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Every year, a grand festival is held at the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine in Japan’s ancient capital city of Kamakura.

This year’s edition will run this Sunday through Tuesday in the city 28 miles southwest of Tokyo.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine was built in 1191 by Minamoto no Yoritomo, who founded the Kamakura Shogunate in 1185. Samurai lord Yoritomo’s shogunate as the first government by samurai warriors.

The Minamoto (Genji) clan guarded the emperors in Kyoto for many years but, after the family was defeated by its rival the Heike clan, Yoritomo was exiled to Nirayama of the Izu Penisula. Later, Yoritomo gained support from warlords of the Kanto district and in 1185 defeated the Heike. He set up a feudal government at Kamakura.

The Minamoto family’s rule lasted through only three generations — Yoritomo, Yoriie and Sanetomo. Sanetomo, the third shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate, was assassinated by his nephew Kugyo on Jan. 1, 1219, when he visited the Tsurugaoka Shrine. Kugyo hid behind a gingko tree on the left side of the shrine’s main building before stabbing Sanetomo to death. The tree, more than 1,000 years old, is still there and is called “Kakure Icho” — or Hiding Gingko Tree.

Kamakura Shogunate was taken over by the Hojo family — the lineage of Yoritomo’s wife Masako Hojo. The Hojo ruled until 1333, and as regents of the Kamakura Shogunate they united the powers of samurai warriors and saved Japan from the invasions of the Mongols in 1274 and 1281.

Festival highlights

Sept. 15: 1 p.m., Shinkosan (3 mikoshi parade)

Sept. 15: 6 p.m., Japanese Dances

Sept. 16: 1 p.m., Yabusame

If you plan to visit Kamakura, here are the popular places:

¶ Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine

¶ Daibutsu (Buddha) at Hase

¶ Hase Temple at Hase

¶ Kamakuragu Shrine near Tsurugaoka Hachiman

¶ Kenchoji Temple in Kitakamakura

¶ Enkakuji Temple in Kitakamakura

¶ Enoshima

Trains: Hase is the third station of Eno-Den from Kamakura Station; Nishi-Kamakura is the next station of JR Kamakura Station; Enoshima is ninth station of Eno-Den from Kamakura Station; Tsurugaoka Hachiman; 0467-22-0315.


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