Kamakura is a coastal town in Kanagawa prefecture, less than one hour south of Tokyo. Kamakura became the political center of Japan, when Minamoto Yoritomo chose the city as the seat of his new military government in 1192. The Kamakura government continued to rule Japan for over a century, first under the Minamoto shogun and then under the Hojo regents. After the decline of the Kamakura government in the 14th century and the establishment of its successor, the Muromachi or Ashikaga government in Kyoto, Kamakura remained the political center of Eastern Japan for some time before losing its position to other cities.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is Kamakura's most important shrine. It was founded by Minamoto Yoriyoshi in 1063, and enlarged and moved to its current site in 1180 by Minamoto Yoritomo, the founder and first shogun of the Kamakura government. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the Minamoto family and of the samurai in general. The deified spirits of the ancient Emperor Ojin who has been identified with Hachiman, Empress Jingu and Emperor Chuai are enshrined in the main buildings of the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.
Daibutsu in Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura
Constructed 1252 AD
The Kamakura Daibutsu (literally "Kamakura Big Buddha") is a giant metal statue of Amida Nyorai. Roughly 15 meters in height (the face itself nearly 2.5 meters long), this statue weighs 93 tons. Upon the head are 656 hair curls, a traditional characteristic of the Amida Buddha. The silver boss on the forehead (from which emanates the light that illuminates the universe) weighs 30 pounds.
Amida, which means Infinite Light or Infinite Life, is one of the loftiest savior figures in Japanese Buddhism, and Amida faith is concerned primarily with the life to come (paradise). Amida is especially important to Japan's Pure Land sects. The key practice for Amida devotees is simply to chant Amida's name, "Namu Amida Butsu," for Amida vowed that whoever calls his name with faith shall be reborn in the Western Pure Land. Rebirth in the Pure Land represents a "quick path" to enlightenment.
Note: Above height as reported by Kotokuin Temple (home of Kamakura's Big Buddha). Other sources, however, notably Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says the height is 11.3 m (37.1 ft).