Catching Early Spring in Kamakura
Kamakura is located in Kanagawa Prefecture, an hour from Tokyo by train. The city was founded 800 years ago as the first capital in Japan built by the samurai class. Since then, the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine has been worshipped as a guardian deity. Visiting shrines and temples in Kamakura remains highly popular, with the city with a population of 170,000 attracting 20 million tourists annually. In this episode, we take an early spring trip to catch its vibrant people and scenery.

Guardians of the Land of Bliss

Located at a 10-minute walk from the beach is Hasedera temple, known for its flowers. The grounds are home to 200 varieties of flowers that decorate the four seasons. Its beauty is such that it has been likened to the Buddhist afterlife, the "Land of Bliss." The people who keep this "Land of Bliss" in order is the Hasedera grounds management office, a group of 15 craftspeople who tend to the flowers and repair buildings.

The Seven Passes to Kamakura

Surrounded by the sea on one side and mountains on the remaining three, Kamakura was a natural fortress, ideal for defending the capital. Surrounded by these mountains, Kamakura is connected to the outside world by passes called "Kiridoshi." "The seven passes of Kamakura" as they are known, were the main points of transportation. Beyond them were territories of the influential daimyo who guarded these gateways to Kamakura.

An 800-Year-Old Virtuosity

The virtuosity of the Kamakura samurai is passed down to the present day in the form of Yabusame, a traditional horseback archery event. The event is dedicated to the deity of the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine three times a year. In the past, Yabusame was a religious ritual for warriors to show off their martial arts skills in the presence of a deity. One girl started learning the tradition of Yabusame when she was in the first year of junior high after being enamored by the beauty of the archers' movements.