Kamakura (鎌倉市) is a city in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. As of March 2021, Kamakura had a population of approximately 173,000 people.
Kamakura is popular for its dozens of unique temples as well as its beaches with a relaxed atmosphere. For those unable to go to Kyoto from Tokyo, Kamakura offers a much closer alternative, though there is no other place in Japan that surpasses Kyoto. Owing to the Kamakura Shogunate's embrace of Zen Buddhism, there are several noteworthy Zen temples in the area.
Evidence shows human settlement in Kamakura at least 10,000 years ago. Kamakura was the political capital of Japan during the Kamakura Shogunate, from 1185 to 1333. On July 3, 1333, the reign of the Hōjō clan ended with the Siege of Kamakura. It is estimated that over 6000 people committed suicide on that day. In 1956, 556 skeletons of people that died violently around that time were found.
After the Tokugawa clan moved the capital to Edo (present-day Tokyo), Kamakura continued its decline to become a mere fishing village. By 1910, the population had declined to 7250 people.
Kamakura sustained significant damage during the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. Today, Kamakura is one of the Tokyo area's (Kanto) best day trip destinations, especially popular in June for its many temples with hydrangeas. Its top sights are the Kōtokuin Great Buddha, Hasedera Temple, and Tsurugaoka Hachimangū Shrine, but there are numerous more that can easily fill up a couple of days. There are also several good hiking trails.
Kamakura is 56 km south of Tokyo and 27 km south of Yokohama. It is usually visited as a day trip from Tokyo, sometimes along with Yokohama or Enoshima.
Narita Airport is 123 km northeast of Kamakura.
N'EX Tokyo Round-Trip Ticket is the cheapest way for foreigners to travel from Narita Airport to cities in the greater Tokyo region. The ticket costs ¥4070. JR commuter trains depart Narita Airport in the direction of Yokohama or Ofuna once per hour. Some trains offer direct service to Kamakura Station, otherwise change at wherever the train terminates to the next train bound for Zushi, Yokosuka or Kurihama (About 2½ hours, ¥2210). These trains offer a Green Car seating upgrade for ¥950. Green cars have 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).
Accommodation is usually cheaper in Tokyo and it may be worthwhile to spend a night in Tokyo before traveling to Kamakura.
The fastest way to Kamakura Station is by JR Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station (one hour, ¥940) or Yokohama (25 minutes, ¥350).
A useful rail pass for the area is the Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass (¥1520) which will get you a round trip from Shinjuku (or other Odakyu, Seibu and Sotetsu stations) and unlimited use of the Enoden line for one day. One other pass option for those also seeing Hakone is the Hakone Kamakura Pass (¥7000) good for 3 consecutive days.
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 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 ¥200 entrance fee to the temple to start the hike.
Bicycles can be rented from several locations, though rates are expensive.
- Kamakura Rental Cycles (鎌倉レンタサイクル店), 小町１丁目１ (Take the east exit of JR Kamakura Station and go 50m south.), ☎ 046-724-2319, . 8:30AM-5PM daily, closed Jan 1-3. This rental shop has standard Japanese bicycles for rent, including battery-assisted bikes. 1 hour ¥600, then ¥250 each hr, max ¥1600/day; bicycles with batteries extra. (35.318544,139.550816) edit
- Grove MTB Rental (グローブ), 2-1-13 Yuigahama, ☎ 046-723-6667, . 10AM–7PM Closed Thu. High-end bicycle rental. ¥2000-3000/day. edit
- Yamamoto Shokai (山本商会), 2-2-23 Komachi, Kamakura-shi, ☎ 046-722-0723. 9AM–7PM Closed Thu, 1st/3rd Wed of month. Offers regular (1st hour ¥400, then ¥300/hr, max ¥1600/day) and electric assisted bikes (1st hour ¥600, then ¥500/hr, max ¥2600/day) at competitive rates. ¥1600-2600/day. edit
Kamakura's sights are scattered around the city. Most visitors make a beeline for the Great Buddha and stop off at Hase Kannon; these sights can be very crowded on weekends and holidays. The Tourist Information office outside the East exit of the station gives out an English map with popular recommended routes including a 4-hour hiking route.
Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine
- Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine (鶴岡八幡宮), (2-1-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura), ☎ 046-722-0315, . 8AM–8:30PM. The largest Shinto shrine in otherwise almost solidly Buddhist Kamakura, built by Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199) founder of the Kamakura Shogunate and the first Shogun in the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). About 1 km north of the station, this shrine attracts a million visitors on New Year's Day to see the first sunrise of the year (Japan Rail runs trains all night long). If you're lucky, you may see a traditional wedding going on in the plaza in front of the main shrine. The Ritual Dance Stage (舞殿) is the spot where Yoritomo forced the hunted Yoshitsune's Lady Shizuka to perform a dance for him. This event is commemorated during the Kamakura Festival in April. Twice each year, in the spring and fall, you can watch demonstrations of Yabusame (archery from galloping horseback, in full samurai regalia) at Tsurugaoka. Free. edit
- Kamakura Kokuhōkan Museum (鎌倉国宝館), 2-1-1 Yukinoshita, Kamakura, ☎ 046-722-0753 (fax: 046-723-5953), . 9AM–4:30PM, Closed Mon. Located on the grounds of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, here you can see many historical exhibits including sculptures, calligraphies, paintings, and decorative arts. With several rotating exhibits. Fee varies, ¥300-600. edit
- Eishoji (英勝寺), 1-16-3 Ogigayatsu, Kamakura (12-min walk west of Kamakura Stn), ☎ 046-722-3534. 9AM–4PM, Closed Thu. A temple going back to 1635, with a beautiful bamboo grove and mostly unknown to the tourist hordes. It also has some impressive buildings and nice flowers in spring (camellia, wisteria) and summer (hydrangea, bellflowers). ¥300. edit
- Myōhonji Temple (妙本寺), 1-15-1 Ōmachi, Kamakura, ☎ 046-722-0777, . 9AM-5PM. Established in 1260, this Nichiren temple has a cemetery with the grave of Eiji Tsuburaya, the creator of Ultraman (a popular 1960s TV show whose sequels are still running) and a pioneer in Japanese science-fiction shows. Fans who visit the grave place toy Ultraman action figures on Tsuburaya's grave. You can also see nice flowers in the spring and beautiful autumn leaves in late November. Free. edit
- Kamakura Kaburagi Kiyokata Memorial Museum (鏑木清方記念美術館), 1-5-25 Yukinoshita, Kamakura, ☎ 046-723-6405 (fax: 046-723-6407). 9AM–5PM Closed Mon. Exhibits the works of Kaburaki Kiyokata, an early 20th century painter who painted in traditional styles. edit
- Jufukuji, 1-17-7 Jufukuji, Ogigayatsu, Kamakura (10-min walk west of Kamakura Stn), ☎ 046-722-6607, . This is the third most important Zen temple in Kamakura, and it offers nice autumn colors in November. Normally it is closed to the public, so if you have a chance to see it, take advantage of it. edit
Western Kamakura (Hase)
The following sights are in western Kamakura, mostly near the Enoden Hase Station.
- Kōtokuin (高徳院), 4-2-28 Hase, Kamakura-shi, ☎ 046-722-0703 (fax: 046-722－5051), . 8AM-5:30PM. This is by far the most popular sight in the region, and an icon of Japan. Home of the famous and impressive Great Buddha (大仏 Daibutsu), a bronze statue of Amida that at 13.35 meters is the third largest in Japan (after the Buddha's in Katsuyama and Nara). Thought to be cast in 1252, the statue was originally housed in a giant temple hall, but the building was washed away in a tsunami. Aside from the statue, there is a small garden and small souvenir shop, but little else, and you can be done in half an hour or so. ¥300, entrance to inside of Buddha statue ¥20. edit
- Hasedera (長谷寺), 3-11-2 Hase, Kamakura, ☎ 046-722-6300, . 8AM–4:30PM. This temple, also called "Hase Kannon", is home to the largest wooden statue in Japan, representing Buddhist deity Kannon. There is an excellent view over the bay from the Observation platform. An interesting if somewhat claustrophobic grotto on the grounds is filled with statues of Benzaiten. Aside from Meigetsuin (see below), this is one of the best places to see the hydrangea exploding in color every June, and there are huge crowds going to see them when they are in full bloom. ¥300. edit
- Zeniarai Benten Shrine (銭洗い弁天), 2-25-16 Sasuke, Kamakura, ☎ 046-725-1081, . 8AM-4:30PM. An atmospheric shrine in the hills dedicated to the deity Benzaiten, but popularly named after the most common activity: according to legend, any money (zeni) washed (arai) in the cave here will be doubled. You can also purchase o-mamori (protective charms) and have a kannushi (shinto priest) strike sparks from a flint over it to increase its power. It is about a kilometer away from Kamakura station. As there is no direct bus service, those in a hurry should take a taxi. Otherwise, the undemanding 20-minute stroll gives pleasant views of residential areas with quiet gardens. The shrine itself is reached via a long, but well-illuminated tunnel bored right through the rock. The hill above, Genjiyama, has a park with excellent views over the city. It is also a popular place for viewing the cherry blossoms in early spring. From here you can reach the hiking trail running from Tokeiji to the Kōtokuin. Free. edit
- Sasuke Inari Shrine (佐助稲荷神社), 2-22-12 Sasuke, Kamakura, . While its "torii tunnel" is only 49 torii gates long, this nice shrine on the mountainside has a tranquil atmosphere and is mostly ignored by the tourist mobs. There are numerous moss covered hokora (small shrines) within with countless fox statues, and you can see a truly unique sight. Free. edit
There are several noteworthy temples in this area, though they are often ignored by the tourist mobs.
- Kenchōji (建長寺), 8 Yamanouchi, Kamakura, ☎ 046-722-0981, . 8:30AM–4:30PM. Number one of Kamakura's Five Zen Temples, the oldest in Kamakura (built in 1253) and one of the oldest in all Japan. The temple bell here too has been designated a National Treasure, and there's a nice Zen garden as well. ¥500. edit
- Engakuji (円覚寺), 409 Yamanouchi, Kamakura. 8:30AM–4:30PM, (~4PM Dec-Feb). Number two of Kamakura's Five Zen Temples, founded in 1282 to commemorate soldiers who fell fighting off the Mongol invasion the previous year. The Shariden building on the grounds is reputed to contain one of the teeth of the Buddha. Atop a hill near the temple is the temple's large bell and next to it a tea house famous for its tokoroten (sweet cold noodles). ¥300. edit
- Meigetsuin (明月院), 189 Yamanouchi, Kamakura (10 min walk from JR Kita-Kamakura Stn), ☎ 046-724-3437, . 9AM-4PM. A lot of hydrangeas are planted in the precincts, and it is called the "Hydrangea Temple" — expect big crowds in June. It is also known for the grave of Hojo Tokiyori and the Meigetsuin Temple tower that is assumed to be the biggest in tunnel type graves. There is also a beautiful iris garden in the back, open only in June and in November (extra ¥500 charge). ¥500. edit
- Tōkeiji (東慶寺), 1367 Yamanouchi, Kamakura, ☎ 046-722-1663, . 8:30AM–4:30PM, (~4PM Oct-Mar). A nunnery famous in the feudal days for sheltering abused women, who could obtain a divorce by staying here for three years. Has a large and atmospheric graveyard. Also called "Kakekomidera" (the fugitive temple), and famous for its ume (Japanese plums). ¥200. edit
- Jochiji (浄智寺), 1402 Yamanouchi, Kamakura, ☎ 046-722-3943, . 9:30AM-4:30PM. This is the fourth most important Zen temple in Kamakura, established in 1283, with a nice temple garden and graveyard. It is also next to the starting point of the Daibutsu Hiking Trail. ¥200. edit
- Hibiya Kadan Ofuna Flower Center Ofuna Botanical Gardens (日比谷花壇大船フラワーセンター), 1018 Okamoto, Kamakura (15 min walk SW of Ofuna Stn), ☎ 046-746-2188 (fax: 046-746-2486), . 9AM–5PM (~4PM Nov-Feb), Closed Mon. Grows hundreds of varieties of flowers, particularly rhododendrons in April, peonies in May, irises in June, and roses May-Jul, Oct-Nov. ¥400. edit
- Ōfuna Kannonji (大船観音寺), 1-5-3 Okamoto, Kamakura (Next to Ofuna Stn), ☎ 046-743-1561 (fax: 046-743-1562), . 9AM–4PM. Very few people know this, but Kamakura actually has 2 Great Buddhas — Kotokuin, which everyone knows, and the Ōfuna Kannon, which most don't. This one is only 4 decades old and consists of just a bust, but it is an impressive sight with a kannon hall and views over Ofuna City. ¥300. edit
The temples of eastern Kamakura lie off the beaten tourist track and are for that very reason are 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.
- Hōkokuji (報国寺), 2-7-4 Jomyoji, Kamakura, ☎ 046-722-0762, . 9AM-4PM, Closed Dec 29-Jan 3 or in bad weather. One of the most popular places in Kamakura, most notable for its lovely and large bamboo grove. You can get green tea (¥600, last order 3:30 PM) and enjoy it next to the grove. Sadly, the grove was decimated in a typhoon in September 2019, and it is slowly coming back to what it was. ¥300. edit
- Jōmyōji (浄妙寺), 3-8-31 Jomyoji, Kamakura (25 min walk from Kamakura Stn), ☎ 046-722-2818, . 9AM-4:30PM. Number five of Kamakura's Five Zen Temples. You can sample tea on the cheap here with a ¥500 cup of matcha tea in front of the carefully sculpted dry rock garden. There is also an uphill path through its graveyard to a restaurant with nice city views. ¥100. edit
- Sugimotodera (杉本寺), 903 Nikaidō, Kamakura, ☎ 046-722-3463 (fax: 046-722-5977), . 8AM-4:15PM. Tranquil hillside temple with a newer stone stairway to the left of the even steeper, worn-out original one, and views over the town. The oldest temple in Kamakura, founded in 734. Its highlight is its eleven-faced statue of Kannon. ¥300. edit
- Shakado Kiritoshi (釈迦堂切り通し). Fifteen min walk from Sugimoto Kannon. Kamakura is surrounded by mountains on three sides and the ocean on the fourth. Very narrow roads were cut through the mountains, to make for easy defense. The Shakado Kiritoshi (pass) is cut through solid rock, and very impressive even today. Unfortunately it has been impassable since April 2010 for over a decade due to a large rockfall, with no definate date on reopening.
- Zuisenji (瑞泉寺), 710 Nikaidō, Kamakura (15 min walk NE of Kamakuragu bus stop), ☎ 046-722-1191, . 9AM-5PM. Famous more among the locals, this temple is famous for its nice dry rock garden and cave next to its main hall. It also has plum blossoms usually in late February or early March, a nice bamboo grove, thick green plants in summer and nice autumn leaves in late November. ¥200. edit
- Ankokuronji (安国論寺), 4-4-18 Ōmachi, Kamakura (15 min walk SE from Kamakura Stn), ☎ 046-722-4825, . 9AM-4:30PM, Closed Mon unless holiday. A Nichiren sect temple established in 1253, this temple has some nice hydrangea in June, plus good autumn colors in November and Kamakura City views. ¥100. edit
- Kōmyōji (光明寺), 6-17-19 Zaimokuza, Kamakura, ☎ 046-722-0603, . 7AM–4PM. Offers some impressive architecture with its large wood gate and main hall, as well as nice cherry blossoms in March, an elegant dry rock garden with azaleas in spring, a lotus pond in summer, and a hugely opulent Buddhist altar. ¥500. edit
- Taya Cavern (Taya no Dookutsu), Josenji Temple, Sakae-ku, Taya-machi 1501 (Take the JR Yokosuka Line two stops north of Kamakura to Ofuna Station; take a bus bound for Totsuka Bus Center; after about 8 min, get off at Dōkutsu-mae bus stop; the temple is to the right), ☎ 045-851-2392. 9AM-4:30PM. This is actually in Yokohama, but is closer to Kamakura both geographically and historically. From about the years 1200 to 1700, Shingon Buddhist monks gradually excavated this underground maze of tunnels as a site for spiritual training. You will be given a candle which you slip onto a wooden holder outside the entrance, and light at the candle inside the doorway. Damp, silent corridors lead to small, domed meditation chambers with walls and ceilings carved with fantastic creatures and Buddhist images, and on down to the spring room with a great turtle and birds carved on the walls. A small flashlight would be useful to see the images the candlelight doesn't reach. Adults ¥400, HS/JHS students ¥200, children ¥100. edit
Near Taya Cavern, there are some other attractions:
- Suenosato, Taya-machi 1483 (A short walk up the hill to the left of the [site of the recently demolished] radon spa building.), ☎ 045-851-8855. A studio displaying beautiful and expensive handcrafted pottery and glassware that range from whimsical to wabi-sabi. edit
- Yukai Sokai Taya, Taya-machi 1463 (Exit the cavern temple and turn left along the road.), ☎ 045 854-2641. 10AM-3AM. A spa housed in a building with the large neon character for bath on the roof. M-F ¥600, Sat-Sun ¥700. edit
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.
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.
- Yuigahama Beach (由比ガ浜海水浴場), 4 Chome Yuigahama, Kamakura, ☎ 046-761-3884. This is a representative beach in Kamakura, so many people visit in summer to enjoy the sea-bathing there. There are numerous places to eat close by, and the Kamakura Seaside Park is a large grassy area to stretch out and relax. It is also a spot for a good view of the fireworks display held in summer. Kamakura is famous for aquatic fireworks. edit
- Zaimokuza Beach (材木座海岸), 5 Chome Zaimokuza, Kamakura, . Another popular beach, particularly in July and August, and a popular place for locals to windsurf. Boat rentals are available. edit
- Inamuragasaki (稲村ヶ崎). This is also a famous beach. The Inamuragasaki Park (稲村ガ崎公園 Inamuragasaki Kōen) is located there and is well known for its sunsets. The film "Inamura Jane" (稲村ジェーン), directed by Keisuke Kuwata, was set there. The remains of the Hojo, Kamakura's government, was destroyed there in 1333. It follows along National Road 134. edit
- Shichirigahama (七里ヶ浜). This is also a famous beach in Kamakura. Unfortunately, swimming is prohibited. But it's still a good beach to relax and have an enjoyable time. Many surfers enjoy surfing there. edit
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.
There are many places to eat near 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 (o-senbei) shop where you can toast your own o-senbei. One cracker costs about ¥200.
- Saryo Inoue (茶寮いの上), 1-4-4 Komachi, ☎ 046-723-3112. Tue-Sun 10AM-6PM, open on Monday if a holiday. The set lunches of traditional Japanese food served here complement the historic atmosphere in Kamakura. Second-floor restaurant has a decent view and is in the plaza on the east side of the Kamakura station. English menus available. ¥800-1200. edit
- Kamakurayama Roast Beef, 3-11-1 Kamakurayama, ☎ 046-731-5454, . Fashionable. Dress nicely. Reservation is recommended. edit
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.
Most people visit Kamakura as a day trip from Tokyo, but there is a pretty good selection of accommodations if you want to spend the night.
- Kamakura-Hase Youth Hostel, (3 min from Enoden Hase station), ☎ 046-724－3390 (fax: 046-724－3390), . The owners have strict rules. All guests must leave the hotel between 10AM and 4PM. Members: ¥3000; Non-members: ¥4000; Breakfast ¥300; Dinner: ¥700. edit
- Kamejikan Guest House, 3-17-21 Zaimokuza, kamakura-city, ☎ 046-725-1166, . Wonderful helpful staff english speaking and delicious coffeshop. Quiet and a stroll away from the beach. From ¥3,500. edit
- WeBase Kamakura Hostel, 4-10-7 Yuigahama, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa., ☎ 0467-22-1221, . checkin: 1600; checkout: 11:00. More like a hotel than a hostel. Friendly staff, most speak English, close to the beach with onsite restaurant and free breakfast. Members: ¥3500 dorm;. edit
- Sotetsu FRESA INN Kamakura Ofuna, (1 min from JR Ofuna station), ☎ 046-742-2031, . Near the Ofuna station business hotel. Very comfortable. ¥6,500 if booked online. edit
- Kamakura Prince Hotel, 1 Chome-2-18, ☎ 046-732-1111, . edit
Pick up a useful map of the temples and suggested walking routes from Kamakura station's Kamakura City Tourist Association Information Office before you head out.
- Enoshima - Often a companion destination as a day trip, there is a nice shrine, the Cocking Garden, numerous lazy cats lounging around, an observation tower, caves to explore, and more.
- Odawara - Houses the only Japanese castle in greater Tokyo area.
- Hakone - A popular escape from Tokyo, with hot springs, geologically active areas, Lake Ashinoko, numerous museums, the Botanical Garden of Wetlands, and other nice sights.
- Yokohama - Japan's 2nd biggest city by population, with its large Chinatown, gorgeous Sankeien Garden, and numerous waterfront sights and activities.
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