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Tsurugaoka Hachimangu was established by Minamoto Yoriyoshi (源 頼義, 988-1075) in 1063. He built a power base for the Minamoto warrior clan in the east of Japan after the suppression of a rebellion started by clans in the North East of Japan in 1051. He returned to Kamakura, and built a small shrine for the Hachiman kami (the Japanese word for Shinto deities) near the coast to give thanks for success in suppressing the rebellion. The Hachiman kami was regarded as the protector kami of the warrior class.

The current Tsurugaoka Hachimangu owes its origins to Yoriyoshi’s descendant, Minamoto Yoritomo ( 頼朝,  1147-1199), head of the Minamoto clan. Yoritomo came to Kamakura in 1180 to raise the flag of revolt against the Taira clan which had come to dominate Japanese politics in Kyoto especially after 1160. The reason Yoritomo chose Kamakura as his base was because it was here that his great ancestor had successfully put down the 1063 rebellion. He moved the shrine to the present site and built a more magnificent shrine. This new shrine was called Tsurugaoka Wakamiya (    鶴岡若宮    ), which means the new shrine at Tsurugaoka.

This conflict between the Taira and Minamoto clans resulted in victory for the Minamoto clan, and brought to an end the Heian period which had been dominated by the court nobles. In 1192, Yoritomo was appointed shogun which established the Kamakura shogunate(1192-1333). This shifted the centre of Japanese politics from Kyoto to Kamakura and was the first samurai regime in Japanese history. The supremacy of the samurai lasted thereafter until the Tokugawa shogunate collapsed in 1867. Thus, it can be said that Yoritomo laid the foundations for 675 years of samurai rule. He was thereafter respected as an ideal leader, and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu became a religious authority for subsequent shogunates.

Yoritomo developed Kamakura  as his capital city, and set Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in the centre of the city. While Kamakura was the capital city of Japan, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu played an important role not only as a religeous authority where the shogunate held many majestic rituals, but also served as the political centre of the realm.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu was founded on Yoritomo’s faith and respect for his ancestors’ achievements. Yoritomo’s devotional to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu was deemed to be an ideal to which subsequent shoguns and samurai should aspire. Subsequent shoguns and their followers worshipped Tsurugaoka Hachimangu as Yoritomo had done, and built shrines for Hachiman kami throughout Japan.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (   徳川 家康   , 1543-1616), the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1867), also funded repairs to the shrine buildings. He worshiped Tsurugaoka Hachimangu as his family’s tutelary shrine. Successive Tokugawa shoguns dedicated horses and swords, and hosted magnificent rituals at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.

The current main shrine is a typical example of Edo shrine architecture; it was constructed in 1828. The Wakamiya shrine was restored in 1624, and both thrived owing to the lavish support of the Tokugawa shogunate. Both of these buildings are designated as nationally important cultural properties.

Today, Kamakura is famous for its many historical sites and places of beauty. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is still located at the centre of Kamakura, attracting the respect and the faith of so many.


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