Tokyo is a huge city with plenty to offer visitors, but if you want to take a break from Japan’s capital, why not visit Kamakura? The coastal town of Kamakura used to be the center of power and influence in ancient Japan. Fast forward to modern times, the city has turned into a prime tourist destination, whether as a day trip from Tokyo or a place to stay a couple of days in. Kamakura has a rich history as exemplified by the many monuments, shrines and temples you’ll find in it. If you’re planning to include Kamakura in your itinerary, here are must-visit places.
This gigantic bronze statue of Buddha is one of the main reasons tourists make their way to Kamakura. It is just over 11-meter high and is one of the biggest Buddha statues in Japan. It has a history that dates back to 1252. There used to be a temple hall that housed Daibutsu; however, natural calamities that took place over the centuries destroyed the hall.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
This shrine is the most important in the city. Minamoto Yoriyoshi founded it back in the early 1060s to honor Hachiman. The walk to the shrine is scenic as it cuts through the city, passes through torii gates, and if you visit during autumn, you’ll see the beautiful and colorful trees. It is a popular place to visit for hatsumoude; it’s one of the shrines that people first visit at the start of the year.
This Jodo sect temple gained fame because of the Kannon statue you’ll find in it. The statue of the goddess of mercy is one of the largest wooden sculptures in the country. Other than the statue, the temple itself is beautiful with its simple yet fetching design. You’ll also see various Buddhist statues and treasures within the temple complex. The trail that leads to the temple is beautiful, especially during autumn and when the hydrangea flowers are in full bloom (June-July).
If you love temples, you’ll love Kamakura’s old-world charm. The Hokokuji Temple may be small, but those who reach it are rewarded with a serene atmosphere and fetching surroundings. Worshippers make their way to Hokokuji to pray to Shaka Nyorai. However, the temple became famous because of its bamboo grove. You’ll see more than 2000 bamboo stalks (try counting them) inside.
Zeniarai Benten Shrine
If you want to get lucky, you might want to drop by this shrine while in Kamakura. Zeniarai translates into “washing of coins.” Locals make the journey to this destination to wash their money in its spring, hoping the amount will double. The shrine combines the design aesthetics of both Shintoism and Buddhism. Locals also dedicated the shrine to Benten, the Buddhist goddess. Soak in the fresh air and enjoy the hiking trail en route to this attraction.
Kamakura has five great Zen Temples, Engakuji is one of them. Hojo Tokimune established this temple back in the early half of the 1280s. Engakuji is home to national treasures such as Buddha’s tooth inside the Shariden and the ogane (a large bell). Other notable structures during your visit are the Butsuden, which contains a Shaka Buddha statue, and the more than a century old Sanmon gate.
Kenchoji is also one of the great Zen temples found in Kamakura. It dates back to the 1250s, making it the oldest Zen temple in town. This complex has other sub-temples and buildings within its confines. Notable structures within the complex are the Buddha Hall, the temple bell, Sanmon Gate, Hansobo (shrine) and the main hall. The garden is a must-visit, especially during autumn. There is also an observation deck that provides you with a view of Mt. Fuji during clear days. Go up higher to another deck to get overlooking views of the city.
After visiting the temples and shrines and/or hiking the trails, hang out at Komachi Street. This street leads all the way to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. There are several cafes, stores, and restaurants where you can eat, shop and drink after a day of exploring the city. Grab a snack to satisfy your hunger pangs or fill your stomach before a hike.
This island is a popular destination after seeing the temples and shrines. You have the option to take the train or just cross the bridge to Enoshima. The island has a number of attractions, shops, restaurants and food stalls for an enjoyable trip. Some places of interest include the Enoshima Shrine, the Samuel Cocking Garden, Enoshima Daishi, Iwaya Caves, and others.