Vacations are short, and doing everything on your itinerary can sometimes be a challenge! Luckily, Kamakura offers plenty for tourists- whether you are interested in ethnic cuisine, visiting temples or simply taking it easy on the beach. The main attraction is the colossal 121-ton Buddha statue at Kotoku-in temple, which is also conveniently close to the shops and restaurants.
Enjoy the scenery from the electric railway trainThere are several routes you can take to get to Kamakura, depending on what you want to see and do. If you’re pressed for time and want to go directly to Kotoku-in temple, you need to take the Enoshima-dentetsu bus or Keikyu bus to the Daibutsu-mae bus stop. The bus stops outside the East exit of Kamakura station from stands no.1 and 6. If you’re planning on going on foot, you can walk from either Kamakura or Hase station. The charming Enoshima Electric railway will take you from Kamakura to Hase station, and walking from there will take around 5-10 minutes. Going by the Electric railway is recommended since the views of the coast are stunning, and even the trains themselves are rather pretty!
Search for hidden treasures in the shopsIf you opted to walk from either station, you’ll have the chance to enjoy a spot of shopping. The variety of goods is astonishing; handmade glass and beautiful pottery, ‘jinbei’ (traditional summer clothing) and oddly enough, even weapons can be bought in Kamakura. If you’re a fan of studio Ghibli movies (like the classic ‘My Neighbor Totoro’), you’ll have to head over to the Komachi-dori shopping street where Kamakura’s Totoro shop can be found. Tucked away near to the entrance, this brilliant little store sells plants in addition to a nice selection of Totoro merchandise. Who wouldn’t want a cat-bus fridge magnet as a souvenir?
See the gigantic ‘Daibutsu’ and the weaponry shopNearer to Kotoku-in, the weaponry shop named ‘Sankaido’ is right next to the Daibutsu-mae bus stop. The shop itself is very old, and used to sell pottery inside the grounds of the Kotoku-in. After it was destroyed in an earthquake, it moved to its present location and now specializes in replica weapons and other souvenirs. You’re probably not planning on brining any ninja stars or a replica of Excalibur home, but it’s exciting to browse!
The Kotoku-in temple itself houses the ‘Kamakura Daibutsu’ or ‘Great Buddha of Kamakura’ statue. Cast in 1252 by an unknown artist, this enormous stately bronze figure draws huge crowds from around the globe thanks to its size and status as a National Treasure. At 11.3 meters tall, it’s almost as large as the Great Buddha at Todai-ji temple in Nara! It’s also one of the few Buddha statues in Japan that sits outdoors, so you can photograph it against a backdrop of snow, fall leaves or cherry blossoms.
Entry to the temple costs 200JPY (approximately 2 USD) for adults, and 150 JPY (approximately 1 USD) for children aged 6-12. Ticket price includes entrance to the statue area and grounds, so it’s fantastic value for money.
Delight your taste buds with exotic foodWhether it’s a snack or meal, Turkish or Japanese food you’re craving, you’ll be able to find plenty of restaurants to suit your tastes. The ‘Kebab Kamakura’ restaurant on the street leading up to the Great Buddha is perfect for a light bite, and the owner is very chatty and multilingual too. A ‘kebab sand’ will cost around 500 JPY (approximately 4 USD) and comes with your choice of sauce. You can also purchase authentic Turkish ice cream which has a very unique texture and flavor.
If you fancy something more local, purple sweet potatoes are a big hit here. Many shops sell purple sweet potato croquettes or ice cream which are well worth trying. Hot fresh croquettes beat store bought ones hands down, and the purple filling is deliciously sweet and squishy!
Take a refreshing stroll on the beachAfter eating, you might like to walk your lunch (or dinner!) off on Yuigahama beach, which is only a 5 minute walk from Hase station. Koshigoe, Yuigahama and Zaimokuza are all popular beaches which tend to attract crowds during July and August. May is the perfect time to visit, as you can enjoy the warm weather and have the beach almost to yourself. Koshigoe is a bit further away from the Kotoku-in area, but it offers good views of Enoshima beach. All three are sandy and also nice places to surf or swim.
Enjoy an exciting mix of culture and shopping in Kamakura
Basically, Kamakura is brilliant for sightseers who have little time, or anyone who would like to pack a lot of activities into one day. Plus, everything is easily accessible on foot if you don’t feel like walking too far. So if you’re hungry and in the mood for culture or a bit of fresh sea air, take a trip to Kamakura!
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