The historical town of Kamakura in Kanagawa prefecture is a popular touristic spot and a candidate for World Heritage. When visiting Kamakura many people choose to explore the town starting from the central Kamakura station along the main road leading to Tsuruoka Hachimangu shrine, or taking the Enoden line in the direction of Enoshima. But just one station away, around Kita-Kamakura where the five great temples and Meigetsuin shrine are located, there is a less popular area that preserves the atmosphere of the old capital. I will now introduce several shopping and gourmet spots around Kita-Kamakura station that one should definitely visit.
Ishikawa Café sells home-roasted coffee beans
There are many famous temples around Kita-Kamakura. One of them is Meigetsuin, known as the “Hydrangea temple” because many people visit it during the hydrangea season to see the flowers in its gardens. If you continue further along the same street where Meigetsuin is, you will find Ishikawa Café – a place that sells home-roasted coffee beans. This place is stylish both from outside and inside, where the coffee fragrance fills the air. It is actually a renovated old Japanese house. Inside you can see and buy a selection of fresh coffee beans from all of the world’s special brands. Even if you don’t know much about coffee, you can ask for something rich or just for a recommended brand. There is even one brand called Kitakama named after Kita-Kamakura. A great place to buy a gift from this region. There are also original goods one sale, such as a container for the coffee beans (600 JPY without tax). Of course, you can also enjoy your coffee here. Take-out is fine too.
Ishikawa Café 15-minutes’ walk from JR Kita-Kamakura station Open: 11:00~18:00 (until 17:00 between November and February) Closed: Thursday, Friday
“Mitsuizumi no Oinari-san” for lunch during your stroll
One place to eat during your light walk is “Mitsuizumi no Oinari-san”, located just outside the gates of JR Kita-Kamakura station. The menu consists only of “inari-sushi” (rice in a fried tofu pouch) and “inari-sushi rolled with seaweed” (650 JPY each). Only take-out is available as you cannot eat in the shop. The inari-sushi here is a bit longer and thinner than usual, but cut in the middle so that it is easy to eat. Chopsticks are part of the service so there is no worry about eating with hands. The freshly made inari-sushi is ideal for your walk around Kamakura. Due to its high popularity, in weekends and during the touristic season everything gets sold out quickly. Those who want to eat should better visit the shop early.
Mitsuizumi Right at JR Kita-Kamakura station Open: 10:00~16:00 (closed after sold out) Closed: Tuesday
Minka Café with its extraordinary old-house atmosphere
Those who wish to experience the atmosphere of fancy old-house cafés can have lunch at the almost hidden Minka Café. Take the road to Tokeiji and Jochiji temples from the station and turn right midway to reach an old Japanese house surrounded by plants. Opened in 2009, Minka Café truly represents the classy spirit of Kita-Kamakura. The interior is designed with a natural taste, and all kind of people – from youngsters to elderly ladies – spend there a pleasant time. There are various delicious things to taste like the vegetable bento for lunch (1200 JPY) or the ice coffee (600 JPY).
Minka Café 4-minutes’ walk from JR Kita-Kamakura station Open: 11:30~17:30 Closed: Thursday, Friday
Take a rest at Engakuji temple’s Bentendo Teahouse
The next recommended spot is a tea house inside a temple’s grounds. Engakuji is one of Kamakura’s five great temples, located just beside JR Kita-Kamakura station. With its national treasures such as the giant bell and Shari relics (ashes of Buddha), it is one of the leading temples of the Rinzai Buddhist sect and a popular destination to visit in Kita-Kamakura. There is a Bentendo Teahouse near the giant bell in Engakuji. One has to climb 141 steps to reach the place, but those who climb all the way up are rewarded with a nice view. The teahouse located there is also called “observatory teahouse” for the good panorama it provides. On lucky days you can see even Mount Fuji. There are no walls inside and the open space is indeed like a typical teahouse. The menu consists of sweet sake (500 JPY), oshiruko (sweet red-bean soup) (600 JPY), green tea (600 JPY), anmitsu (syrup-covered bean jam and fruit) (600 JPY) and others. Order first and sit wherever you like. The view over Kamakura with a tea and something sweet is fantastic! On the photo you can see yuzu-juice (400 JPY). It really refreshes your tired body.
Engakuji Bentendo Teahouse Open: 9:00~17:00 (early closing possible) Closed: Monday
Souvenir shopping! Shokado’s “Agari-yokan”
For souvenir shopping Shokado’s “Agari-yokan” is recommended! Shokado is a Japanese confectionary maker a few steps from Kita-Kamakura station. The “Agari-yokan” (1300 JPY without tax) on sale there is a sweet bean jelly that used to be supplied to Tokugawa family’s Owari branch during Edo period. “Agari” means to present to a higher person. It really isn’t a hard yokan as the image might suggest, but a jellylike one and easy to eat. Not too sweet, it is ideal even for people who do not usually like yokan. Preservatives are not used, so it can last about 3-4 days only, but it is safe to buy and put it in your bag while you stroll around Kamakura. Back at home please put it in the fridge. Ideal both for your own treat and for a gift.
Kamakura Shokado One minute walk from JR Kita-Kamakura station Open: 9:00~17:00 (early closing possible) Closed: Monday
Be sure to check the closed days!
So how was it? Typically one would tour the temples in Kita-Kamakura, but there is even more charm in discovering the souvenir shops and cafés along the way. Each of them has a different closing day so it is best to check in advance.
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