Kamakura

Great Buddha of Kotokuin

Kamakura (鎌倉市) is a small city in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, Japan.

Understand

Kamakura is a nice seaside town with a relaxed atmosphere. Hard to believe it was the political capital of Japan during the Kamakura shogunate, from 1185 to 1333. It is a very popular destination among Tokyoites for its beaches, lively center and many temples. It is the perfect place to take a day off from Tokyo's stress.

Get in

Kamakura is a very popular day trip from Tokyo for locals and tourists alike, and there are plenty of transportation options.

By plane

From Narita Airport, the fastest and most expensive way to reach Kamakura is to take the Narita Express in the direction of Yokohama or Ofuna, and then change to the JR Yokosuka line for the run to Kamakura. This takes approximately 2 hours and costs ¥4500, although for foreigners the one-way cost can be brought down to ¥1500 by purchasing a N'EX Tokyo Direct Ticket (From March 2015 this ticket will only be sold in a round-trip version for ¥4000). It may be more convenient to change to the Yokosuka Line at intermediate stations, where it is as simple as a same-platform or cross-platform transfer: If the Narita Express terminates at Yokohama, change at Musashi-Kosugi; if it terminates at Ofuna, change at Totsuka.

Regular JR commuter trains depart Narita Airport once per hour: some trains offer one-seat rides to Kamakura station, or else change at wherever the train terminates to the next train bound for Zushi, Yokosuka or Kurihama (About 2 1/2 hours, ¥2210). These trains offer a ¥950 Green Car seating upgrade; Green cars feature more comfortable seats and a drink and snack service.

From Haneda Airport, take any Keikyu Line Airport Express (エアポート急行) train bound for Shin-Zushi or Kanazawa-Bunko, and change at Yokohama station for the JR Yokosuka line (One hour, ¥800).

If you plan on staying at a Ryokan it may be a good idea, unless your plane lands in the morning, to spend your first evening in Tokyo or Yokohama, or else you might miss out on (and be charged for) dinner at the ryokan, or worse, you may be locked out of (and be charged for) your room at the ryokan's curfew time, if there is one. If you plan to stay at a budget accommodation, check to see whether or not it has a curfew time.

By train

The fastest way to Kamakura Station is by JR Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station (one hour, ¥920) or Yokohama (25 minutes, ¥330). The JR Kamakura-Enoshima Pass gets you a round trip in this area with unlimited use of JR, Enoden and Shonan Monorail lines. You can buy the ticket at Ofuna, Fujisawa, Kamakura or Kita-Kamakura Station.

An alternative is to take the private Odakyu line from Shinjuku to Fujisawa, then change onto the rattling old Enoden (江ノ電) half-train/half-streetcar line that terminates in Kamakura. The longer (about 90-minute) travel time is compensated for by views of Enoshima island and the Shonan coast. The Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass will get you a roundtrip from Shinjuku (or other Odakyu, Seibu and Sotetsu stations) and unlimited use of the Enoden line for one day.

Get around

Kamakura is just a little too big to cover on foot, but a network of buses radiates out from the train station. Kotokuin and Hasedera can also be reached by taking the Enoden line three stops out to Hase station. Another option is to rent a bicycle for your tour.

Nevertheless, for the energetic ones, there is a nice hike starting from Jōchiiji temple and ending near the Kōtokuin. You will walk, with some climbing, through forest. The hike also passes through Zeniarai Benten Shrine, if you are curious about the money washing ceremony. The hike takes about 3 hours, if you also stop and visit the temples along the way. Even in summer, the shade on the path manages to keep the temperature bearable. If you are on a day-trip, doing the hike limits a bit the chances of visiting some of the less reachable temples. An easy way to get to Jōchiiji temple is to take the JR Line train from Kamakura station to Kitakamakura Station where the temple can be found by exiting the station, turning left and walking 500m up the road. The walk starts to the left of the temple and you are not required to pay the 200yen entrance fee to the temple to start the hike.

By bike

Bicycles can be rented from several locations, though rates are expensive.

See

Kamakura's sights are scattered around the city. Most visitors make a beeline for the Great Buddha and stop off at Hase Kannon on the way; these sights can be very crowded on weekends and holidays.

Central Kamakura

Tsurugaoka Hachimangū Shrine

Western Kamakura (Hase)

The following sights are in western Kamakura, mostly near the Enoden Hase station.

North Kamakura

The artist Isamu Noguchi lived and created ceramics in Kita (North) Kamakura in 1952.

East Kamakura

The temples of eastern Kamakura lie off the beaten tourist track and are for that very reason worth a visit. While you can reach these on foot, it's probably wiser to take a bus as there's still a fair bit of climbing to do just to get around the temples.

Nearby

Near Taya Cavern, there are some other attractions to see.

Do

Hiking

Kamakura has several hiking trails that can provide relief from the crowds at the more popular shrines and temples. The Daibutsu hiking course starts a few hundred meters down the road from Kōtokuin. The trail has several offshoots that lead to various small shrines and temples. If it has rained recently, the trail could be muddy and there are several steep sections.

From Tokyo, an option is to get off the train at Kita-Kamakura and hike down to the city center or to the Great Buddha via the hills.

Beaches

An exceptionally clear view of Mount Fuji from Shichirigihama Beach

Kamakura is not just a historical city which has a lot of temples, shrines, and other historical buildings there are also some popular beaches in Kamakura. You can feel the atmosphere of the Shonan Coast in the bright sunshine and have a good time there, especially in summer.

Buy

Kamakura is famous for a biscuit called Hatosabure (鳩サブレー), a biscuit shaped like a pigeon. Sold next to Kamakura station and a very popular omiyage (souvenir) among the Japanese.

Alternatively, combine good taste with bad taste by purchasing a pack of Giant Buddha shaped pastries stuffed with red bean paste, sold at the souvenir stands in and near Kotokuin.

Eat

Takoyaki at a festival in the Tsurugaoka Hachimangū Shrine

There are a large number of places to eat in the vicinity of the train station. For a snack, try the local specialty, purple potato soft ice cream (murasaki-imo sofuto), which tastes much better than it sounds (or looks). It is made from the purple sweet potato found throughout Japan.

In Komachi street, there is a rice cracker (senbei) shop where you can toast your own senbei. One cracker costs about ¥200.

Drink

During the summer months, many temporary bars are set up on the beach due south from the train station, some of them feature live bands and DJ's and it's generally a very good atmosphere. And don't miss the last train home if you are staying in Tokyo, last minute accommodation late in the evening is simply not an option during the busy summer months.

Sleep

Most visitors daytrip from Tokyo, but there is a pretty good selection of accommodation if you want to spend the night.

Connect

Pick up a useful map of the temples and suggested walking routes from Kamakura station's tourist information office before you head out.

Go next

Enjoy the seaside view from the old Enoden train
Routes through Kamakura

Shizuoka Fujisawa  W  E  Yokohama Tokyo


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, January 31, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.