When Minamoto no Yoritomo founded his shogunate in Kamakura, here began a hugely important historical period which shaped Japan forever.
The Shoguns were essentially feudal lords whose military powers made them the de-facto rulers of Japan, nominally appointed by the emperor, but in practice, all power remained with the "daimyos" (feudal lords), of which the Shogun was the head.
The very first shogunate was established in 1199 in Kamakura, ushering in nearly 700 years of Shogun rule in Japan, and shaping the country forever. This period is known for the emergence of the samurai as a force in Japan, as well as the beginnings of feudalism.
As befits a town with such history, this town has numerous temples dating back almost a thousand years. The town plays host to "The Five Great Zen Temples" of which Kenchoji, built during the Kamakura period, is perhaps the most important, rivalled only by the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, which is where the last of Minamoto no Yoritomo's sons was murdered in an attempted coup, bringing the family line of the first shogun to an end. The Kotokuin temple also boasts an enormous bronze statue of the Buddha dating from 1252, another popular tourist attraction.
As well as its temples and rich history, Kamakura has a number of festivals throughout the year, many of which allude to its long and storied past. Between the 2nd and 3rd Sunday of April there is a whole week of events to celebrate the city's history, on the 5th of May samurai archers at the Kusajishi shrine shoot straw deer and recite traditional poetry and on the 14th 15th and 16th of September the city hosts the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū Reitaisai - a famous festival full of attractions, the most famous being a demonstration of horseback archery, on the last day.
If you find yourself in Tokyo during the Kamakura festivals, it's the journey will be well worth your while!
Getting to Kamakura from Tokyo
The best way to visit the old capital of Japan is by taking a guided tour from Tokyo. You can reserve on our website, with an excursion that also includes Yokohama
Train: Shonan-Shinkuju Line, from Shinkuju. Yokosuka Line from Shinagawa.