Kamakura Matsubara-an is one of the more highly regarded restaurants in Kamakura. They also have a sister restaurant in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo.
The restaurant specializes in soba noodles, which are handmade daily. They are also known for their duck preparations as well dashimaki tamago.
The restaurant sits in a residential neighborhood and is on the smaller side. Upon entering the restaurant grounds, there is a small Zen garden surrounded by outdoor tables. As I did not sit in, or get a very good look at the interior, I cannot provide any comments. It does appear to be on the smaller side however.
At lunch, there are set menus, in addition to ordering from the menu.
I chose the Matsubara course, as I wanted to try as many dishes as possible.
The appetizer course consisted of sashimi, vegetables, fried eggplant, fried soba, duck, tofu and edamame, and a fried rice cake.
The appetizers were beautifully and simply presented. The fried rice cake reminded me of savory mochi, as the exterior was nice and crisp, while the interior was nice and chewy. Instead of dipping it into kinako and sugar, this was sitting in a mild fish and shoyu sauce. The tofu was very soft and tender with a strong yet subtle soybean flavor. The duck breast was nicely medium rare with a slightly gamey flavor. The fried soba skin was very crisp with a slightly nutty flavor with a slightly salty miso paste. The eggplant was nice fried and not greasy. It had a nice strong eggplant flavor. The sashimi was marinated and sat atop a couple of potato slices and paired with a tomato and snap pea. Lastly, there was fried eel sitting atop a small salad. The eel had a crisp skin, and was rather mild in flavor.
The next course was thickly sliced duck. The duck had plenty of seasoning, and reminded me of roasted port when first presented. The duck was slightly overcooked and a bit on the dry side. The seasoning added a punch of flavor while the lemon added brightness and acidity.
The next course was the soba course. I chose the kake soba which is served in a hot soup. The soba noodles had a nice nuttiness and chew.
The soba was served with shaved green onion, freshly grated wasabi, and soy and mirin base. The soup was served in a separate kettle, which is flavored with bonito.
The next course was the tempura course, which consisted of shiso leaves, octopus, fish, squid, and shrimp. I paid the small upchare for the seafood tempura.
Unlike the United States which serves tempura with a soy based sauce, tempura is paired with coarse salt in Japan.
Dessert consisted of a jelly made out of agar and was topped with azuki beans in a slightly sweet syrup.
Service was very good and attentive, as you would expect in Japan. The staff spoke decent English, much better than my Japanese, LOL.
Little things have been thought of as well, such as blankets at each seat to cover your legs in case you get cold. Little baskets are provided to store your purse or belongings.
Dining outside overlooking the Zen garden also made it a more peaceful and tranquil experience. I would highly recommend this restaurant when in Kamakura.
The Kotoku-in Temple in Kamakura is home to “The Great Buddha”, which stands over 40 feet tall. The Buddha is hollow inside, and you can tour the inside for about 20 cents.
The Great Buddha was originally made of wood, and was completed in 1243. A storm damaged the Buddha and the hall in 1248. The wooden Buddha was then replaced with a bronze statue that was completed in 1252. The hall housing the statue was damaged or destroyed on several other occasions, the last being in during a tsunami in 1948.
Since that time, The Great Buddha has been sitting outdoors.
There is a small garden area in front of the temple, which is surrounded by residences, as well as the main street with shops and restaurants.
There are two figures “guarding” the entrance to the temple.
Past the two figures, the familiar sight of the chozuya welcomes you.
There is a small tree garden located to the left, in which most of the trees were donated by the former Thai king.
The Great Buddha sits in a large courtyard, where he sits peacefully in a zen-like state. The statue is both imposing and calming at the same time.
As previously mentioned, you can see the indoors of the Buddha by paying about 20 cents. There has been lots of graffiti and thefts inside of the Buddha over the years. The interior of the statue is currently undergoing restorations.
The walls of the courtyard holds various pictures and tells the history of Kotoku-in Temple, as well as the history of the Buddha. The things that stood out most, was a visit by the Dalai Lama, and Buddha’s slippers.
Past the rear courtyard wall is a small area which holds a small temple and garden.
Any trip to Kamakura is almost incomplete without coming to Kotoku-in Temple and The Great Buddha.
The Zeniarai Benten Ugafuku Shrine is a very popular shrine in Kamakura for one special reason. It is believed that if you wash your money in the shrines water, your money will double.
After leaving the Starbucks Kamakura Onarimachi, I turned right and followed the signs. Unfortunately, either the signs are very wrong or I took a very circuitous route in getting to the shrine despite following the signs. Instead of being 800 meters away, I probably walked over a mile, which is all uphill.
There are no signs in English announcing the shrine. Instead, look for this large stone structure which sits to the left of the entrance tunnel to the shrine.
Next to the large stone, sits the opening to a short tunnel that will lead you to the shrines grounds.
Once you exit the tunnel, the chozuya is located to the right. This is where you purify yourself before entering the by cleaning your hands and mouth, along with the ladle.
Next are the torii, or the shrines gates.
There is a small shrine located to the right.
Further to the right is another shrine, along with a small waterfall.
There is a small open courtyard, in which ema, little wooden plaques where you write down your wishes, hang.
The main attraction Zeniarai Benten Ugafuku Shrine are the magical waters to wash your money.
This waters are located in a small cave-like structure, which is actually fairly large.
Before entering the cave you can rent a basket for ¥100.
I’m not sure if your money will double after washing it at Zeniarai Benten Ugafuku Shrine, but you will certainly get a good workout.