Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is one of the most important Shinto shrines in the city of Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. The sacred site is located just about a 15 minute walk from Kamakura Station, which is at the eastern terminus of the scenic Enoshima Line. The shrine is a popular destination, attracting a steady stream of tourists throughout the year.
From late March to early April, hundreds of sakura (cherry trees) along Dankazura, the final approach to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, will celebrate their full bloom, creating a beautiful pink floral canopy. Though the path lost some visual appeal after the recent renovation work, this spot still draws a huge crowd of revelers every year. However, not many food stalls are found along the street, so bring yourself something to snack on as you walk to the holy place or get yourself something to eat from the cherry blossom festival at the shrine.
The shrine features several varieties of sakura, including both early and late blooming trees such as kawazu-zakura, one of the earliest blooming cherry blossoms, and higan-zakura, another type of early blooming cherry blossom. The shrine’s still pond is large and lined with rows of somei yoshino sakura, the most common flowering cherry tree in Japan, a few shidare-zakura (weeping cherry trees) and yaezakura, cherry trees with blossoms of more than five petals. The atmosphere is calm and peaceful. Thanks to the early and late blooming trees, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is a good hanami (flower-viewing) destination for those who miss the main season by a week or two.
This spring I made two visits to this great place, in late March and early April. During my first visit, I met families who brought babies in kimono for miyamairi (literally “shrine visit”), a Shinto rite of passage for newborns where Shinto priests say a prayer for the babies. Also, spring is the perfect time for travelers to glimpse Japanese ladies dressed up in colorful elegant kimono. Just make sure to make a visit on weekends.
During my second visit in early April, I felt calm, tranquility—a pure and refreshing mood, although there is a road with a lot of car traffic in front of the shrine. On that day, nobody there was dressed up in kimono.
I walked to the right of the main gate and encountered a few old ladies with dogs, groups of high school students in their cute uniforms and businessmen on their way to work. Some locals sat on wooden benches fixing their attention on cherry blossoms hanging over the pond in front of them. A flock of seagulls flied across the reservoir. A shrine maiden (miko) in red long divided trousers walked past the torii gate.
This is a good place for cherry blossom viewing if you are keen on somewhere a little more peaceful, especially on weekdays. Even on weekends, the sacred site’s still pond and numerous walking paths make it feel spacious, as visitors can spread out to enjoy Japan’s iconic flower. The many varieties of cherry trees bloom at different stages, meaning that visitors can enjoy the beauty of the season over a longer period of time. I believe Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine offers enough enjoyment and surprises to bring you back time and again. One visit was certainly not enough for me.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Address: 2-1-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
For more information → http://www.odakyu.jp/english/destination/enoshima_kamakura/