimangu in Kyoto. His son Yoshiie repaired Motohachiman. Yoshitomo (a father of Yoritomo) the son of Tameyoshi possessed the premises nearby Jufukuji Temple.

In A.D. 1180, Yoritomo raised the army against the Taira Clan in Izu. The Taira army came to defeat Yoritomo from Kyoto and Yoritomo defeated Taira army at the battle of Fujikawa. After that, Yoritomo came into the premises which were built in Okura (Yukinoshita) and Okura became the capital of the Kamakura Shogunate.


The Site of Okura bakufu
The Site of Okura bakufu

Yoritomo moved Motohachiman the place where Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is presently, and christened it the center of town development. He organized the political systems such as the Board of Retainers to supervise Gokenin (Samurai under the direct control of Shogun), the Masadokoro to manage the administration and the Board of Inquiry in the role of courts. He was intent on strengthening the power of the Shogunate as he defeated his own brother Yoshitsune who was forced into a monastery as a form of exile. He also founded large temples and shrines such as Jufukuji Temple and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. However, his line of power didn’t last for long. After Yoritomo’s death, Gokenin started a struggle for power and Kamakura became the stage of a bloody drama. Ultimately, Masako’s family, Hōjō clan seized real power. Under Hōjō clan, Kamakura prospered and it is said that the population reached upwards of 30 thousand in its heyday.

Kamakura becomes popular for sightseeing in the middle of the Edo period

However in 1333 AD, the Kamakura Shogunate was destroyed by Nitta Yoshisada. A struggle for power continued with powerful samurai and after many battles, Ashikaga Takauji established the Muromachi Shogunate in Kyoto. Kamakura-fu, which controlled 10 southern provinces established in Kamakura, maintained a certain level of prosperity despite this. However, the Shogunate and Kamakura-fu were opposed to each other and in 1455 AD, Ashikaga Shigeuji, a leader of Kamakura-fu, lost the battle and escaped to Shimōsa no Kuni Koga. Kamakura lost its vigor and once again became a village of farming and fishing. In the Edo period, Shrines and Temples were slowly reconstructed and revived. In the latter period of the 17th century, Tokugawa Mitsukuni edited the “Shinpen Kamakurashi” (The Newly Edited Guide to Kamakura) which led to sightseeing of the picturesque scenery of the area such as Enoshima. Through this increased tourism, the townspeople of Edo allowed for Kamakura to continue its gain in prosperity. In the latter days of Edo period, Kamakura started to become a popular destination for sightseeing as many Kamakura landscape paintings came to appear on the market.

Yokosuka line
In A.D. 1889, Yokosuka line was opened to traffic. The view with a warm weather and a beauty. Kamakura moved into limelight again as the place of resort and also as the town of cultured people gathered. Kamakura suffered serious damage from the Great Kanto earthquake. But Kamakura is just 1 hour away from Tokyo by train. And as the old capital city, Kamakura is where people can experience one thousand years of history, culture and nature and the new sense stays ahead of the curve. Kamakura is lively with 20 millions of visitors through a year.


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