The city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture is an excellent place for sightseeing in Japan. It was at one point the capital of Japan and the seat of the Kamakura Shogunate. As a result, this city has a lot of historical sights, old-world charm, and a great modern cafe scene without the crowds of Kyoto. If you’re planning a trip to Japan I highly recommend setting aside at least one day for sightseeing in the Kamakura area.
As an added bonus, Kamakura is close to the coast so you can enjoy the beach scene there, or head to nearby surfer town, Shonan. I just went for two days so I will introduce you to some of my recommendations.
The Easiest Way to Get to Kamakura from Tokyo
Japanese trains, you gotta love them! Kamakura is really easy to access from Tokyo and in many cases you can get there in around an hour. This makes it eligible for a nice Tokyo day trip.
From Tokyo Station: Taking the JR Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station is the easiest and fastest way to get directly to Kamakura Station. The trip takes under 1 hour and costs 940 yen one way.
From Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, and Shibuya: You can take the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line directly to Kamakura station as long as it is bound for Zushi, Yokosuka, or Kurihama. So wait for a train which has one of those stations listed as their final destination or you will have to transfer trains.
Kamakura Sightseeing: Hydrangeas
In June Kamakura is all about the hydrangeas, called Ajisai in Japanese. These fluffy, colorful flowers bloom very well in this regions climate and really complement the green landscapes and beautiful temples. I took the Enoden Line to Hase Station and went to Hasedera temple to see them and was just in awe of how many there were.
Hasedera Temple was established all the way back in 736 to enshrine one of the largest wooden statues in Japan. This is the eleven-headed Kannon, who is the Buddhist goddess of mercy. This buddhist temple is located on beautiful sprawling grounds, and features a long climb to the top.
The Hydrangea Path makes this temple a prime sightseeing destination in June. You climb many stairs surrounded by hydrangeas and looking down over the temple grounds, the city of Kamakura, and even the ocean. The top of this path is considered one of the best views in Kamakura, so don’t miss it.
There is also a cave complex on the grounds called the Benten-kutsu cave which you can explore. It’s not too tight inside and you can move around the cave with relative ease, but you will have to duck at times. Admire the statues carved into the cave walls and lit by candlelight and then leave an offering of a small statue of Benzaiten (the goddess of water, read more about her here) on your way out.
You’ve likely worked up and appetite with all the walking here so grab a vegetarian steamed bun and a classic Japanese soda (Ramune) and enjoy the atmosphere before you head out.
Due to Covid-19 the temple was doing limited tickets when I went. This was to avoid large crowds on the grounds, which is understandable.
While you are in Hase also go check out the Kamakura Daibutsu, or Giant Buddha. They have recently reopened after closing during the worst of the pandemic, but people are not allowed inside the structure just yet.
Kamakura’s Great Restaurants and Cafes
I feel like Kamakura’s cafes are all competing with each other to see who can be more quaint, quirky, or picturesque. The Studio Ghibli vibe is strong in this city. But it’s not all about presentation, restaurants here really seem to value the quality of the ingredients and the importance of a unique flavor balance. I’m a foodie, I can eat all day, so yeah I totally did a lot of eating while I was here!
Unique Ramen from the Michelin Guide
I love a blend of the traditional and the new, and that’s what Ginza – Kagari did with ramen. They kept the classic Ramen goodness but experimented with additional flavors like truffle oil. It was really delicious and beautifully presented.
Delicious Soba in a Traditional Atmosphere
Kamakura Matsubaraan is located in a modernized Japanese building near Yuigahama Beach. You can get the traditional tatami experience inside or enjoy the architecture of this beautiful wooden building from their wooden terrace. They had traditional soba, or buckwheat noodles, shrimp and vegetable tempura, and an awesome sake sampler. If you’re looking for great atmosphere and great food, this is the place.
Chocolate Heaven at the Chocolate Bank
This place cares about chocolate, and it is located in an actual old bank, complete with a vault. The inside is really stylish and great for taking pictures, but its the quality of their desserts that won me over. We had an extremely rich chocolate soft-serve ice cream, and a cacao shot – chocolate and expresso goodness.
Anime Vibes on the Enoden Line
Actually oddly enough, one of the best parts of visiting Kamakura is enjoying the old train line, the Enoden Line. This railway traces its history all the way back to 1902, and some trains with wooden floors are still in operation (though in terms of tech – they have been updated). It’s a surreal experience to ride this tiny train along the beach, lush green pathways, and on the street.
Anime and Manga fans will recognize this picturesque train from a number of works. It is featured most notably in the anime Slam Dunk. Can you find the train crossing and high school from the opening? It’s a popular photo spot.
Komachi Dori and Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine
Luckily for us visitors, Kamakura’s most important shrine is just a short walk from Kamakura Station. If you’re a fan of samurai this is a must-see place for you as it is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of samurai. There are a lot of steps to get to the top, but it is well-worth the journey.
I hope you get a chance to visit Kamakura sometime! If you are looking for a hotel I recently reviewed the Hotel Metropolitan Kamakura here.