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Festivals of Japan: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Matsuri in Kamakura

The Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Matsuri is a traditional festival full of ancient rituals and powerful performances.

By 2 min read

The Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Matsuri is a traditional festival full of ancient rituals and powerful performances held in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. The festival is held every year at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, which is Kamakura’s most important shrine and dedicated to Hachiman, the god of war.

The current shrine was ordered to be constructed in 1191 by Minamoto no Yoritomo, the founder and first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan. The festival is also called Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Reitai-sai and is the annual ritual of the shrine which lasts for three days from September 14 to 16.

Festival Highlights

The Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Matsuri features many traditional rituals and events including mikoshi portable shrines, a tea-offering ceremony to the gods and traditional performances ranging from ancient samurai skills to dances of love.

The second day of the festival features several of the main attractions with the reitai-sai (main annual rite) held from 10 am. The highlight of the day is the shizuka no mai dance performed at the shrine. The dance is performed on the ritual dance stage and reproduces the scene of a master dancer named Princess Shizuka, who performed the original dance before her enemies to express her love for samurai warlord Minamoto no Yoshitsune. The Princess is a well-known tragic heroine in Japan with the dance a powerful expression of her love for Yoshitsune.


The highlight and main attraction of the festival is Yabusame, which is a traditional form of Japanese archery done on horseback. It takes place on the last day of the festival on September 16 from 1 pm.

The skill of the archers is breathtaking as they gallop down the track on horseback shooting arrows at three different targets. It is a skill to behold and marvel at and shows you just have impressive samurai warriors would have been back in the feudal age of Japan.

It is said that Minamoto no Yoritomo came up with the event to strengthen the mental power of his samurai warriors. The crowds certainly appreciate the skill of the participants with rounds of applause erupting from the spectators upon a direct hit from the archers.

The Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Matsuri is a symbol of Kamakura and its rich history as a feudal capital of Japan.

Festival Information

Location: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
When: September 14 – 16
Time: Times vary according to the event
Cost: FREE

From Tokyo take the Yokosuka Line from JR Tokyo Station to Kamakura Station. The shrine is only a short 10 minute walk from Kamakura Station.


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