Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Letter from a friend in Tokyo yesterday included some photographs snapped during a few days of relaxation in the little town of Kamakura. It is a place I have visited on many occasions, each time leaving with a feeling of wanting to live there. And I never went home from Kamakura without a tin of the famous and most delicious Hato Sabure (dove shortbread) cookies.

Kamakura is a charming old city thirty-one miles southwest of Tokyo, which from 1185 until 1333 was the seat of the country’s government and a center of art and culture. The city is now home to about 174,000 people and remains a magnet for foreign as well as native tourists. Being situated on the coast of Sagami Bay it is also for many, a comfortable setting for vacation or summer homes. Easily accessible by train from Tokyo, taking approximately ninety minutes, on holidays and in summer the streets are crowded with visitors enjoying the beauty of its many shrines and temples, traditional cuisine, and of course the large Kamakura Daibutsu, a thirty-seven foot tall bronze statue of Buddha. The statue dates from 1252 and was originally covered with gold leaf.

At the end of the 12th century, a samurai leader named Yoritomo Minamoto defeated the rival Heike family. As a result of that victory the Emperor gave Minamoto the title of Seii-Taishogun, or Great General. The first government to be headed by a victorious general, Minamoto situated the new seat of power in Kamakura, far to the east of the old capitol, Kyoto. He began the building of a new capital and the structuring of governmental organizations. With Minamoto’s urban design completed, the Kamakura government reached a high level of prosperity. The city became a center of politics, diplomacy, culture, and a host of other activities. Trade flourished with China and a variety of Chinese influences, such as Zen Buddhism, Zen-style architecture, Buddhist sculptures and imagery, and lacquerware were imported. This art and culture soon transcended that of medieval Japan. The culture created by the samurai government at Kamakura encompassed religion, philosophy, codes of behavior, learning, and the arts, exerting an influence felt across much of the country. This Shogunate type of government continued until 1867 when the capitol was moved to Tokyo.

Hard straight lines in green, a bamboo forest

One of the greener sights, a Kamakura shrine

A bed of red amaryllis beneath twisting trunks

Nothing likes grapes, the inedible callicarpa japonica, or Japanese beauty berry


  1. The pictures and the dove cookie take me back to Japan when I visited many of these places. It is a beautiful country and so ancient that everywhere one looks one can see centuries back in cultural.

  2. A mistake in the first comment which didn't show. Anyway, these pictures take me back to my last visit to Japan. It is such a beautiful country and out in these smaller towns (as compared to Tokyo), one can see so much beauty that is centuries old.

  3. Such beautiful environs. So different from the familiar (for many of us). Such a stirring of emotions to even think of experiencing the look and feel of another culture. Never been one, but I identify with the World Traveler who wants to see so many unique places. Bought a couple of lottery tickets so maybe . . .


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America