10 Must-see Spots in Kamakura Once You Are in Town!
Located in Kanagawa Prefecture southwest of Tokyo, Kamakura is a popular destination for tourists, both Japanese and those from overseas, and deservedly so. The city was the capital of Japan (as the seat of Japan’s first military government, the Kamakura Bakufu) from 1192–1333, and the ancient city’s prominence in Japanese history has brought with it many dozens of sights with historical and cultural importance. There is in fact so much to do in Kamakura that visitors could spend many days here without ever getting bored.
Although it barely scratches the surface, here are a few of the must-see spots in Kamakura.
Kotoku-in (Kamakura Daibutsu Temple)
Photo by mexican 2000 on Flickr
No visit to Kamakura would be complete without seeing the Great Buddha statue at Kotoku-in Temple. Called Daibutsu in Japanese, the Great Buddha statue here is bronze, and was originally housed in a worship hall, but after numerous natural disasters damaged or destroyed the building, the statue has stood uncovered since the 15th century.
Photo by Stéphane D on Flickr
The interior of the Daibutsu statue is called “Tainai” (literally, ‘interior of the womb’), and can be entered for a small additional fee. The entrance passage and stairway is very narrow, so mind your step and be considerate of other visitors!
Photo by bethom33 on Flickr
Hase-dera is a Buddhist temple built probably during the Kamakura Period (1192–1333), and contains a huge wooden statue of Kannon. It is also a famous spot for viewing hydrangea flowers in June and July. There is an observation trail above the temple site, with over 40 hydrangea varieties and a total of over 2500 flowers.
Photo by Travis on Flickr
Photo by Kainoki Kaede on Flickr
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Photo: Bill Hails on Flickr
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is located about a 5-minute walk from Kamakura Station, on the main street of Kamakura. This is one of the most iconic landmarks of Kamakura, and many visitors pay their respects at this shrine.
Photo by Arata Takami on Flickr
There are close to 300 cherry trees on the approach to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, creating an absolutely gorgeous landscape in the spring, usually late-March to early-April. The cherry blossoms around Genpei Pond, within the grounds of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, are impressive.
Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine
Photo by ume-y on Flickr
The sacred water from this temple is known as the zeniarai mizu, literally “water to wash coins,” and is said to be one of the five best spring waters in Kamakura. According to one belief, if you wash your money with this water, your money will multiply. People wash a 10-yen coin and a 5-yen which come to fifteen yen yen) which means the wish for forming a lot of good relationships, and keeping those two coins in your wallet is believed to bring good fortune.
Hokokuji Temple Bamboo Grove
Photo by Reginald Pentinio on Flickr
The atmospheric bamboo grove at Hokokuji Temple gives it the nickname “Bamboo Temple (take-dera).” As the rays of the sun enter the grove, visitors may feel as if they are experiencing another world.
Onsen means “hot spring,” and Inamuragasaki Onsen is a great destination for anyone wishing to relax their muscles and take a break from sightseeing. The hot spring is located just a 3-minute walk from Inamuragasaki Station on the Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden) line, so it is a perfect little destination to be added to your Kamakura tour itinerary. The sparkling hydrogen carbonate spring is purported to contribute to beautiful skin.
Enkaku-ji Temple Autumn Leaves
Photo by heniha on Flickr
Kamakura is also famous as one of the most beautiful autumn-leaf viewing (kōyō) spots. Enkaku-ji Temple, a temple of significant size, offers numerous good spots to see the brilliant fall colors, from the temple gate all the way to the back of the temple.
The best time for autumn-leaf viewing is from the mid-November to the beginning of December.
Where to Eat in Kamakura
Bills Shichirigahama is situated on the side of national route 134, just about a 5-minute walk from the Shichirigahama Station on the Enoden Line. Bills Shichirigahama’s flagship establishment is in Sydney, Australia, and is famous for its breakfast menu, praised as ‘the world’s best.’ This is their first overseas branch and is very popular.
The ricotta pancake cooked with fluffy merengue is a must-try.
Photo by Gino Mempin on Flickr
Itsuki Garden is a popular cafe just about a 15-minute walk away from Kamakura Station. The cafe is situated in the midst of the trees, and to some, its terraced design amid the greenery is reminiscent of something out of Hayao Miyazaki’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
In fine weather you can enjoy views of Mt. Fuji and the Great Buddha of Kamakura from the cafe.
Kamakurayama is a restaurant specializing in roast beef, and has a long history. The restaurant was renovated from the former villa of an old family, and diners can enjoy the seasonal flowers of the garden while savoring their roast beef made from select premium wagyu.