What to do and see in Kamakura

by Paul Goodchild


The 'Daibutsu'

has long been regarded as a great 1-day trip out of Tokyo.  It’s typically one of the first places ex-pat residents will visit on their Japanese temple/shrine trail, and would be a noticeable omission from any guide book.  So why is this the case?  Is it worth heading out there?

Kamakura city lies about 50km south of Tokyo in Kanagawa Prefecture (神奈川県).  It is on the coast and surrounded on all sides by mountains.  There’s some important history surrounding Kamakura, including most significantly that it was the political capital of Japan from the 12th century during the Kamakura period.  You can check out much more about the history and more at Wiki.

Temples.  Lots of Temples.

If you like visiting Buddhist temples or Shinto Shrines you’re going to love Kamakura.  One in particular dates back over 1200 years and there are 23 historic sites proposed for inclusion in Unesco’s World Heritage Sites list.

Of particular noteworthy mention is the iconic ‘Great Buddha’ – an outdoor, bronze statue of Amida Buddha – otherwise known as the ‘Daibutsu’ (大仏).

You can pick up guides and maps at the main train station so finding your way around shouldn’t been difficult.


If hunting down temples/shrines is not your idea of fun, then there’s also several hiking trails through the surrounding countryside as well as many other places that can be reached by bicycle.  Bicycles are a great way to get around the city since while you can walk most places, cycling will afford you a much more expansive view of surrounding countryside if you want it.

Bicycles can be hired from several places in the area (typically at the train stations).

3 hiking trails you can follow are:

  • a trail from Jōchiji Temple (浄智寺) in Kitakamakura (北鎌倉) leads to the Great Buddha over the western hills. 60~90 minutes
  • a trail from Kenchōji Temple (建長寺) in Kitakamakura leads to both Kakuonji and Zuisenji over the northern hills. 60~120 minutes (depending on whether you goto Kakuonji or Zuisenji)
  • a trail connects Myohonji Temple (妙本寺), Yagumo Shrine, and Harakiri Yagura, over the eastern hills.

Getting there and around

Kamakura is very well connected.  You can take either

  • the JR Yokosuka line (横須賀線) Shinagawa/Tokyo;
  • or the JR Saikyō line (埼京線) from Ebisu/Osaki.

The journey lasts no longer than 50 minutes and costs about 780 yen at the time of writing.  That’s quite fast and at a great price

From Kamakura station, there is the local monorail called the Enoden line (江ノ島電鉄 – Enoshima-Dentetsu) connecting to Fujisawa (藤沢) in the west.  Along the way are several points of interest including the Diabutsu (at Hase station), and also Enoshima island (Enoshima station).

An alternative route to Kamakura is to use the Odakyu railway – this leaves from Shinjuku station (in Tokyo) and brings you to Fujisawa, allowing you to connect then to the Enoden railway.  An option here is the ‘Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass’ at 1430 yen (at the time of writing), that will also give you unlimited use of the Enoden line for the day.  Depending on how much you intend to travel around the area by train in a single day, this may or may not save you money.

As you can see there are many attraction that would bring you to Kamakura, and personally I think it is a great 1-day/weekeend trip out of the city for a breath of fresh air and activity.

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