Less than an hour by train from the neon and noise of mega city Tokyo lies the awe-inspiring historic little coastal town of Kamakura. Known locally as the Kyoto of the East, Kamakura is a popular day trip from Tokyo and easily reachable using your Japan Rail pass.
How to get from Tokyo to Kamakura:
Take the JR Yokosuka line train which arrives into Kamakura station in about 50 minutes. If you don’t have a JR pass, tickets cost around 940 Yen (about £6.50) one way.
Save this blog to help plan your day trip with our top 10 ideas for things to do in Kamakura.
Top 10 Things To Do in Kamakura, Japan
Visit the Great Buddha
Kamakura’s most recognisable landmark is the Daibutsu, or Great Buddha. 48ft high and weighing over 120 tons, this statue is a survivor – since 1252 it has survived typhoons, earthquakes, and the building that used to surround it was even washed away by a tsunami! But the statue still sits there.
Standing in front of this statue and look up into its calm, beautiful face is a quick way to immediately feel very small in the world. For an additional 20 yen you can even go inside it!
Kotoku-in Temple is Open every day from 8:00 to 17:30 (until 17:00 from October to March), 300 Yen entry.
Wash your money in a cave
About a 20 minute walk from Kamakura station is the intriguing Zeniarai Benzaiten shrine. Enter through a tunnel carved through the cliff face into a beautiful clearing, and at the back beyond the cauldron of smoking incense sticks is a dark cave, where people have been washing money in a sacred spring since 1257. Little wicker baskets are available to hold your coins and notes, and you can use the scoops provided to pour water over them. It is said that if you do this, your money will multiply and come back to you once you’ve spent it! Worth a go…
This shrine is a rare example of Buddhism and Shinto combined – when Buddhism was abolished in the Meiji Restoration, many Shinto shrines had their neighbouring Buddhist buildings pulled down.
Zeniarai Benzaiten shrine is open every day from 8:00 to 16:30, entry is free.
Walk through a bamboo grove
You’ve most likely heard about the beautiful bamboo grove of Arashiyama near Kyoto (and the huge crowds that visit it every day), but did you know that Kamakura has a much more zen equivalent?
Behind the main hall of Hokoku-ji Temple, you can walk along a narrow path amongst towering bamboo to a teahouse. High summer aside, this grove is usually much less busy than Arashiyama, and you can enjoy the serenity of the green stalks above you.
Open 9:00 to 16:00, closed December 29th to January 3rd. Entry is 300 Yen, 600 Yen to include a cup of matcha in the tea house.
See the hydrangea of Hasa Dera
If you’re visiting Kamakura in summer months, seeing the hydrangea of Hasa Dera temple from mid June to early July is an absolute must. Be prepared to queue, these beautiful blooms are extremely popular, so try to visit on a week day if you can!
The hill behind Hasa Dera Temple grows around 40 different kinds of hydrangea, and from the top of the path you can see the ocean.
If you’re not here in summer, the Temple is equally lovely in cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons, but also well worth a visit in its own right, and is only about a 10 minute walk from the Daibutsu. Key highlights include an important 32ft wooden statue of Kannon Bosatsu, a cave shrine dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten, and the Jizo-do hall, with hundreds of small statues dedicated to helping lost babies reach paradise.
Before you leave, visit the Kyozo, a small wooden building with a rotating bookcase containing sacred Buddhist texts. If you turn it once, you will receive the same blessings as of you had read all of the sutras. This is only unlocked on certain days, and so if you can’t turn it on the day you are visiting, you can spin the prayer wheels around the walls instead. Be careful to do this gently – too fast and they rattle very loudly! We got some serious glares when we spun the first one too enthusiastically…
8:00 to 17:30 (until 17:00 from October to February), entry 400 Yen.
There is also a small museum on site which has its own entry fee, an additional 300 Yen.
Visit Kamakura’s most majestic shrine
Magnificent Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, the symbol of Kamakura, has kept watch over the city since 1180 when it was the capital of Japan (is it us or has every ancient city in Japan had a turn at being the capital?). This important Shinto shrine has beautiful grounds and an impressive display of decorative sake barrels. At the top of the steps next to the main shrine is the Kamakura Museum of National Treasures, containing works of art, swords, scrolls and other religious artefacts from the Kamakura area.
5 a.m. to 9 p.m from April to September (6 a.m. to 9 p.m October to March) Entry to the shrine grounds is free, the museum is around 200 Yen
Ride the electric train
The Enoshima electric railway has been running between Kamakura and Fujisawa since 1902. The short scenic journey runs along the coastline and on clear days offers beautiful views of Mt Fuji towering over the bay.
The cute green and cream vintage style trains make 15 stops along a 10km stretch of track, and are a really fun way to explore the area.
We rode from Hase station (the closest stop to the Daibutsu) to Enoshima station (for Enoshima Island) which cost 260 Yen each way. If you’re going to make more than 2 journeys in a day, you can buy a Noriorikun day pass for 650 Yen which works out better value for money. You can use your Suica card, but if you don’t have one then the ticket machine only takes cash, no credit or debit cards.
Paddle in the pacific
Kamakura has a number of sandy beaches, perfect for sunbathing and swimming. We particularly like Katase Nishihama to the right of the causeway to Enoshima Island. It’s sheltered and calm, and on a clear day has amazing views of Mt Fuji.
Other nice beaches are Yuigahama and Zaimokuza, nearer to Kamakura station.
Eat an Octopus Cracker
A Kamakura speciality, you have to seek out Tako Senbei! Strangely beautiful, almost like stained glass or a fossil, these thin sheets of batter have pressed octopus inside. They are on sale in a few places, and particularly up the hill on Enoshima island. Pretty to look at, pretty tasty!
Visit all 3 parts of Enoshima-jinja
Over the causeway on Enoshima Island, a steep paved path winds its way up past three shrines dedicated to three Shinto goddesses. You can also find a statue of the sea goddess Benzaiten, the patron of Enoshima, inside a beautiful octagonal building (150 Yen entry fee).
And when you reach the top of the island you can…
Watch the sunset over Mt Fuji
What better way to finish your day in Kamakura than by watching the sky turn fiery pink over Mt Fuji? Once you walk past all 3 shrines and find yourself in front of the Sea Candle observation tower, head left up some steps to a wooden platform and watch the swooping black hawks silhouetted against the night sky colours.
Enjoy your visit to Kamakura! If you have any favourite spots you’d like to recommend, let us know below!
About The Authors:
Emma and David are a husband and wife travel blogging team from TeamThomasTravels. Having in lived in London for years, they have recently moved to leafy Cambridgeshire which now serves as base camp for their adventures. With 6 continents and close to 50 countries between them, recent trips include Canada, Iceland and Japan. They enjoy cooking, camping and hiking, and hope to climb Kilimanjaro in the not too distant future.