Kamakura in mid-November is no doubt an autumn wonderland, with beautiful colored leaves rustling by the ancient temples. I’m sure the moment you set foot in Kamakura you would be tempted to take at least one square-fit picture for your Instagram account (or just for yourself).
Imagine people in kimonos being part of the landscape. That probably marks another photogenic picture for any of your SNS accounts. Now, imagine YOURSELF in a kimono at that place. You will probably end up taking 10 photos, posting at least three pictures on Instagram and the rest on Facebook, attempting to not only emphasize the beautiful landscape, but also (subtly) yourself as well. That was what my friends and I did a week ago, and today I am here to present to you how that could happen, and where to go.
I was able to have this spectacular experience thanks to my friend, who one day, found a small rental Kimono shop called “Ensemble” on Instagram. Their Instagram account was flourished with beautifully patterned kimonos all that were inspired by the Taisho Period (early 20th century) fashion, in other words you could sense a mix of Japanese and Western culture.
While there are dozens of shops with similar services, we felt obliged to call “Ensemble” not only for their gorgeous kimonos, but also for their prices as well: rental services range from ¥4300, including a free hair styling service. I bet this is the only shop where you could rent beret hats to match your selected kimono (this made us feel extra fancy and different). So, that was how my friends and I decided to make “Kamakura in Kimono” happen.
We met up at Kamakura Station at 10:45, and went straight to “Ensemble” for our 11:00 appointment (it's only 3 minutes away from the east exit). It took approximately an hour and a half to decide, change, and have our hair done. The people in charge of the shop were absolutely fantastic, with a great sense of humor. More than being inside a shop, we felt welcomed to someone’s house, with constant chatting and laugher.
With a heartwarming “Itterasshai (いってらっしゃい)” greeting from the storekeepers, we started down the streets of Kamakura fully clothed in kimono. While we were walking, we were greeted by tourists, local residents, and elementary school students who were on a field trip. Sometimes we were even met with a mini photo session. Yes we felt very special and famous that day.
Our short trip was formed by mainly two places. First was down Komachi Do-ri (小町通り). Because it took quite a while to get squeezed into the kimonos, we were a bit hungry and this area was the perfect place to grab some street food. Here, we bought steamed meat puffs with beef inside, rice crackers that were made right in front of us, and a few other things I cannot remember. Fortunately, we had an awesome sweater-weather day, enabling us to enjoy a cold bottle of local Kamakura Beer in the afternoon as well.
Our second (and what ended up being our last) destination was in Kita Kamakura, just a station next to where we were. Riding the local train in a kimono was quite awkward but the trains and the station were sophisticated enough to camouflage us. Unlike the underground Tokyo subways, trains here were very antique, with only one ticketing gate that barely had a PASMO machine.
The moment we exited the single gate, bright yellow and red trees surrounded our ways to the virtuous entrance of our destination, “Enkaku-ji (円覚寺).”
Unlike the most famous Tsuruoka Hachimangu (鶴岡八幡宮) or where the Kamakura Daibutsu (鎌倉大仏) is located, Enkaku-ji was not so crowded. It seemed to be a more quiet and ethical place known amongst a few tourists. Indeed, the same friend who found “Ensemble” explained to us that this place was one of the most prestigious temples of Kamakura, yet only known to locals.
Entrance to Enkakuji
We felt quite astonished by the entrance and the stairs that led us there. But what was more outstanding was its exquisite Japanese gardens that made all of us just open our jaws and keep peace for a while.
Not only were these gardens there to see only behind the fences, we were also able to gaze at these gardens from luxurious Japanese traditional houses as well. Yes, of course these houses had Bonsai trees, ponds with huge carps, and those tiny stone paths. In other words, it was the perfect ideal Japanese house anyone could dream of.
Originally, we planned to go to other places, such as Houkoku-ji (報国寺) where the bamboo forests are famous. But when we looked at the time after leaving Enkaku-ji, we were surprised to find it was already near 16:30. Not only had the other temples closed, we were actually exhausted walking in our tight kimonos. So, we ended up returning to Kamakura, walking again to Komachi Do-ri, to grab a little bit of street food, and came back to “Ensemble,” shouting “TADAIMA (ただいま)!”
That day, on the train back to Tokyo, not only were my friends and I all concentrating so hard on which pictures to post on our Instagram accounts, but also we were touched by the amazing experience we had apart from our busy city lives. From the generous storekeepers of “Ensemble” and the heartwarming greetings we received throughout our short trip, to the breathtaking scenery, everything was just flawless.
Although autumn is almost over and winter is about to start, strolling the streets of Kamakura in kimono is an absolute choice, not only to decorate your Instagram account with pictures, but also to perhaps remind you how beautiful Japan is both for its landscape and its people.