Kamakura (鎌倉市 Kamakura-shi) is a small coastal town located in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo. Home to an impressive number of temples, shrines and historical monuments, it makes a good day trip destination if you’re interested in Kamakura’s beautiful architectural heritage. By train, it takes about an hour to get from Tokyo Station to Kamakura Station, or about 30 minutes if you’re leaving from Yokohama Station.
The first thing we learnt when we got there was that Kamakura is a surprisingly popular tourist destination. There were heaps of people everywhere! It also seemed like a popular school excursion destination. We saw perhaps six or seven large groups of students from different schools wandering the town. But of course, why wouldn’t this place be anything but popular? Lying amid gorgeous wooded hills and dotted with ancient Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, Kamakura is often called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan.
Kamakura has a great number of historically significant Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, some of them over a thousand years old. Kotoku-in, a Buddhist temple of the Jōdo-shū sect, is famous for its monumental outdoor bronze Buddha statue. Standing at an impressive 18.35 metres tall, it is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. Cast in 1252, the giant Buddha was once housed inside a large temple hall. However, in the 15th century, a tsunami destroyed the temple. The statue managed to survive and has remained outdoors ever since.
Another attraction is the main Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine. Founded by Minamoto Yoritomo (the first shogun of the Kamakura government), it is said to be the most famous shrine in Kamakura. During the New Year holidays, it is reported that more than a million people visit the shrine every year.
Visitors write their wishes to the deity on small wooden plaques (絵馬 ema)
and leave them at the shrine in the hope that their wishes come true.
The little souvenir shops and food stores scattered around Kamakura are also very interesting. For lunch, we stopped at a lovely place that served some amazing udon. I had a beautiful bowl of chilled udon in cold broth that was gorgeously highlighted by the added nattō, sesame seeds and grated nagaimo yam. Delicious. James had a bowl of hot udon in a steaming broth filled with eggy goodness!
Kamakura is a place definitely worth visiting. It is just such a colourful, enjoyable location to spend an entire day at. A soft blanket of ancient, majestic appeal lingers quietly in the air. Enchanting and unpretentious, the rustic little town is very unlike many of the more brazen locations Japan offers.
Other excerpts from Japan:
Rain Over Sawtooth Mountain || Golden Week in Yokohama
The Vivid Colours of Tokyo || Blue Skies Over Picturesque Ueno Park
Nakamise Street and Tokyo Tower || The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace