Kamakura is an ancient city famous for its’ beaches and temples, especially the Giant Buddha (Daibutsu). Our first time to visit Kamakura marked the day of the lantern festival, and after watching a beautiful sunset on the beach, we headed to the temples.
Goryo Shrine is located closest to the beach and situated right next to rail tracks, which creates quite a unique atmosphere. As we arrived, we were handed a paper lantern and a map of all the temples participating in the lantern festival. A group of young musicians, dressed in traditional Japanese clothes, played the drums as they walked across the rail tracks and then stationed themselves at this shrine for their performance. Meanwhile, a friendly local came over to us to explain the tradition of the lantern festival in Japan and offered to take a photo of us. Knowing Japanese customs, we knew he wasn’t gonna run off with our camera and just wanted to politely offer his help and share his knowledge.
After enjoying listening to the drums and chatting with the locals, we headed over to Hase-dera temple and gardens dating from the 8th century.
Visiting Kamakura’s lantern festival would not be complete without visiting Kotoku-in and seeing the Great Buddha, that sits in the open air and makes it unusual amongst the largest buddhas in Japan. It actually reminded me of the Great Buddha on Lantau Island in Hong Kong and I was so happy that we didn’t have to go through a long and steep bus torture followed by climbing hundreds of steps to see this one!
The lantern festival was definitely a special and magical experience and our first experience of Japanese traditions.