Annual event
1st Many people flock to temples and shrines, some dressed in kimono, for the first worship of the year. In Kamakura, cars are not allowed to go inside the city during those three days. For walkers, it may be a good chance to visit other shrines and temples that are not much crowded.
4th Chona Hajime {pronounced cho-nah-hah-gee-meh} Ritual at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Chona means an adz and hajime "first use of the year". In commemoration of the ritual Yoritomo Minamoto, the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, performed at the time he inaugurated this shrine, the ceremony takes place on this day at 1:00 p.m. .
5th Joma Shinji {joe-mah shin-gee} at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Joma means "keep evil spirits away" and shinji "Shinto ritual". Archers shoot arrows, at a target 27 meters away, on whichthe letter oni or devil is marked. By hitting the target, they wish the devil be exorcised.
10th Ebisu {eh-bee-soo} Festival at Hongakuji
Ebisu, one of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune, is the Deity of Commerce. Traditionally, January 10 is the day for Ebisu. The Ebisu Festival can be observed at all the shrines sacred to the deity.
13th Gomataki Kuyo {go-mah-tah-key koo-yoh} or Holy Fire Rite for Invocation at Kokuzo-do located near Joju-in
Goma is Homa in Sanskrit, a holy fire for invocation.
15th Sagicho {sah-ghe-cho} Ritual at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Gicho is a stick used by ancient people for hockey-like game and sa means three. Today, Sagicho means a sort of fire festival. People bring the New Year decorations and talismans, made of pines, sacred straw festoon etc. to the Shrine and the Shrine burn them with sacred fire after purification rituals. Religious people never throw away those sacred objects in awe of the divine wrath.
16th Enma (Yama)'s Fete at En'noji
This is the first fete-day for Yama. By praying to Enma, the ruling judge in the netherworld, worshipers believe the Enma give divine favors to the wandering souls.
22nd Taishiko {tye-she-koh} Festival at Hokaiji Temple
Festival for carpenters, scaffolding men and those who are engaged in construction jobs. Taishi means a crown prince and in this particular case, Prince Shotoku (574-622), who contributed to the development of Buddhism in Japan and founded a number of temples.
25th Fude Kuyo {foo-deh koo-yoh} at Egara Tenjin Shrine
A memorial service in honor of used writing tools such as brush-pen, pencil, etc. Fude means a writing brush and Kuyo a memorial service. All Tenjin shrines are dedicated to the memory of Sugawara Michizane (845-903), a court noble and scholar. After his death, he was divinized as the deity of learning. Known also as an excellent calligrapher, Egara Tenjin holds this Fude Kuyo in his commemoration.
3rd Setsubun {seh-tsu-boon} Festival at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu and other shrines and temples
On the last day of calendar winter, which is called Setsubun, this festival takes place at popular shrines and temples, celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of warm spring. The practice of scattering beans, usually roasted soybeans, is part of the ceremony, thereby people try to ward off devils and bring in good fortune. Beans are thrown shouting "Out with the devil. In with fortune". At Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, TV personalities and other notables whose birth year coincides with the Chinese zodiac of the year are invited to throw beans. In front of 15,000-strong visitors, 600-kilogram beans are thrown every year. Kenchoji also has it at Hansobo. Setsubun is unique in that it is honored both by Shinto shrines and Buddhism temples.
8th Hari kuyo {hah-re-koo-yoh} at Egara Tenjin
Hari is literally a needle, and Hari Kuyo is a memorial service in honor of used needles just like the Fude Kuyo. Nowadays, young women do not use needles, nor do they know how to sew. Until a couple of decades ago, however, needles had been one of the most important tools women had to use. Sewing is a technique required of women to master before marriage. The memorial service for needles was thus started years ago and it is still honored in various shrines.
11th Daikoku Toe {dye-kok-toe-eh} at Choshoji
On the final day of 100-day austere discipline, priests take a wash-down with cold water.
15th Nehan-e {neh-han-eh}
Shaka or Sakyamuni in Sanskrit is believed to have passed away on this day and memorial services called Nehan-e are carried out in many temples.
21st Memorial Service for Pet Animals at Kosokuji (at Hase)
Pet-lovers join the service to console the souls of the departed animals.
4th Tokimune Festival at Engakuji
Tokimune Hojo (1251-1284), the founder of Engakuji and the Eighth Hojo Regent, died on April 4, 1284 at age 33. On his anniversary day, a tea party is held every year at Butsunichi-an in Engakuji to cherish his memory.
8th The Buddha's Birthday Festival
In Japan, Buddha's birthday is believed to be April 8 and its festival and religious services called Kotan-e {koh-tan-eh} is held on this day in many temples. Traditionally, hydrangea tea is served to the visitors. At Gokurakuji, the statue of Shaka Nyorai, which are usually closed to the public, will be unveiled on April 7, 8 and 9, and the Ninsho Tower on April 8.
From second Sunday
through third Sunday
Kamakura Festival
Festive activities can be observed all over the city during the week such as parades, open-air tea ceremony. The festivals are sponsored by Kamakura Tourist Association (Phone:0467-23-3050) to attract as many tourists as possible at this best season of the year. It started in 1959 and more than 800,000 tourists visit here during the week. Among the tourist attractions are:
Second Sunday: Dancing ceremony in remembrance of Lady Shizuka at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Third Sunday: Yabusame or horseback archery at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.

(Several temples whose Buddha statues are usually not open to the public used to be exhibited for occasional visitors during the festival days until 1997, but not any longer, probably because those visitors, mostly tourists, did not behave themselves in the face of the statues. Some temples clearly warn that the statues are not artifacts, not the object of appreciation, but the sacred object of worship, and therefore, sightseers should revere the statues in respectful manner.)
5th Iris Festival at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Iris, which is believed to clear away miasma, is dedicated to the alter and court-dance and court-music are played.
5th Kiyomasa Festival at Myohoji
Kiyomasa Kato (1562-1611) is known as one of the most brave samurai as well as an adherent of Nichiren sect Buddhism. His statue is enshrined in this temple.
5th Kusajishi {koo-sah-gee-she} Festival at Kamakuragu Shrine
Archers with ancient headgear and clad in ancient garbs shoot arrows at the target made to imitate deer in the grass, reciting old, literary language.
early May Display of Shariden, Engakuji
Shariden of Engakuji, the oldest building in Kamakura and a National Treasure, is usually off-limits to sightseers. However, special openings during this period may be subject to an additional fee. But, they are not allowed to go inside the structure.
28th Annual Festival at Shirahata Jinja, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Shirahata Jinja is a sub-shrine located in the compounds of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu and dedicated to the spirits of Yoritomo Minamoto and his second son Sanetomo (the Third Shogun).
3rd Annual Festival at Kuzuharagaoka Shrine
On this day of 1332, Toshimoto Hino, a loyalist for Emperor Godaigo, was executed as a result of the unsuccessful coup attempt. A memorial service is held in homage to his dedication and loyalty toward the Imperial Court.
30th Purification Ceremony at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
The rite of atonement for the sinful acts and purification for the past six months will be observed.
1st Kamakura beaches open for swimmers
Beaches in Kamakura are a popular resort for the young, and even in winter you will see surfers off the coast. In summer, hordes of bathers crowd on the beach. From the opening days, makeshift locker-room will be available for the swimmers or sun-bathers. Kamakura has two beaches, one Yuigahama {you-e-gah-hah-mah} and the other Zaimokuza {zye-moh-koo-zah} divided by the mouth of the Nameri river.
15th Segaki or the hungry-ghost-feeding rite at Kenchoji
Gaki is a famished devil or Preta in Skt. , one of the Six Stage in the netherworld. Simply put, this is a requiem mass for the repose of the departed souls, and all Buddhist temples except for Jodo Shin sect hold this mass. In case of Kenchoji, it holds twice, regular one and Kajiwara Segaki, which originates from a legend relating to Kagetoki Kajiwara (?-1200), a faithful retainer of Yoritomo Minamoto, the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate. At one time long ago, the moment the mass was over, a ghostly samurai on horseback arrived. Knowing his arrival too late, he appeared so sad that the chief priest held an extra mass for him. Later, he disclosed that he was the ghost of Kajiwara. Since then Kenchoji holds an extra mass called Kajiwara Segaki. The rite is held mostly by chanting sutra.
Third Monday in July Ishigami Festival at Goryo Shrine
After Shinto rituals, several young men go to the shore and swim, with a bowl of parboiled rice with red beans, to the point from where Enoshima {eh-no-she-mah}, a small island in the neighboring city of Fujisawa, can be seen, in other words, the point where the divinized stone was supposed to have been sitting, and drop the rice into the sea. Rice boiled with red beans is called sekihan {seh-key-han} or "red rice" and often served on auspicious or festive occasions.
24th Jizo Festival at Hokaiji
The Jizo Bosatsu statue is Hokaiji's main object of worship.
24th Convention for Priest Niccho at Hongakuji
Priest Niccho (1422-1500) was the second chief priest of Hongakuji and known as a great adherent of Nichiren sect Buddhism.
Late July Firework Festival
7th - 9th Paper-Lantern (Bonbori) Festival at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Roughly 400 paper-lanterns with hand-drawn pictures and poems are displayed in the shrine's precincts day and night. Passing through the large ring made of grass rope (called chinowa) is believed to give you good health.
9th Sanetomo Festival
In honor of the Third Shogun's artistic achievements, this festival takes place at Shirahata sub-shrine on his birthday.
10th 46,000-day-visit at Sugimoto-dera, Hase-dera, An-yo-in etc.
Worshiping on this particular day is said to be worthwhile visiting 46,000 times.
10th Black Jizo Festival at Gakuonji
August 10 every year is the day to venerate this Jizo and a religious service for him starts at twelve midnight with gongs of bell and attended by a number of Shingon sect priests chanting Han'nya shingyo {han-nya shin-gyo} or Prajna-paramita sutra. Religious people join this ceremony from the very beginning or before dawn at the latest. It is said that visiting and worshiping the Jizo on this particular day is worth visiting 46,000 times, and yet no admission is charged. But, it is customary to offer incenses and candles to the Jizo Bosatsu which costs us 300 yen. Placed near the Black Jizo are several hundreds of Jizo-Bosatsu figurines made from the 14th to 18th century and donated by parishioners. A pregnant woman can take home one to pray for an easy delivery, and if her wish is met, she has to bring it back with a new one. In front of the Jizodo, there stands a pole, from the top of which, long, white cloths hang on this day. It is believed that if worshipers pray for something holding this cloths, their wish will be fulfilled. People wait their turn forming a long queue. Hope that once on a shore, they continue to pray.
13-15th Bon (Ullabon in Skt.) Festival or the Buddhist All Souls' Day
The Bon festival days are to console the souls of the departed and also function as the day for the family unions. Though not national holidays, small businesses close their office and employees go back to their hometown. Employees of large companies take days off, like Easter days in the West, and go to their birthplace, where all family members gather and hold mass requiem for the ancestors. For the laity, the Bon is also a festival, and people enjoy folk dances held in school grounds or parks or even temple grounds. Engakuji, to name one, provides Kamakuraites with its temple courtyard for the dance. Many join it wearing Yukata, an informal kimono made of cotton and worn in summer. Exodus of urban residents heading off for their hometown starts immediately before August 12. Outbound trains are packed and bumper-to-bumper traffic is expected on expressway. After August 16, Tokyo bound trains and expressways are awfully crowded.
19th, 20th, 21st Annual Festival at Kamakuragu Shrine
Open-air stalls sell various goods at the shrine grounds and street near the Shrine.
12th Memorial Service for Botamochi at Jo-eiji
Botamochi is a rice-cake dumpling covered with bean paste. Legend says it was given to Priest Nichiren on his way being brought to the nearby execution ground called Tatsunokuchi in 1271. Nun Nichiei, an ardent follower of Priest Nichiren, appeared in front of him and presented the rice-cake. Nobody doubted that he would be executed within hours. However, a miracle occurred at the last moment and Priest Nichiren was saved. To commemorate this miracle, the temple hold memorial service for Priest Nichiren and treats visitors with botamochi.
14th to 16th Annual Festival at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Mikoshi or portable shrine will be carried and horseback archery will be performed before spectators. On the Ritual Dance Stage inside the precincts, Japanese dancing will be performed. On 15th in particular, Shinko Festival takes place with a trio of portable shrines and procession of divine horses.
18th Mengake {men-gah-keh} or Masked Parade at Goryo Jinja shrine
A group of ten (8 men and 2 women) wearing grotesque or comical masks will leave the shrine usually at 2:30 p.m. and parade through the nearby street accompanied by portable shrine and festive music.
28th Memorial Service for Chasen {chah-sen} Kuyo at Kenchoji
Chasen is a bamboo whisk or tea-stirrer for making ceremonial tea. Kuyo is a memorial service. Enthusiasts of tea ceremony get together here and hold mass for Chasen. I asked the temple why the service is held on this particular day. The temple replied they did not know.
3rd Memorial Service for the founding priest at Engakuji
The founding priest is Sogen Mugaku. His wooden statue will be placed in the Main Hall. Priests belonging to the Engakuji group get together here and hold memorial service for the great Zen master.
First Sunday
of October
Memorial Service for Dolls at Hongakuji
This ceremony started rather recently. They felt that throwing away old dolls was just pitiful and awful. For them, dolls are like babies or family members. This feeling eventually led to a motive that old dolls should be properly treated holding memorial services for them. The Temple accepted their request and the first service started in 1983. While the priests recite sutra, the old dolls are burned and ashes are dedicated to the doll mound in the temple courtyard. The Japanese do not like to throw away what they loved for a long period of time simply because they got too old. Similar rituals are held at other temples for old photos, etc.
Second weekend
of October:
Takigi {tah-key-ghe} Noh Play at Kamakuragu Shrine hosted by Kamakura Tourist Association
Open-air Noh play is performed starting at 5:30 p.m. and ending 8:00 p.m. All lights will be extinguished before the play to make the area dark and firewood will be burned to create an elegant atmosphere. Takigi literally means "firewood burning". Okina is the regular number played and sung at the very beginning every year. Some 3,000 spectators join the event on this night. If you want to join, you have to make request to the Association in advance with online-site to the Association.
12th to 15th Ojuya {o-jew-ya} Chanting at Komyoji
For three days and night, priests at Komyoji sit in front of the statue of Amida (Amitabha in Skt.) in the main hall and continue to recite sutras. Originally, it used to be a service practiced by Jodo sect Buddhist and they chant sutra for ten days and nights continuously from October 6 to 15 on lunar calendar. Ju means "ten" and ya "night".
28th Bunboku {boon-bok} Festival at Shirahata Shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
In commemoration of Sanetomo Minamoto, the Third Shogun, and his literary talent, a party is held.
Early November Treasure-display at Kenchoji and Engakuji
Treasures owned by the temples which otherwise are closed to the public will be displayed during these days, normally three days including Culture Day, under the name of Homotsu Kazeire {hoh-mo-tsu kah-zeh-e-reh} (literally, airing of the treasure to free from insects). A rare chance to take a closer look at those treasures.
8th through 10th Autumn Display of Shariden at Engakuji
Shariden will be open to the public, but visitors are not allowed to go inside the structure.
8th Jhodo-e {jho-doh-eh}
The Lord Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment or Nirvana on this day. Religious services called Jhodo-e are performed in many temples.
16th Gochinza {go-chin-zah} Festival at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Gochinza means the "start-up of the Shrine" and the Shrine was established at the present site on this day of 1191. The ritual begins after sunset at 5:30 p.m. Firewood are lighted at the Shrine's grounds and a foursome shrine-maidens begin a ritual dance followed by priests' dance wearing white robes.
18th A year-end Fair at Hase-dera
On the approach to the Temples stand many open-air stalls and sell such items as we usually buy in preparation for the New Year.
31st The Watch-Night Bell at temples throughout Japan start ringing at midnight to signal the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. The bells which will be rung 108 times as the year changes are believed to erase all our sins and rarefy our earthly desires and evil passions which are said to count 108. Some temples (Engakuji, Kaizoji, Komyoji, Jokomyoji, Jochiji, Zuisenji, Sugimoto-dera, Tokeiji, Hasedera, Hokaiji, Hongakuji, Manpukuji, Myohoji, etc) allow visitors to ring the bell on first-come, first-served basis, but only one ring per person.

Though Shinto shrines do not carry bells, they also perform year-end rites, and purification rituals starts at 12 midnight. Worshipers rush to shrines to offer the first-of-the-year prayer immediately after the clock hit 12 o'clock. Come year-end, the Japanese exodus begins again just like in Bon Festival and metropolitan Tokyo becomes like a ghost town as residents rush to their hometown.