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Tsuru-ga-oka Hachiman-gu (Minamoto Shrine)

Tsuru-ga-oka Hachiman-gu (Minamoto Shrine) Review

This shrine is dedicated to the legendary emperor Ojin, his wife, and his mother, from whom Minamoto no Yoritomo claimed descent. At the entrance, the small, steeply arched, vermilion Taiko-bashi (Drum Bridge) crosses a stream between two lotus ponds. The ponds were made to Yoritomo's specifications. His wife, Masako, suggested placing islands in each. In the larger Genji Pond, to the right, filled with white lotus flowers, she placed three islands. Genji was another name for clan, and three is an auspicious number. In the smaller Heike Pond, to the left, she put four islands. Heike (heh-ee-keh) was another name for the rival Taira clan, which the Minamoto had destroyed, and four—homophonous in Japanese with the word for "death"—is very unlucky indeed.

On the far side of the Drum Bridge is the Mai-den. This hall is the setting for a story of the Minamoto celebrated in Noh and Kabuki theater. Beyond the Mai-den, a flight of steps leads to the shrine's Hon-do (Main Hall). To the left of these steps is a ginkgo tree that—according to legend—was witness to a murder that ended the Minamoto line in 1219. From behind this tree, a priest named Kugyo leapt out and beheaded his uncle, the 26-year-old Sanetomo, Yoritomo's second son and the last Minamoto shogun. The priest was quickly apprehended, but Sanetomo's head was never found. As at all other Shinto shrines, the Hon-do is unadorned; the building itself, an 1828 reconstruction, is not particularly noteworthy.

    Contact Information

  • Address: 2–1–31 Yuki-no-shita, Kamakura, 248-0005
  • Phone: 0467/22–0315
  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: Daily 9–4
  • Location: Kamakura
Updated: 08-19-2013

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