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Kamakura Day Trip Itinerary: Fun Day Around Japan’s Former Capital

Kamakura Day Trip Itinerary: Fun Day Around Japan’s Former Capital

Last updated: 14 September 2020

Kamakura, a city located in Kanagawa Prefecture, about an hour south of Tokyo, is brimming with ancient Japanese history and culture. It was the political capital of Japan and the birthplace of the first military government, and Kamakura was so integral in the history of Japan that there is a period named after it.

In modern times, Kamakura is still important in Japan as one of the biggest attractors of tourists in Japan and housing many temples, shrines, artifacts, and the famous bronze national treasure, the Great Buddha statue.

The small coastal city offers amazing historical and architectural attractions, traditional festivals, amazing beaches, and local traditional foods. After living in Japan for a decade, I keep coming back to Kamakura whenever I am looking for a fun, educational, and memorable adventure.

Here is a recommended day trip itinerary for Kamakura to ensure you get a taste of all the city has to offer.

Notes Before You Go to Kamakura

Credit: picture cells / Shutterstock.com
Credit: picture cells / Shutterstock.com

Getting to Kamakura from Tokyo: A direct, one-way ticket from Tokyo Station on the JR Yokosuka Line (towards Zushi) costs 920 yen and takes around 56 minutes. If your hotel is on Tokyo’s west side, you can take the Shonan-Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku Station; the trip costs 920 yen as well and takes around 59 minutes. Just make sure to catch the direct train otherwise you will need to transfer at Ofuna Station and the trip will take about 10 minutes longer.
・To spend a full day, aim to arrive at 9:00 am.
・This is a walking itinerary that also uses the Enoden Line. You can reduce time by renting a bicycle. Be sure to wear comfy shoes.
・There are many other spots to explore that aren’t in this itinerary!

9:00 am: Coffee and Breakfast in Kamakura

9:00 am: Coffee and Breakfast in Kamakura

The first thing you will want to do when arriving at Kamakura Station is to have a nice breakfast and coffee to give you the energy boost you will need to enjoy this amazing city. There will be lots of walking and exploring, so ensuring your body is ready for the adventure is a good idea.

Two of my recommendations are as follows.

Garden House Kamakura
If you are looking for an interesting, local, popular, and highly rated sit-down place to eat near the station, Garden House is a good choice. Not only do they serve food made from local products like Kamakura ham and seasonal vegetables, but they also serve Kamakura craft beer brewed and served exclusively at this establishment.

You might want to hold off on the beer until lunch and have coffee instead. I really liked this place because not only did the cabin-like decor go well with the local fresh foods they used, but the restaurant had both indoor and outdoor areas, which was perfect for people who were there with pets. The food was presented well, and the taste was just as delicious.

  • Garden House Kamakura
    • Address 15-46 Onarimachi, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0012, Japan
    • Phone Number 467-81-5200

・5 Crossties Coffee
If you are looking for a lighter, quicker breakfast experience, the 5 Crossties Coffee located next to the tourist information center near the station has coffee, sandwiches, salads, and of course, coffee. I found the service to be quick but friendly, and I definitely recommend getting one of the morning sets they have as they are really inexpensive but filling.

  • 5 Crossties Coffee
    5 Crossties Coffee
    • Address 1-chōme-1-1 Komachi, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0006, Japan

Exploring around Kamakura Station - especially around the vicinity of the East Exit - you will come across a load of amazing cafes and restaurants with a mouth-watering selection. So whether you are craving Japanese or Western-style options, this area has you covered.

9:30 am: Walk to Hokokuji Temple and Bamboo Forest

9:30 am: Walk to Hokokuji Temple and Bamboo Forest

If you are keen on walking, a great option is to stroll from Kamakura Station along Route 204 to Hokokuji Temple, also known as Bamboo Temple. The walk, which takes about 30 minutes, will take you through the city with houses and shops on one side and, ultimately, wooded areas and a stream on the other. This course is a great way to see the beautiful city of Kamakura as well as take a nice stroll.

Alternatively, you can take a bus from Kamakura Station bound for Jomyoji that takes about 10 minutes and costs 200 yen. Exiting the bus, it is a short walk to the Hokokuji Temple area.

One thing you will notice right away is the amount of lush greenery this temple has. With a gate surrounded by trees, a garden with a small Buddha statue (as a preview of other bigger Buddha to come later in the day), the temple is surrounded by serene, green beautiful nature.

The temple is relatively compact, but the highlight is the bamboo gardens located behind the temple. You can purchase a combo ticket for the bamboo garden and matcha tea house for 600 yen to get the full ‘Zen’ experience. In addition, the main yard has a garden with big rocks surrounded by white stones raked in patterns and bonsai trees decorated in a traditional Japanese garden motif.

The bamboo forest houses some 2,000 tall bamboo trees and makes for an amazingly peaceful walk and picture stop. Just beyond the forest are Buddhist statues and caves (not open to the public), which are ancient tombs of the Ashikaga clan.

Credit: gvictoria / Shutterstock.com
Credit: gvictoria / Shutterstock.com

To better enjoy the atmosphere and peaceful aura, a matcha tea house located inside the forest, called Kyukoan, provides a place to sip authentic matcha tea served with traditional Japanese sweets and a view of the bamboo forest.

The walk through this forest and time at the tea house was personally one of the nicest and calmest moments I have had in Japan. Sitting with my tea looking out over the bamboo forest, and taking in all the quiet sounds of nature really made me appreciate Kamakura and life a lot more.

  • Hokoku-ji
    • Address 2-7-4, Jomyoji, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa, 248-0003
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Kamakura Station (JR Yokosuka Line / JR Shonan Shinjuku Line / Enoshima Electric Railway Line)
    • Phone Number 0467-22-0762

11:00 am: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

Credit: Sergey-73 / Shutterstock.com
Credit: Sergey-73 / Shutterstock.com

After leaving the forest relaxed and refreshed, walk back towards Kamakura Station about 20 minutes to Kamakura's most important shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.

There is a long road through the city center with torii gates that lead to the shrine. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu itself is atop a staircase and can be seen from afar as you approach. This shrine, which has more than 18 million visitors a year, was dedicated to Emperor Ojin and is the geographical and cultural center of Kamakura. It is a vast area with many things to see and is free to enter.

There are also smaller shrines, museums, and two ponds located at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, making it a great place to see different flowers and plants depending on the season. The garden, which houses cherry blossoms in the spring, lotus in the summer, and peonies in the winter, is along the pond and has an additional fee to enter.

According to locals, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is one of the most popular locations in Japan for Japanese to visit for hatsumode (first visit to a shrine in the New Year), with over 2.5 million visitors each New Year season.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is also the location of the Yabusame, traditional horse archery tournament, which happens twice annually, in mid-April and mid-September. A walk through the grounds and a small prayer at the shrine can make your Kamakura experience an unforgettable and spiritual experience.

12:00 pm: Lunch Around Kamakura Station

Credit: Lerner Vadim / Shutterstock.com
Credit: Lerner Vadim / Shutterstock.com

Walking the roadway away from the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine and back towards Kamakura Station, you will come across a famous shopping and restaurant street called Komachi Dori.

This street which is parallel to the road that leads to the shrine, is filled with tourists and locals alike. You will see crowds walking along the street, shopping at the unique and interesting shops selling clothing, ceramics, souvenirs, and traditional Japanese goods.

The roads are essentially for pedestrians during the day, so there is plenty of space for people to stroll the streets and explore all the shops, cafes, and restaurants Kamakura has to offer.

a. Try sampling the local cuisine: Shirasu-don and Shojin Ryori
For lunch, many shops offer the local Kamakura specialty of shirasu, whitebait, which are tiny white fish. I have sometimes seen these in dishes in Tokyo but never eaten them. But since they are a local delicacy, I decided to give them a try. Eaten raw, boiled, or fried, many dishes include shirasu in their sets. Placed on rice, added into noodle soup, or even in ice cream, this delicacy is definitely a must-try.

Those who are vegetarian will be happy to know a famous cooking style of Kamakura, called Shojin Ryori. This type of cooking, popularized by Buddhist Monks, uses rice, tofu, vegetables, and Japanese ingredients to make a variety of small dishes served as a set so you can enjoy a variety of tastes and flavor experiences.

b. Or instead of lunch, opt for snacking along the way
For those who want to keep moving and spend more time exploring, there are also a variety of street food shops available in Kamakura that serve delicious, easy-to-eat foods that are budget-friendly as well.

For example, a popular choice for locals and tourists in Kamakura is croquettes. These deep-fried food rolls come with various fillings such as beef, plum, sweet potato, and even chocolate.

Some other interesting street foods that you should try are Inari sushi in a cup, dango (mochi balls on a stick) with red bean paste and matcha topping, and an Osaka favorite Takoyaki, octopus balls, but with shirasu topping for a Kamakura touch.

Personally, since I start with a big sit-down breakfast, I tend to eat at the food stands as it allows me to try a variety of different Kamakura specialties while still being able to adventure around the area and check out the sights.

1:00 pm: Hase Temple

Credit: Hit1912 / Shutterstock.com
Credit: Hit1912 / Shutterstock.com

After a nice lunch and a productive morning, it's time to take the Enoden Train to Hase Station to see Hase Temple, the surrounding garden, caves, and a picturesque view of the Kamakura coast.

The Enoden Train Line is a light rail line with 15 stations going from Kamakura to Fujisawa in Kanagawa. The fare from Kamakura Station to Hase Station is 190 yen and takes less than ten minutes. The train is a cute and iconic ride that allows you to ride along the coast and see the smaller, less touristy areas of Kamakura along the way.

Credit: Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com
Credit: Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com

Once at Hase Station, a five-minute walk will take you to the entrance of the Hase Temple, which has an eye-catching red lantern and pine trees front. The temple and surrounding area are filled with so many things to see; it is the perfect place to roam around and soak in all the culture leisurely.

The main hall has Japan's largest wooden statue of the eleven-headed goddess of mercy, Kannon. The temple and the main hall are surrounded by beautiful gardens, ponds, and little Jizo statues, which are protectors of children and travelers.

Since the temple was built on a slope in the mountain, there is a small restaurant and lookout point overlooking the Kamakura coast. Another great part of this temple is the Benten cave, lit with candles, has sculptures built into the walls, and little tiny stone figures are placed all around the cave. The cave is winding and has many low ceilings and protrusions, so taller people should be careful when navigating through the cave.

Finally, if you visit Hase Temple in early summer (mid-June to mid-July), you’re in for a treat: a section of the temple has a path lined with over 40 kinds of hydrangea, making for a gorgeous and photogenic stroll.

2:30 pm: Kamakura Daibutsu

Credit: Sergey-73 / Shutterstock.com
Credit: Sergey-73 / Shutterstock.com

Now for the main event, the reason most people come to Kamakura; the Great Buddha. Before seeing it, I wondered if this place was just an overrated and overhyped tourist trap. But after seeing it up close several times, I understand why it attracts so much attention and visitors.

The symbol of Kamakura and designated one of Japan's National Treasures, this bronze statue of Buddha, which is the second largest in Japan, is located in the Kotokuin Temple grounds, about a 10-minute walk from Hase Temple. The entrance is only 200 yen, and the area is open until 5:30 pm, so you can relax, take as many pictures or videos as you want, and reflect on the magnificence and grandeur of the giant bronze sculpture.

The Great Buddha statue stands at over 13 meters (43 ft) and weighs approximately 93 tons. The statue is hollow, so make sure also to check out the inside (an extra 50 yen) when you visit. The grounds around the statue are also a nice backdrop with stones, commemorative trees, and a temple shop to pick up a lucky charm or Buddha-related souvenir.

3:30 pm: Walk Back to Kamakura Station Along the Shonan Shoreline (Or Train it!)

3:30 pm: Walk Back to Kamakura Station Along the Shonan Shoreline (Or Train it!)

After seeing the Great Buddha up close and personal and taking in all the energy and culture from the temple and shrine, it’s time to see the beach area of Kamakura!

It’s particularly popular in the summer but definitely still worth a visit in other seasons. One of the most popular beach areas is Yuigahama, essentially just south of Hase Temple. Strolling around here, you will go past several beachside cafes and burger joints if you feel peckish.

For those who have had enough of walking for the day and would like a rest but would still like to catch a glimpse of the scenic coast, the Enoden Electric Train heading back to Kamakura is a good option.

In the summer, the Yuigahama beach area is crowded with tourists and locals, with beach huts and pop-up bars open to all. It’s the ideal place for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, and seeing great views of Enoshima Island, the coastline, and even Mount Fuji.

4:30 pm: Explore Around Kamakura Station

Credit: eakkarat rangram / Shutterstock.com
Credit: eakkarat rangram / Shutterstock.com

Once you are back close to the Kamakura Station area, there are plenty of shops and cafes to explore. You may want to head back to the Komachi Dori shopping district to pick up some omiyage (souvenirs) or get famous Kamakura desserts like crepes or sweet potato ice cream. Near the station, you will also find many interesting local bars and restaurants that serve the Kamakura area craft beers and various types of local food.

Bonus Places/Side Trips in Kamakura

Credit: PJ_Photography / Shutterstock.com
Credit: PJ_Photography / Shutterstock.com

Renting a bicycle is a perfect alternative and can dramatically increase your range and ability to explore even more. There is a rental spot near the East Exit of Kamakura Station.

Insider tips: Many of the bicycles will be rented out by around 10 am, so be sure to get yours before the crowds descend. Also, the electric-assist bicycles cost a little more than the standard ones but are highly recommended - especially if you want to avoid tiring yourself out.

Otherwise, if you fancy getting insights from a local, you might wish to consider hiring a rickshaw driver to take you around the station and surrounding area. Many rickshaw drivers are standing along the main road en route to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine. You can check out the bicycle rental shop located across the street from Kamakura Station, right near the Starbucks.

Here are some of the places you might want to go to if you want to extend your adventure in Kamakura.

Zeniarai Benten Shrine
A different kind of “money laundering,” this is said to be among the most popular shrines in Kamakura because of the legend that washing money in the spring waters located in the caves nearby will bring happiness and prosperity.

Itsuki Garden Cafe Terrace
Itsuki Garden is a garden terrace cafe located about 15 minutes away from Kamakura Station, next to the hiking trails that lead to the Great Buddha. The first time I entered the grounds and was seated, I was impressed by the picturesque design and detail. Because it is located in the forest, it really felt like I had found a hidden treasure.

Originally a private residence, the owner created many terraces and transformed this forested cottage area into an outdoor cafe with tables that seem to float in the trees when seen from above. Closed only on Tuesdays, if you are looking for a break during your hike or bike ride and want to enjoy a drink and food while surrounded by the quiet natural beauty of Kamakura, then this might be a good place to check out.

Inamuragasaki Park
Literally a hidden gem, this area of Kamakura has beautiful sand that glitters in the night, allegedly due to its high iron content. A popular spot for couples to come during sunsets and at night, sitting on the rocks, you can watch the surfers in the water, the sunset views of Enoshima Island and Mount Fuji, and listen to the calming waves crash along the beach.

Enoshima Island
Taking the Enoden Electric Train from Kamakura Station to Enoshima Station and then walking across the bridge will bring you to this small but interesting island. Alternatively, you can bike from Kamakura Station across to the island on the connecting bridge.

There are a variety of things to see on the island, such as the Enoshima Shrine; the Sea Candle lighthouse, which is an observation area surrounded by gardens; Iwaya caves located in the cliffs of Enoshima and even an Island Spa where you can get a massage or soak in a hot spring.

Credit: Sergey-73 / Shutterstock.com
Credit: Sergey-73 / Shutterstock.com

Whether this is your first time in Japan and looking for day trips outside of Tokyo with great views and Japanese culture, or you are a seasoned traveler looking to explore Kamakura in further detail, there is something to see, eat, and experience.

Filled with cultural landmarks, historical significance, natural beauty, and unique delicacies, Kamakura is definitely a traveler’s paradise and should not be missed. Several times before, I highly recommend Kamakura and will be revisiting it many times while I am still in Japan.

Other fun things to try in Kamakura

    • Address Akao Building 1A, 5-6, Onarimachi, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa, 248-0012
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Kamakura Station (JR Yokosuka Line / JR Shonan Shinjuku Line / Enoshima Electric Railway Line)
      3 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 0467-37-9297
    • Address Koike Building, 1-9-24 Yukinoshita, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture, 248-0005
    • Nearest Station Kamakura Station (JR Yokosuka Line / JR Shonan Shinjuku Line / Enoshima Electric Railway Line)
      5 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 0467-23-3999
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Written by:

Sohail Oz Ali

Sohail Oz Ali

Sohail Oz Ali is a Canadian Youtuber, author and blogger who has lived in Hokkaido, Nagoya and now resides in Chiba. Between visits to Karaoke and revolving sushi restaurants, he enjoys walking his dog, watching Japanese love dramas and teaching English. You can also find him roaming the streets of Japan looking for the next big YouTube video trends.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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