Tokyo is an incredible city that can easily be any traveller’s entire itinerary. However, if you can bring yourself to escape the city for even a day, Kamakura is the place to go. Only an hour train ride south of Tokyo, Kamakura is a change of scenery from the fast pace modern Japan, back in time to feudal society. Keep reading for an EXTRA BONUS- a Kamakura Tourist Map AND video highlights!
Kamakura once held a very important role in Japanese history. After the rise of Yoritomo Minamoto, Japan’s first shogun, Kamakura became Japan’s political capital. For over a century Japan’s new military government ruled from Kamakura until its eventual decline in the 14th century after the defeat of the Hōjō regents. Today, Kamakura is a small beach town filled with many historical sights, Buddhist temples, and shrines, making it often referred as the Kyoto of the east.
Top 3 Kamakura Attractions
Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha)
The great Buddha statue (Kamakura Daibutsu) found in the Kōtoku-in Temple is Japan’s second largest bronze Buddha statue. The 13.35 meter tall Amida Buddha was created in 1252 and rebuilt twice after being destroyed in the 14th and 15th century both by natural disasters. Kamakura Daibutsu is a must see attraction and its massive and inspiring statue can only truly be appreciated when seeing it up close in person.
Transportation: Street Car vs. Hiking
There are a couple ways of getting to Kamakura Daibutsu depending on your schedule. If you are in a hurry trying to see everything in one day, you can take the local street car transit. After departing from the JR Kamakura station, you can cross the street to Kamakura’s local transit station. From there take the street car three stops to Hase Station. After exiting, the Daibutsu is a 5-10 minute walk.
If you’re up for taking in scenery or want a challenge you can take the hiking trail, which is what we did. It’s about a 3 mile hike through the hills and can be a little difficult, but totally worth the trek. You will follow a trail through lush green forests and quiet residential neighborhoods finding small shrines along the way. Eventually you will reach a peak that offers a gorgeous view of the city before descending back down and arriving at the giant Daibutsu.
Hours and Fees:
Kōtoku-in Temple Hours- 8:00 to 17:30/5:30 pm; No closed days
200 yen (~$2USD)
Diabutsu Statue- 8:00 to 16:30/4:30pm; No closed days
20 yen (~$0.17)
Kamakura’s most important shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū, was founded in 1063 by the Minamoto family and later moved to its present site after the establishment of the Minamoto shogunate. The shrine is dedicated to honoring the Minomoto family as well as Hachimon, their patron god. When walking up to the shrine, you are greeted by the amazing structure peering down at you from across a long path way.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangū is easily accessible when exiting the JR Kamakura train station. There are two routes to take, the first is the Dankazura walking path. The next option is walking Komachi-dori, a busy and exciting street full of small shops and restaurants. Both routes are about a 10-15 minute walk.
Hours and Fees:
FREE to walk around the grounds; Open 5:00 to 21:00/9:00pm
200 yen for the Shrine Museum (~$2)
Kamakura Hiking Trails
Hiking trails are the best way to see Kamakura’s many features. Kamakura is one of those special cities that is surrounded by sparkling beaches and lush green forested hills, offering you the best of both worlds. As a result, there are many hiking trails to take in the beauty of the historic city. While hiking, you’ll be able to peek through the foliage and see distant cities or the never ending coastline. Since there are many trails, depending on how much time you have, pick 1 or 2 routes to explore. The best time to hike would be on a dry day because they can be steep and slippery. Wear comfortable clothes and a good pair of shoes!
- You can use the JR pass to get to Kamakura but the pass does NOT work for the local train within the city.
- If you’re tight on time, you can purchase a discounted bus pass to see all the popular attractions. For adults it’s 570 yen (~$5). The tickets also include discounts to some shrines, temples, and shops. You can purchase the pass at the information centers.
- BONUS: Pick up a tourist map at a Tourist Center or download the map here!
Watch our video experience!
Have fun in Kamakura! Let us know in the comments if you’re planning on going and would like additional tips or if you would like to share your experiences!
Check out our Nara Photo Diary for more Japan exploration!
See you on the road,
Jareena and Ari
Gear we use:
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