• Bundtlust

A gorgeous day in Kamakura

I've visited Kamakura a handful of times since arriving in Japan 10 months ago; a beautiful beach town with fantastic surfing, it's perhaps best-known for its stunning temples and enormous cast-bronze statue of Amida Buddha dating back to 1252. It's also fairly spread out, with many of its temples on opposite ends of the city. I'd previously visited Hachimangu Shrine and Komachi Dori (the main shopping street) multiple times, as well as Engakuji, Hokokuji (famous for its bamboo grove) and Meigetsuin (famous for its hydrangeas), but this was my first time venturing out to Hasedera (which I only had the opportunity to poke my head into) and Kotoku-in (home to Daibutsu).

Getting to Hasedera can be accomplished by either taking a bus from Kamakura Station, or by transferring to the Enoden (Enoshima Electric Railway). I chose the latter and it was a quick ride to Hase. The streets are lined with very narrow sidewalks and small mom-and-pop shops, including a promising gelato shop with flavors such as persimmon and pumpkin. The Great Buddha sits very serenely in a clearing, but it's hard to get good photos as so many tourists rush up with selfie sticks and tripods. I arrived around 10:30 in the morning, but by the time I left, multiple tour buses had pulled up.

As I walked back towards the station (I had a lunch reservation for 11:30), I ducked into Hasedera and will attempt a more detailed visit next weekend. It is a large temple complex with a statue of Kannon (Goddess of Mercy), caves, and many interesting elements. I had to scurry back to get on the (now very crowded) train to Kamakura, and then transferred to JR Yokosuka one stop to Kita Kamakura (the same stop for Engaguji and Meigetsuin). The walk to the restaurant only took six minutes from the station.

I'd heard about Hachinoki long before returning to Japan; they specialize in Buddhist shojin ryori, vegan temple cuisine, although they also serve non-vegan kaiseki meals. I made a reservation for the Katsura lunch set, which consisted of several vegetable and tofu appetizers, rice with mushrooms, miso, and fresh persimmon for dessert. Green tea and hojicha were served.

I've had shojin ryori in Kyoto (Shigetsu), Tokyo (Bon), and now Kamakura, and this was my favorite experience of the three (likely due to the fact that no konnyaku or junsai was present!). Shojin ryori is highly prescriptive, with five colors, flavors, and cooking methods incorporated into each meal.

Each bite was more exquisite than the last. Subtle seasoning and a light hand with the salt (even the miso was mild; normally I find everything too salty!), and unexpected flavors made this a delightful meal. Other than a small group of middle-aged Japanese women, I had the dining room to myself and took a leisurely hour digesting my meal and enjoying the view of the garden and butterflies as I sipped my tea.

Tofu, daikon cut to look like chrysanthemum, maitake, and a sweet black bean

I think this was blanched shungiku with shiitake in a light dressing

Winter melon and wheat gluten in a thickened broth with yuzu (hot)

A very light, not-too-salty miso studded with tofu and seaweed

Sesame "tofu" topped with wasabi and a drizzle of soy

A slice of perfectly ripe persimmon (my first time trying it!)

The tranquil dining room overlooking a garden (this is the street view, my table was next to the garden!)

After lunch, I explored a (new-to-me) temple along the way, Tokeiji, which used to be a nunnery. It had gorgeous maples and bamboo and I will be certain to visit again in a month or two when fall colors descend! There were also a profusion of blooms, especially tiny orchids, that Japanese photographers were going crazy over.

It was a gorgeous day!

#Kamakura #Buddha #temple #shojinryori