Off the beaten path from the big cities like Tokyo, Kamakura is surrounded by mountains and the sea with rich in nature and culture. Throughout each season the city transforms, from lightly falling sakura petals in the spring to the orange and red fall colors on the trees.
The temples and shrines in this small city are teeming with history. However, the city also has its modern side; Kamakura is home to modern art museums, as well as stylish restaurants and cafes. Find your favorite things to do and your favorite sightseeing spots, and enjoy a stroll around Kamakura in any season!
Main image: PIXTA
Things to do in any season
Find a bargain on Komachi Street
Komachi-dori or Komachi Street is located close to Kamakura Station and has all the shopping you could hope for. This charming street is filled with small souvenir shops, gourmet restaurants, popular cafes, and tons of street food stands where you can grab an ice cream or croquette on the go! Once you are done shopping, the street ends at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, so you can visit both in one easy trip.
Visit the Great Buddha Statue
We would be remiss if we didn’t first mention the Great Buddha of Kamakura City (also known as the Kamakura Daibutsu). This national treasure is a must-see, as the bronze statue sits at 11.3 meters tall and weighs over 12 tons. The Amitabha Buddha is visited by people from all over the world because it is one of the only statues of its kind to sit outside. There is much unknown about the large statue, the artist and even the funds for its creation are a mystery, but it did sit inside at one point before the hall was destroyed. If you are curious about its construction, you can enter the statue for a fee of just 320 yen, including entrance to Kotoku-in. Though make sure it is a sunny day as there is no light inside and can be hard to see if it is dark or cloudy.
Pray at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
The city of Kamakura was built around Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, so it makes sense that it sits in the heart of the city and is considered a “power spot” filled with spiritual energy. If you walk around Kamakura, you are sure to see this magnificent Shinto shrine with bright red colors. The shrine celebrates the messenger of the Hachiman god, which is the pigeon, so it is sometimes colloquially called the “Hato Shrine” as “hato” means pigeon in Japanese.
Eat the local specialty: Shirasu
No matter where you go in Kamakura, you are sure to find the local specialty “shirasu.” Shirasu is the name for small, young, white sardines, and Kamakura’s location close to the sea makes it the perfect spot to try them. Don’t let these little guys fool you, they have a fantastic salty flavor and the texture is soft and fluffy, especially paired on top of white rice, called “shirasu-don.”
Things to do in spring
Take a stroll in the Cherry Blossoms at Dankazura Path
Spring in any city in Japan means you should definitely check out the cherry blossoms. One of the best places to do this isn’t a temple or shrine, but a simple walkway near Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Walking south out of the temple, you will see a raised path lined with cherry blossom trees and a huge torii gate. Make sure to take a walk through here in the evening, as they light up the trees and the path becomes a magical and romantic night walking spot.
Visit Genjiyama Park
If you haven’t gotten your fill of cherry blossoms in the spring, or you would like a longer walk through town, get off the train at Kita-Kamakura Station and take the Daibutsu Hiking Trail to Genjiyama Park. This lush green park has dozens of cherry trees for you to happily sit under and admire the views. It is also home to a statue of Minamoto no Yoritomo who was a military commander and the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate.
Walk through the Bamboo Grove at Hokokuji Temple
Hokokuji Temple is well-known as the “bamboo temple,” famous for the small bamboo grove behind the main structure. If you have never been to a bamboo grove, you are in for a real treat. Stop and let the sounds of the bamboo clacking together in the wind give you a calming and peaceful experience. In the spring, the forest is filled with new bamboo shoots sprouting from the ground, giving a feeling of renewal to the place. While you are there, make sure to try the matcha in the tea house while viewing the bamboo grove.
Eat Kamakura sweets
Japanese sweets, called “wagashi” or “okashi” are often sold as gifts in Japan, so you will want to get your hands on some of these to try yourself. The most famous ones in Kamakura are called “hato sabure,” meaning “pigeon shortbread.” These adorable little sweets are in the shape of a pigeon, made to honor the messenger to the god of Hachiman, which you can learn more about at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. These buttery cookies are a great light snack to try or to take home to friends and family.
Things to do in summer
View the hydrangeas at Hasedera Temple
This breathtakingly old Japanese temple is home to one of the largest wooden statues in Japan of the Kan'non Bodhisattva, standing over 9 meters tall in the main hall. When you are done admiring the beauty of the temple, make your way around the lush grounds and admire all the flowers that summer has to offer. Hasedera Temple prides itself in over 2,500 hydrangea plants, which bloom from June to July, and taking the mountain walk through the temple grounds allows you to admire their gorgeous colors.
Visit Kamakura’s beaches
There is nothing better in summer than hitting the beaches, and Kamakura’s seaside location makes it perfect for beach-hopping. Get your swimsuit and sunscreen ready and check out Yuigahama beach, which is about a 20 min walk from Kamakura Station and surrounded by gorgeous mountain views and soft sand. Or make your way to Shichirigahama Beach, which on clear days boasts views of Mt. Fuji, a perfect backdrop for your Japanese beach vacation.
Drink an ice-cold Kamakura Beer
When the summer gets too hot for you, look for one of the beer gardens in Kamakura City and try a cool and refreshing Kamakura Beer. This hand-brewed beer is bottled right in the city and the mild aroma and mellow taste reflect the gentle charm of Kamakura. The bottled brew is the perfect addition to any Japanese meal on a hot summer day, and you can even find some with the Great Buddha on the label, which can be saved as a memorable souvenir.
Check out the Kamakura Hase no Akari Light-up Event
If you happen to be in Kamakura during the summer, don’t miss one of the most beautiful events of the year, the Kamakura Hase no Akari Light-up. This event highlights eight different spots around the city by illuminating them with thousands of lights. As soon as the sun goes down, you can see some of the most famous temples and shrines in the city completely illuminated with colors. This magical event can be seen for just a few yen per site, with some of them being donation based or completely free.
Things to do in autumn
See fall leaf colors at Engakuji Temple
Engakuji is a picturesque temple located near Kita-Kamakura Station and is the second of the five great temples in Kamakura. In the fall you can enjoy walking the grounds and witnessing an explosion of fall colors on all the trees. In fact, it is one of the best places in Kamakura to see the autumn leaves on full display. Engakuji doesn’t just have spacious grounds and tons of history, it also boasts a tea-house with great views and zazen meditation available. When you think of peaceful temples with all the offerings of Japan, Engakuji should be at the top of your list.
Experience the Yabusame Horseback Archery Event
If you are visiting Kamakura in September, try catching the Yabusame Horseback Archery Festival at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Yabusame is the art of horseback archery that was popular among samurai. During the festival, you can see archers try to hit three targets on horseback while dressed in period clothing from the Kamakura Era. The festival is an awe-inspiring experience that takes you back in history to the time of the samurai.
Eat fall veggies at the Kamakura Farmers Market
About a 5-minute walk from Kamakura Station is the Kamakura Farmers Market, also called Kamakura “Renbai.” This market was established in 1928 as one of the first European markets in Japan. Take a stroll around in the fall to find rare vegetables from Japan that are hard to find in other stores. Inside the market, you can also find stylish bakeries and yakitori stands that will entice you in as you pass by. The best time to visit is in the morning, as the market runs low in the afternoon.
Shop for Kamakura Carving trinkets
When it comes to buying souvenirs and gifts in Kamakura, don’t overlook handicrafts made with Kamakura carving. This special type of lacquerware was brought to Japan from China during the Kamakura Period and involves the carving of wood and then layering of lacquer for a smooth woody finish. The carving style has progressed until today and you can find small boxes, dishware, and decor with the signature techniques that highlight Kamakura. You can find these gifts in many stores along Komachi-dori, as well as other shops around the city.
Things to do in winter
Visit local art museums
Although it is still nice enough to walk around in the winter, sometimes doing things inside in the heat is a nice treat. For art aficionados, Kamakura has plenty of art museums for you to explore while you warm up inside. Check out some of Japan’s greatest artists in The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama. You can also visit artist-specific museums, like that of Kaburaki Kiyokata and Yo Shomei. Finally, if you want to learn more about Buddhism or browse the ancient collection from temples in the area, the Kannon Museum has tons of valuable treasures related to Buddhism.
Warm up in the Inamuragasaki Hot Springs
To really warm up during the winter, try out an “onsen” or natural hot spring. These public baths usually have amazing outdoor facilities with great views and plenty of amenities. About 20 minutes away from Kamakura station is Inamuragasaki Onsen, with views of Mt. Fuji and 42-degree celsius water to warm up your bones on those cold winter days traveling. The water in the baths supposedly has anti-aging properties and is full of nutrients for your dry winter skin. While you are there be sure to check out the sauna and the indoor baths as well.
When you are ready for a warm treat, try stopping at a “korokke” stand, the Japanese version of croquettes. These warm treats come in all kinds of traditional flavors like beef, as well as sweeter flavors like sweet potato and even chocolate. Crispy on the outside and flavorful on the inside, a few korokke will keep your belly warm while you walk around the shopping streets of Kamakura.
Ride the Enoden Train Line
While you are sure to have the chance to ride a ton of different trains in Japan, the Enoshima Train Line, or “Enoden” for short is something special. The small traditional Japanese train cars go along the coast and have views of the sea, so you can gaze at the ocean while you ride to your next destination in warmth and comfort. Anime fans might recognize a famous railroad crossing that appears in the opening scene of the hit manga "Slam Dunk," so it is a popular photo spot for anime fans from both Japan and abroad. We recommend purchasing the one-day ticket which provides unlimited rides (800 yen for adults, 400 yen for children), as well as special offers that can be used at various facilities including restaurants, the Enoshima Aquarium, and temples.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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