I love Kamakura! I've been there quite a few times over the years—always to visit the 'standard' attractions—the giant Buddah (Daibutsu) and Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu shrine. Certainly no Kamakura itinerary is complete without a visit to these two places. However, on a recent visit, I discovered that Kamakura has much more to offer.
About a five-minute walk from what may now be my favourite temple, Hokokuji (check out the bamboo forest—it is stunning!), you will find Jomyoji temple. Beyond the elegant stone entrance gate, there is a long path leading to the temple, which is lined with beautiful trees and gardens. I am told it is particularly spectacular during the Cherry Blossom season. Behind the temple there is a graveyard that includes the tomb of Ashikaga Sadauji, who was the son of Ietoki and the father of Takauji, the founder of the Muromachi Era. His tomb has been designated as a cultural treasure of Kamakura City.
However, for me, the highlight of this temple is to the left of the main building. Here you will find a stunning tea house overlooking a perfectly manicured rock garden, where you can enjoy a traditional bowl of green tea accompanied by a Japanese sweet. The surroundings are so peaceful and relaxing.
Before entering the tea house you must select either hot or cold green tea and the type of Japanese sweet you wish to accompany it. Once you have paid, you take your shoes off step up onto the tatami. The matting overlooks the rock garden, and as soon as you sit on the mat your feel a sense of peacefulness and calmness. On one side of the tatami room there is a stunning circular window looking out to part of the garden.
Shortly after you sit down, a lady dressed in a kimono will bring your tea and sweets to you. She does the full tea ceremony thing; by this I mean that she kneels down, bows deeply, and turns the bowl that the tea is in twice before presenting it to you. Try to remember to slightly bow back. Remember to be kneeling (women) or sitting cross legged (men) on the tatami when the tea is presented to you. Then it’s just a matter of enjoying the tea, sweets and the view. Even if green tea and Japanese sweets aren't your thing, I highly recommend you give it a go, for the cultural experience. Because this temple is slightly tucked away out of the main tourist area, you are able to enjoy the experience without large crowds detracting from the experience.
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