Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine (鶴岡八幡宮)

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Wakamiya-oji Street (若宮大路) and Dankazura (段葛) : approach to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

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Wakamiya-oji Street

** Complete renewal of Dankzura walkway
  The reconsruction works of Dankazura Avenue was ended in March, 2016, starting in November, 2014.
  Some 250 cherry trees, which had entertained many veiwers, became aged and worse yet, in the foundations supporting those trees, the cracks caused by the extended roots had been found in places. The trees were replaced by 177 saplings and the passage was renovate completely, being raised a little heiger. Solemn and splendid opening ceremony was held on March 30.
  Among the attendants -- mayor and other celebrities concerned lead by shinto priest -- was Kabuki actor Nakamura Kichiemon (中村吉衛門), Living National Treasure. After the first procession for opening ceremony through the avenue, the traditional dances for celebration was performed by the actor in the Lower Worship Hall.**

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New Dankazura 1, 2
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New Dankazura 3, 4

  Wakamiya-oji is a long (1,800 meters), broad, straight street that runs north-south from the entrance to Hachimangu shrine towards Yuigahama Beach (由比ガ浜). There stand three massive torii (鳥居) shrine gates: two each on the both ends, and the third one halfway.
  In addtion, the 500-meter-long raised walkway, called Dankazura, runs along the center of Wakamiya-oji from the north end of the street to the place where the second torii gate stands.
  The "dan" of Dankazura means "a raised section," while "kazura," short of "kazurasishi," means (square) stones that are laid out on the upper outer edge of a raised foundation or ground to prevent it from crumbling. Thus, Dankazura is a raised walkway rimmed with square stones on a broader street.
  On this raised walkway stand some 250 cherry trees along the way on the both sides. It becomes a beautiful avenue of cherry blossoms in the springtime.
  (Untill early 2016, see above reconstruction.)
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Former Dankazura

History:  Wakamiya-oji and the raised walkway (later called Dankazura) running along the center of Wakamiya-oji were built by command of the first shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝, 1147-1199) to pray that his wife Masako (政子, 1157-1225) would give safe birth to a baby boy. Yoritomo already had a daughter, but he desired to have a boy, since only a male heir could become shogun.
  Actually she gave birth to a boy, who later succeed to Yoritomo as the second shogun, Minamoto no Yoriie (源頼家, 1182-1204).
  When Yoritomo learned of his wife's pregnancy, he immediately began the construction of an approach to the shrine, a plan he had been considering for some time. Wakamiya-oji is said to have been modeled on Suzaku-oji Street (朱雀大路) in Heiankyo (平安京), the capital in the Heian period. Hojo Tokimasa (北条時政, 1138-1215) and other retainers worked to complete it and Yoritomo himself had observed the construction work.
  Excavation has revealed that Wakamiya-oji was as wide as 33 meters (wider than present-day street) with ditches on the both sides even in the early days.
  At that time, the raised walkway, Dankazura, ran from the shrine entrance to near the beach supported on either side with a wall of stacked stones. But this was reduced to the present scale due to the opening of the Yokosuka line and coping with increase in traffic.
  The present appearance (untill 1216) of Dankazura was formed by the reconstruction in 1917. In this time cherry trees were first planted in place of the Japanese apricots.

San no Torii (三の鳥居)

sannotorii   The imposing San no Torii, the Third Shrine Gate, stands at the entrance to Hachimangu Shrine. Every year, over 8 million visitors enter through this gate on their way to the Hachiman Shrine.
  Minamoto no Yoriyoshi (源頼義,988-1075), an ancestor of Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝,1147-1199), built the first Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine nearer the sea, at Zaimokuza (材木座), in 1063 as a branch of the Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine (石清水八幡宮) in Kyoto.
  One hundred and twenty years later, Yoritomo moved the shrine to this location, where it became an important place of worship for the warriors. Tsurugaoka Hachiman incorporated both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs and, until the Meiji Restoration, was known as the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine and Temple.

Taikobashi Bridge (太鼓橋)

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  Beyond the San no Torii Gate, is an arched stone bridge, called Taikobashi, literally, "Drum Bridge," spanning a channel that connects two ponds. The main shrine structure can be seen straight ahead on the hillside.

Genpei Ike Pond (源平池)

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  The origin of the two ponds dates back to 1182, when they were created on the order of Hojo Masako (北条政子,1157-1225), the wife of Yoritomo. In the Genji Pond on the right, the lotus flowers are white, in honor of the Genji (源氏), in other words, the Minamoto clan, while the lotus in the Heike Pond on the left are red, the color of the Heike-the Taira clan (平氏). The Genji Pond has three islands which represent prosperity, while the Heike Pond has four islands, which represent death and destruction.

Hata-age Benzaiten (旗揚弁財天)

hataage1   The Genji Ike Pond lies to the right and is the larger of the two lakes. It has three islands and white lotus flowers, which represent the Genji.
  The shrine on the island is known as the Hata-age Benzaiten. "Hata-age" means raising the banner" and this shrine commerorates Yoritomo's raising of the Yoriyomo clan's white flag when it declared war on the Heike-the Taira clan.

Masako Ishi (政子石)

masakoishi1   If you go around to the back of the shrine, you will come to two large rocks named after Masako, the wife of Yoritomo, the first shogun. The rocks have become symbols of a happily married couple.
  And if you look at the island in front of you, you will notice a great number of waterbirds. The two ponds are a testament to the rich natural environment of this area.

Yabusame-baba (流鏑馬馬場)

yabusame1   This track, which runs at right angles to the main approach, is where the yabusame archery contests are held every year in April and September. The archers, dressed as warriors of the Kamakura period, race at top speed on horseback along the 260-meter track and take aim at three targets set at 70-meter intervals-an amazing feat of both archery and horsemanship.

Chozuya (手水舎)

chozusha1   The red structure is where worshippers wash their hands and rinse their mouths to purify themselves before approaching the main shrine. The basin is carved out of a huge rock from the Bizen (備前) region of western Japan and was presented by the wife of Tokugawa Hidetada (徳川秀忠,1579-1632), the 2nd Tokugawa shogun (徳川将軍), in the 17th century, after she saw a dream bidding her to do so. It is one of the few officially designated cultural treasures that the public are allowed to touch.

Maiden Hall (舞殿)

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  The raised stage at the center of the square is the Maiden. This is where ceremonies are held every year in April to commemorate a dance performed in 1186 by Shizuka (静,?-?), the mistress of the warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune (源義経,1159-89). The original dance is said to have taken place in a corridor inside the shrine. Shizuka was being held after attempting to flee with Yoshitsune, who had fallen out with his brother, Yoritomo. Known as a skilled dancer, she was ordered to perform in front of Yoritomo and his wife Masako. It was a defiant dance in which she sang of her undying love for Yoshitsune. These days, local musicians also perform here during the summer festival.

Giant gingko tree (大銀杏)

  The one thousand-year-old gingko tree on the left side of the main stairway, the biggest and landmark of the city, blew down on the early morning of May 10th. The regeneration project is now under way.

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Under Regeneration

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Before Collapse:In Spring & Fall

  Legend has it that a terrible assassination took place on January 27th, 1219. Just as Sanetomo, the third shogun, was walking down the steps after praying at the shrine, he was set upon by Kugyo (公暁,1200-19), his nephew, who had hidden behind the tree. Kugyo was seeking his revenge, convinced that Sanetomo had been responsible for the death of his father.

Hongu or Uenomiya (本宮 又は 上宮)

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  The main hall of the Hachiman Shrine is known as Hongu or Uenomiya. The Hachiman Shrine was first built in Yuigahama, close to the beach, and then moved to where the Wakamiya or Shitanomiya now stands at the bottom of the stairway in 1180 by Yoritomo. That shrine burnt to the ground ten years later, so the main shrine was finally moved to its present position at the top of the stairs. The inscription on top of the gate reads "Hachimangu," with the character for "hachi (八)," the number eight, in the form of two doves. These birds were adopted as the guardians of this shrine, and have remained so until this day.

Treasure Hall (宝物殿)

  The building to the left of the main hall houses the treasures owned by the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine. The collection includes ancient sacred treasures, portable shrines and military equipment.

Maruyama-inari Shrine (丸山稲荷社)

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  The red structure on the raised ground to the left of the Main Hall is the Maruyama Inari Shrine. It is said to have stood originally at the site of the Main Hall, but was moved here in 1191 when the Main Hall itself was built in its present place. The roof and beams are in the style of the Muromachi period (室町時代), which ran from the mid 14th to the mid 16th century. The shrine is dedicated to the god of business prosperity.

Wakamiya-sha or Shitanomiya (若宮社 又は 下宮)

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  This is the Wakamiya Shrine, also known as Shitanomiya. It is located in the exact spot where Yoritomo had the first Hachiman Shrine built. The present shrine was constructed by Hidetada and Iemitsu (徳川家光, 1604-51), the 2nd and 3rd Tokugawa shogun, in the early 17th century. The splendid structure and elaborate carvings are similar to those of the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko.

Byakushin Tree (柏槙)

byakushin   The tall trees on the right of the Wakamiya Shrine are byakushin or junipers. The saplings were imported from China by order of Sanetomo, the 2nd shogun, in the late 12th or early 13th century, and the trunks are now more than 4 meters in circumference. Another juniper stands close to the Taikobashi Bridge. This type of tree was usually planted within the grounds of temples, not shrines, so they are proof that Shintoism and Buddhism coexisted here in former times.

A Prayer Spot for Yui-wakamiya Shrine (由比若宮遥拝所)

yohaijo1   The original Hachiman Shrine stood nearer the sea at Zaimokuza. In the past, when people wanted to pay their respects at the Yui-wakamiya, as it was called then, they could do so from this point, rather than going all the way to the shrine itself.

The Crane-Turtle Stone (鶴亀石)

tsurukame1   The images of two traditional symbols of good fortune - a crane and a turtle - are said to appear when you pour water over these stones.

Yanagihara Field (柳原)

yanagihara1   According to the explanation on the stone tablet nearby, this spot was well known for its weeping willow trees. An old poem tells of the young leaves of the willow, which used to announce the coming of spring.

Shirahata Shrine (白旗神社)

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  The shrine building with black lacquered pillars and gold ornaments is the Shirahata Jinja. It is the guardian shrine of the Genji clan and you will come across many shrines with this name all over Japan.
  This Shirahata or White Flag Shrine was built in the year 1200 and is dedicated to Minamoto no Yoritomo, the founder of the Kamakura shogunate, and his son, Sanetomo (源実朝,1192-1219), the third shogun. The warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉,1537-1598) is said to have visited the shrine in 1590, and talked to the statue of Yoritomo and given it a friendly pat.
  The statue has been designated an Important Cultural Property, and is now kept at the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park. The festival to honor Yoritomo at this shrine takes place on May 28th every year, while Sanetomo's day comes on August 9th. The present building was restored in 1897.

Kamakura Museum (鎌倉国宝館)

kokuhokan1  In the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, many of Kamakura's shrines and temples suffered serious damage. In order to protect many treasures of this ancient capital from further damage, the people of Kamakura themselves donated the funds to build the Kamakura National Treasure Museum. It opened in 1928 and contains artifacts that have been designated National Treasures and Important Cultural Treasures.

Saikan and Kihinkan Hall (斎館・貴賓館)

saikan1   To the right of the torii gate on the eastern side is the guest house, where visitors to special ceremonies are welcomed and where the priests prepare for various festivals. The rooms can be seen from the Peony Garden.

The Peony Garden (ぼたん庭園)

botan1   The peony garden by the Genpei Ponds was established to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the shrine. The inner garden is laid with pine moss brought from Kyoto and the rock garden was designed by a gardener from China's Suzhou Province.
  Winter peonies are on display from January to the end of February, while over 2,000 spring peonies can be viewed from mid-April to mid-May, and the wild hydrangeas are at their best in June.

Sazare-ishi Stone (さざれ石)

sazareishi1   This boulder is made up of numerous pebbles-sazare ishi. Most Japanese are familiar with the word because it is mentioned in a phrase within the Kimigayo national anthem. The boulder came from Gifu Prefecture, where it was designated a precious natural treasure in 1977. Four years later, it was presented to Tsurugaoka Hachiman. The stone tablet behind the boulder is inscribed with the name of Sugawara Tsusai (菅原通済, 1894-1981), to honour his contribution to the prosperity of Kamakura in the early Showa period.

Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Modern Art (神奈川近代美術館)

kindai1 (The museum is closed permanently in 2016. But the annex a few-minute-walk to the north is still open.)
  The Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Modern Art opened in November 1951 and offers exhibitions of modern and contemporary art from Japan and around the world. The architect was Sakakura Junzo (坂倉順三, 1901-1969). There is also an annex to the museum on the other side of the road.