Just an hour by train from Tokyo, Kamakura is an atmospheric seaside city that served as the political hub of medieval Japan. It’s dotted with Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines to explore, as well as being home to the iconic Great Buddha of Kamakura and the popular local surf spot of Yuigahama Beach.
In this article, we’ll introduce some of the top sightseeing spots not to miss in Kamakura and Enoshima, together with a few of the city’s must-try gourmet delicacies.
Great Buddha of Kamakura
An icon of Kamakura, the Great Buddha of Kamakura Daibutsu rises to 11.3 meters in height on the grounds of Kotoku-in. It is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan and was originally cast in 1252.
The statue is believed to have been created by the sculptors Ono-Goromon and Tanji-Hisatomo, with the Buddha depicted in a meditating pose.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura is just 9 minutes walk from Hase Station, which is the third station from Kamakura Station along the Enoden railway line. Aside from admiring its exterior, you can actually walk inside its hollow interior too!READ MORE
- The Great Buddha of Kamakura
Tsuruoka Hachimangu Shrine
Founded by Minamoto Yoriyoshi in 1063, Tsuruoka Hachimangu is the most important shrine in Kamakura and a not-to-be-missed local attraction.
It’s accessed via a long approach from the waterfront in Kamakura that leads through a series of torii gates before arriving at the grand staircase in front of the shrine’s main hall.
Take time to explore the small museum where antique swords and masks are displayed, then wander around the two ponds that form the centerpieces of the shrine garden. It transforms beautifully with the seasons and is famed as a cherry blossom viewing spot during the spring.READ MORE
- Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
Zeniarai Benten Shrine
Another popular shrine in Kamakura is Zeniarai Benten where devotees come to wash their money in the hope that it will double!
It’s dedicated to Benten, a Buddhist goddess associated with snakes, and fuses not only Shinto but also Buddhist elements in its design. If you want to worship here, wash your hands and purchase incense sticks from the office, then burn them in the designated stand to purify yourself. Then wash your money with mystical water to cleanse it before wiping it dry with a handkerchief and placing it back in your wallet.
Zeniarai Benten Shrine is an easy 30-minute walk from Kamakura Station on the Daibutsu hiking trail.READ MORE
- Zeniarai Benten Money Washing Shrine
Sasuke Inari Shrine
Not far from Zeniarai Benten Shrine is the Sasuke Inari Shrine, which is believed to have been created by Minamoto no Yorimoto adjacent to the Hidden Village of Kamakura. Legend states that Yorimoto was visited in a dream by an old man from the village who told him when to begin the battle that eventually led him to establish the Kamakura Shogunate. The shrine is renowned for its series of red torii gates, as well as miniature stone shrines and Inari statues that are covered in moss.
Bamboo Garden: Hokokuji
One of Kamakura’s most charming temples is Houkokuji, which nestles in the hills to the east of the city center. It was founded during the early Muromachi Period (1336 - 1573) and is part of the Rinzai Sect of Zen Buddhism.
A highlight of the temple is its beautiful bamboo garden (which has earned it the nickname of “Bamboo Temple”) and features a network of narrow paths where you can soak up the tranquility. Amidst the lush foliage is a peaceful teahouse where you can enjoy a cup of matcha tea and take in the spiritual energy of Hokokuji.READ MORE
- Hokoku-ji Temple
Another temple not to miss in Kamakura is the Hasedera, which is famously home to an eleven-headed statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. At 9.18 meters in height, this gilded wooden statue is one of the largest of its kind in Japan and is situated within the Kannon-do Hall. Adjacent lies the Kannon Museum where you can see treasures from the temple on display and learn a little more about the Jodo sect of Buddhism. The Hasedera perches halfway up Mount Kamakura and is a 4 minutes’ walk from Hase Station.READ MORE
- The Hasedera Temple of Kamakura
Considered one of the most important Zen Buddhist temple complexes in Japan, Engakuji nestles in the forested hills of Kita-Kamakura. It was founded in 1282 as a memorial to the Japanese and Mongolian soldiers who lost their lives in battle, although most of the original structures were destroyed during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Aside from admiring the ornate halls and Buddha statues, the temple is also home to a tranquil teahouse where you can enjoy a cup of matcha tea. The grounds are particularly beautiful during the autumn when the maple trees turn rich hues of yellow, orange and red.READ MORE
- Engaku-ji Temple
Kenchoji is a Zen Buddhist temple that was built in 1253 to help stabilise politics in the region. Following fires and earthquakes, many of the temple’s original structures have been lost, with those standing today rebuilt by the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Highlights include the immense Somon Gate that leads into the temple grounds and the temple bell (a designated National Treasure), as well as the colorful interior of the Kenchoji Buddha Hall.
If you want to stretch your legs, you can follow the four-kilometer-long Tennen Hiking Trail that explores Kamakura’s north and departs from Kenchoji.
Meigetsu-in Temple: Hydrangea
Founded in 1160, the Meigetsu-in temple is particularly renowned for its garden, which is home to one of the celebrated Ten Wells of Kamakura. It’s often referred to as the Ajisaidera ("Hydrangea Temple"), with its grounds igniting with purple-blue hydrangeas during the rainy, summer months of June and July. If you visit in autumn, the garden transforms with golden colors and the temple has long been used as a place to rest and reflect. Meigetsu-in’s main hall also features a hidden inner garden that’s famed for its irises and only opens to the public for two weeks during the year.READ MORE
- Meigetsu-in Temple and Gardens
Organic Café: Natudeco
Natudeco, an organic cafe that serves a breakfast plate featuring fried eggs, organic persimmons and toast, as well as offering a macrobiotic breakfast on their menu.
Bread & Sweets: Café Recette
Alternatively, enjoy the smell of freshly baked sweet bread as you walk intoCafé Recette and begin the day with toast and coffee.
Komachi Dori Street
Komachi Dori Street is a long shopping street that starts from right in front of Kamakura Station East exit. The street is lined up with numbers of restaurants, cafes and shops, which is perfect for walking around and spend your time before or after exploring temples and other historical monuments in Kamakura.
※Iwata Coffee Shop, Kamakura Amegen, Ca Ca O. Toshimaya, Romi Uni Confiture, Toshimaya Hakotoji and Kamakura Goro mentioned in this article are on or around this street.READ MORE
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Iwata Coffee Shop
Kamakura boasts plenty of long-established cafes that have become icons of the city, with a retro atmosphere where time has seemingly stood still.
One not to miss is the Iwata Coffee just off Komachi Dori Street (see the section "Komachi Dori Street" for more information) that’s been visited by former “The Beatles” John Lennon and Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata. The most popular menu item is their double-tiered pancake, which combines a crispy exterior with a soft and moist inside that will melt in your mouth.READ MORE
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Candy shop: Kamakura Amegen
A popular homemade candy shop, Kamakura Amegen offers different flavored candies for an affordable prices. The most popular item is the Kamakura Meguri Hassen (the Best 8 Kamakura-tour Selection). With an assortment of candies modeled on famous Kamakura artifacts or scenic spots such as the Great Buddha, Enoshima, and Benzaiten, you are tempted to buy all of them. Eating these candies is sure to remind you of your visit to Kamakura!
Homemade Jam: Romi Uni Confiture
Romi Uni Confiture is famous for its cute containers of jams. There are about 30 different types of homemade jams that look like candy, made with exclusively selected ingredients.
The shop's best sellers include the "bread set (2 jam sets for 1,450 yen excluding tax)". Since they are all popular products, you'll have no trouble deciding what to buy!
Toshimaya is a long-established confectionary store that’s known for its pigeon-shaped sweets. However, a refined and elegant sugar candy called Rakugan in the shape of a pigeon has been gaining its popularity too. Trying both would be highly recommended.
pigeon-shaped cookie in the icnonic yellow can
pigeon-shaped rakugan (sugar candy)
Japanese teahouse: Toshimayakaryo Hatokoji
A café and sweet shop belonging to the Toshimaya chain located a short way off of Komachi Dori Street. The shop’s traditional shop curtains and spacious garden exude a distinctive Japanese atmosphere. The shop’s carefully crafted sweets are both beautiful and delicious. Items like the mamekan (sweet adzuki beans and jelly) and anmitsu (syrup-covered bean jam) are decorated with small edible pigeon figures.
Mamekan sweet with iconic pigeon shaped jelly
Crispy Half-moon Wafer: Kamakura Goro
Hangetsu means 'half moon', which, as you can see, is reflected in the semicircular shape of this half-moon wafer called "Hangetsu". The gaufrettes on the outside have a nice "crispy" sound and are firm and crunchy. You can enjoy the sweetness on its own, but the different flavored cream sandwiched between them makes the wafer evern more sweeter. The picture of a rabbit on it makes it look cute and gives it a "Japanese modern" feel.
Vegetable Curry: Kamakura Yasai Curry Kantakun
Vegetarians and vegans will love Kamakura Yasai Curry Kantakun, which is famed for its hearty curries featuring rare vegetables you might not have eaten before.
Oxymoron Komachi is known for its hearty curries and enticing cheesecakes, which can be enjoyed accompanied by good coffee.
Japanese teahouse: Sabo Kirara
Kamakura is renowned for its charming cafes that serve unique sweets and desserts that can only be tasted here. Be sure to visit Sabo Kirara, a traditional teahouse that serves authentic Japanese desserts, including Shiratama Fruit Cream Anmitsu. It’s served with a matcha-flavored shiratama (soft rice cake) and red bean paste, with a rich matcha sauce on top
Shiratama Furit Cream Anmitsu
Fish-shaped Pancake: Taiyaki Namihei
Taiyaki Namihei serves taiyaki - a fish-shaped pancake that’s filled with bean jam. Grab one of their honey-baked tsubuan filled with a coarse red bean paste or opt for the smooth koshian that features a fine-grained sweet bean paste.
Designated Excellent Sweets at Mikazuki Kasen
Mikazuki Kasen's Kamakura dorayaki (sweet adzuki beans sandwiched between two soft cakes), baked one at a time on a copper plate is a designated Excellent Sweets by Kanagawa Prefecture is a must buy and try sweets when you visit Kamakura.
Kamakura Dorayaki (designated Excellent Sweets by Kanagawa Prefecture)
Another destination not to miss if you’re arriving early in the morning is the Renbai, a fresh food market where you can pick up vegetables and fruit farmed in the surrounding region.
It’s open every day, with a rotating selection of stalls that are manned by farmers when they’re not busy in the field. Adjacent is the Kamakura Central Food Market where you can also find fresh seafood, baked goods and artisan produce, such as smoked cheese with walnuts.
Aside from being photogenic, the market is a great place to sample a range of local specialities and have breakfast on the go.READ MORE
- The Kamakura Farmers Market
Access to Kamakura
If you’re traveling to Kamakura by train from Tokyo Station, it’s best to aim for the first departure on the Yokosuka Line to be sure that you can get a seat. Arrive as early as possible and begin lining up beside the platform.
Alternatively, you can travel there along the Enoshima Electric Railway or Enoden, which connects Kamakura with Fujisawa Station. If you’re planning on sightseeing in Kamakura, consider purchasing a KAMAKURA FREE ENVIRONMENT BILL that allows you a full day’s unlimited travel on the bus routes and Enoden that link the city’s major tourist spots, as well as offering discounts at temples and museums.READ MORE
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Connected to Kamakura by a pedestrian-access bridge, Enoshima is packed with attractions for visitors to explore. Aside from the ornate Enoshima Shrine that was built by a blind acupuncturist, it’s also home to the new Enoshima Aquarium that features marine life from Sagami Bay, a dedicated jellyfish tank and daily dolphin shows.
Enoshima Shrine is a shinto shrine that consists of three separate shrines: Hetsumiya, Nakatsumiya, and Okutsumiya that are located in different places around the island. Enshrined in these three shrines are three goddesses that preside over the safety of voyages. The main complex includes an octagonal building that houses one of Japan's three most venerated statues of Benten, the patron goddess of Enoshima.
Facing Sagami Bay with a view of Mount Fuji on the right and Enoshima Island on the left, the Enoshima Aquarium, commonly known to locals as Enosui, has a 60-year history of jellyfish breeding and research, and is known as a pioneer in jellyfish exhibits around the world. The Jellyfish Fantasy Hall, which displays a wide variety of jellyfish according to their characteristics, is truly a magical moment to witness. With a dolphin show and a wide range of programs to interact with marine animals, this is an attractive aquarium that can be enjoyed by couples and families alike.
Enoshima Speciality Food
Don’t miss the opportunity to try the island’s famed sardines at Shirasu Tonya Tobiccho. This popular restaurant is known for its Nama Shirasudon, a rice bowl topped with raw young sardines that are caught fresh each morning. But there are plenty of other local specialties to eat while walking around the island, including octopus-pressed rice crackers and ice cream infused with anchovy.
Access to Enoshima
If you’re planning on visiting Enoshima from Kamakura, the Enoden one-day pass “Noriorikun” is an affordable option. It allows you to hop on and hop off along the line as many times as you want throughout the day, including at the Enoshima Station.READ MORE
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