>>>Japan on film

Japan on film

The film that has turned into a major tourism campaign. Our Little Sister from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-da has put Kamakura on the map of not-to-be-missed tourist destinations.
A
poetic and thought-provoking city, not at all typical of the standard tourist destinations in the Land of the Rising Sun. Flags, symbols, temples, people: the city as a mirror of life. “I’m not only interested in the beauty of Kamakura and the four sisters,” explains Kore-eda, director and winner of the Best Film of the Year award from the Japanese Film Academy. “I’m intrigued by the attitude of the city, its ability to absorb and make its own everything that happens.(…) The beauty of understanding that we are only grains of sand, a small part of a whole, and that the city, the time of the city, will continue on when we are no longer here”.
Our Little Sister won the Public Award at the last San Sebastian Film Festival (Spain).

Retail therapy

Kamakura is well known for its lacquered wooden objects called Kamakura-bori. The main shopping area is in WakamiyaOji Street, one of Japan’s most dazzling thanks to the line of ‘torii’ (wooden Sintoist arches) found by Yuigahama beach.

The Kouda sisters of the famous film are no longer there. However, any gaijin (foreigners) who do make the 45-minute train journey from Tokyo to Kamakuro will find that, though the young ladies are absent, the rest of the city remains unchanged: the zen energy of a coastal city bursting with temples, the glare of the ocean, the cherry blossoms, the hydrangeas, the fireworks that celebrate the summer, and the Buddhas in their sanctuaries. Discovering locations from the film is surely motivation enough to head for Kamakura as an anti-tourist, to wander its streets without caring about how many monuments we’ve visited, to go where the heart calls.
Kamakura flourished between 1185 and 1333 when it was virtually the capital of Japan. This was thanks to Shogun Minamoto who chose the city to be his seat of power. By 1250, it had a population of 200,000, making it the fourth largest city in the whole world. But internal power struggles and a new Emperor marked Kamakura’s decline from the beginning of the 14th century.
Kamakura is a coastal city surrounded by green mountains.

The call of the Zen

Receiving over nine million visitors a year, the Hachimangu Tsurugaoka Sanctuary is the symbol of the old capital. It is dedicated to Hachiman, the God of War. Yabusame is celebrated in the month of September, when a rider has to shoot arrows and hit a target while riding at high speed.

Today Kamakura remains relatively important politically, though it’s best known for the quality of life it offers. For starters, the city has a very agreeable temperate climate, with an average temperature of 16ºC. To the south it looks out over the Gulf of Sagami, and is completely surrounded by mountains to the north (Mount Genji), the east (Rokkokuken, Ōhira, Jubu, Tendai y Mt. Kinubari) and to the west. The river Namerigawa is a source of life for the city, and covers the city streets with bridges and riverbanks. Its beaches – Yuigahama, Zaimokuza, Koshigoe and Shichirigahama – are ideal for walking, surfing, and swimming, and, since the Japanese tend to hide away from the sun, they are rarely crowded. Meanwhile, trees, plants and green areas abound in the city, notably in its Kanagawa Prefecture Botanic Gardens which hold over 5,700 species of plants including a collection of rhododendrons and camellias.
This is the spectacular Yabusame in Hachimangu Tsurugaoka.
Spirituality is to be found in every corner of the city. Despite the destruction wrought by the 1923 earthquake, most of the Kamakura’s treasures have remained intact: the 11-metre tall bronze Grand Buddha – the second largest in Japan – or the zen Engakuji and Kenchoji temples, oases to disconnect from the noise of the city and even to enjoy koan poetry with riddles such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” And of course there´s the Hasereda temple and the Juichimen Kannon, the largest wooden statue in Japan that represents bodhisattva Kannon with 11 faces.

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