The entrance to Hasedera Temple is an iconic image of Kamakura The entrance to Hasedera Temple is an iconic image of Kamakura

Kamakura – Top Picks


2019.12.04

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

The entrance to Hasedera Temple is an iconic image of Kamakura

Kamakura is a small coastal town in Kanagawa Prefecture, just shy of an hour south of Tokyo. It was once the political center of Japan, when it became the home of Japan’s first military government in the late 12th century. Around this time Buddhism also made its way to Japan from China, and quickly spread to all corners of the country. Kamakura is considered by many as the spiritual home of Buddha in Japan to this day, and this legacy is reflected in the large number of temples that occupy the town in all directions.

As well as Buddhist temples, Kamakura is also home to a large number of Shinto shrines and other historical monuments. As a result of this many consider Kamakura as the Kanto Region’s answer to Kyoto. Unlike it’s older sibling however, Kamakura is much smaller in scale and in the number of tourists that it attracts.

With all that being said, in this article we would like to introduce you to some of our favorite spots in and around Kamakura. Similar to Kyoto though, there’s a lot more than first meets the eye in Kamakura, and we highly recommend dedicating a day or two to exploring the area – you never know you may also discover your new favorite place in Japan while you’re at it!

  • 01

    Kotokuin Temple (The Big Buddha)

    No introduction to Kamakura is complete without mention of the town’s resident big guy at Kotokuin Temple. The 11.4 meter tall bronze statue of Buddha was cast in 1252, originally inside a much larger temple hall. Sadly the building around it was destroyed over time by several typhoons and a large tsunami, and as a result the Big Buddha has been standing in the open air since the late fifteenth century.

    The 93-ton Amida Buddha is one of Japan’s most iconic images

    The 93-ton Amida Buddha is one of Japan’s most iconic images

    It is recognized as the second biggest statue of Buddha in all of Japan

    It is recognized as the second biggest statue of Buddha in all of Japan

    Kotokuin (or rather the Big Buddha) is a sight to behold, but it is also probably Kamakura’s most popuar tourist destination, meaning it tends to get very busy at peak times. We highly recommend making this the first stop of your day, and swinging past as soon after 8am, when it opens, as possible. Arriving early will mean you have the place to yourself, without crowds of selfie-stick wielding tour groups. If you cannot make it to the Big Buddha so early in the morning, the next best time is at around 5pm, shortly before it closes (doors close at 5:30pm).

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    4.5

    รีวิว 2879
    place
    จังหวัดคานากาว่าเมืองคามาคุระฮาเสะ4-2-28
    phone
    0467220703
    info
    【URL】https://www.kotoku-in.jp/en/
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  • 02

    Hasedera

    Just a few minutes down the road from Kotokuin is another firm favorite of ours – Hasedera.
    Hasedera is famous for its eleven-headed statue of the Buddhist goddess Kannon which sits inside the temple’s main hall. According to Buddhist literature the statue was fashioned from the same tree that the iconic Kannon statue in Nara was carved from.
    Hasedera and its surrounding complex is built along the slope of a wooded hill, which affords great views across the town and out to sea. There is also a well-maintained temple garden with an array of flora and a small pond with koi carp fish in it.

    The entrance to Hasedera is marked with an impressive pine tree that looms overhead as one approaches

    The entrance to Hasedera is marked with an impressive pine tree that looms overhead as one approaches

    One of the many out-buildings at Hasedera

    One of the many out-buildings at Hasedera

    One of the many out-buildings at Hasedera

    One of the many out-buildings at Hasedera

    The slope upon which the temple is built is surrounded by thick vegetation making for some great photo ops

    The slope upon which the temple is built is surrounded by thick vegetation making for some great photo ops

    The beauty is in the detail

    The beauty is in the detail

    Stone steps lead you up through the temple gardens allowing you to see it from various angles

    Stone steps lead you up through the temple gardens allowing you to see it from various angles

    Something else to consider while visiting Hasedera is staying for a spot of lunch. Their small but highly recommended restaurant serves a variety of dishes, all of which are 100% vegetarian, as is tradition in Buddhism. The restaurant also offers nice views over the town below.

    วัดฮาเซะเดระ
    rating

    4.5

    รีวิว 7
    place
    Kanagawa Pref. Kamakurashi Hase 3-11-2
    phone
    0467226300
    info
    【URL】https://www.hasedera.jp/en/
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  • 03

    Benzaiten and Sasuke Inari Shrines

    Next up we have a couple of somewhat unknown shrines, hidden in plain sight in the middle of town. Approximately 25 minutes-walk from Hasedera are these two small shrines tucked away among a cluster of townhouses and winding roads.
    Benzaiten Shrine is accessed via a long tunnel that resembles a sort of cave in the side of a large rockface. Once you reach the end of the tunnel, a circular space opens up where you will find a small pond, several small shrines and a couple of makeshift vendor stalls selling snacks, trinkets and other knick-knacks.

    The entrance to Benzaiten Shrine is unusual, and easy to miss if you don’t keep your eyes peeled!

    The entrance to Benzaiten Shrine is unusual, and easy to miss if you don’t keep your eyes peeled!

    Benzaiten houses several small shrines surrounded by thick vegetation

    Benzaiten houses several small shrines surrounded by thick vegetation

    Once you have explored all Benzaiten has to offer you can follow a small walking path out the back of the complex, through several residential streets, and after just a couple of minutes you will find yourself at the entrance to Sasuke Inari Shrine. Inari being the sect of Shintoism that worships the deity Inari – a popular deity associated with foxes among other things. If you look carefully when at Sasuke Inari Shrine you will find clusters of small foxes hidden all over the place.

    The entrance to Sasuke Inari Shrine

    The entrance to Sasuke Inari Shrine

    Inari Foxes are hiding in almost every nook and cranny at Sasuke Inari Shrine

    Inari Foxes are hiding in almost every nook and cranny at Sasuke Inari Shrine

    The main shrine can be found at the end of a long line of Torii gates

    The main shrine can be found at the end of a long line of Torii gates

    NOTE: The main shrine building at Sasuke Inari Shrine was badly damaged in a typhoon in that made landfall in this part of Japan in October 2019. The building is now undergoing urgent reconstruction work, and shouldn’t take too long to finish, but at time of publishing (November 2019) it still hasn’t been finished. Please be prepared to potentially not be able to see the main shrine building if you plan to visit soon after the dates mentioned above.

    ศาลเจ้าซาสุเกะอินาริ
    rating

    4.0

    รีวิว 136
    place
    Kanagawa Pref. Kamakurashi Sasuke 2-22-12
    phone
    0467224711
    info
    【URL】http://sasukeinari.jp/
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  • 04

    Hokokuji Temple

    Ah, Hokokuji! What appears to be a fairly unassuming little temple at first glance in fact has one of the most picturesque teahouses in all of Japan!
    Founded in the early 1300s, this temple has a long history in Kamakura – it was the family temple of the ruling Ashikaga Clan for many years. It houses an historic statue of Buddha, and also has a unique looking bell tower with a nice thatched roof. The real treat here however is the bamboo grove that sits behind the main hall, and a quaint little teahouse that is buried deep inside the bamboo forest…

    Hokokuji Temple and its small stone garden

    Hokokuji Temple and its small stone garden

    The bamboo forest has a stone walking path that leads to various stone lanterns and also a nice little teahouse

    The bamboo forest has a stone walking path that leads to various stone lanterns and also a nice little teahouse

    The bamboo forest has a stone walking path that leads to various stone lanterns and also a nice little teahouse

    The bamboo forest has a stone walking path that leads to various stone lanterns and also a nice little teahouse

    Caves line the far back-end of the temple grounds, they are believed to hold the ashes of lords who lived in Kamakura hundreds of years ago

    Caves line the far back-end of the temple grounds, they are believed to hold the ashes of lords who lived in Kamakura hundreds of years ago

    For a small fee you can sit down and enjoy a cup of Matcha tea inside the teahouse while looking out over the bamboo forest. Located a little beyond the teahouse are also a series of shallow caves in the face of a large rock, it is believed that the ashes of some of Lords from the Ashikaga Clan are held inside these caves.

    วัดโฮโคกุจิ
    rating

    4.0

    รีวิว 22
    place
    Kanagawa Pref. Kamakurashi Joumyouji 2-7-4
    phone
    0467220762
    info
    【URL】https://houkokuji.or.jp/
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  • 05

    Engakuji Temple

    For the last few locations we will focus on Kita-Kamakura (lit. North Kamakura), which is a short distance from Kamakura proper. Kita Kamakura can be accessed by either train (one stop), or on foot either through the town or via the Tenen Hiking Trail.
    For those who visit Kita Kamakura by train, upon arriving at the station you will almost immediately see Engakuji Temple, one of the leading Zen temples in Japan, founded in the late 1200s. The temple complex comprises of several large buildings, housing statues of Buddha, a large temple bell and an impressive main gate. Many of these are considered national heritages and have been exceptionally well maintained.
    Also within the premises are a teahouse and ample opportunity to appreciate the luscious surroundings that reflect changes in the season.

    The entrance to Engakuji Temple surrounded by autumn colours

    The entrance to Engakuji Temple surrounded by autumn colours

    Engakuji Temple

    Engakuji Temple

    The Sanmon Main Gate at Engakuji which was constructed in 1783

    The Sanmon Main Gate at Engakuji which was constructed in 1783

    One of the inner temple buildings at Engakuji

    One of the inner temple buildings at Engakuji

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    rating

    4.5

    รีวิว 486
    place
    จังหวัดคานากาว่าเมืองคามาคุระยามะโนอุจิ409
    phone
    0467220478
    info
    【URL】https://www.engakuji.or.jp/
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  • 06

    Meigetsuin

    And just a few meters down the road, on the same side as Engakuji you will find Meigetsuin, also known as the Hydrangea Temple due to the large number of hydrangeas that fill the grounds in the early summer.
    Meigetsuin was fiunded and built in the 1160s, at which point it was part of a much bigger temple complex, known as Zenkoji, today however only Meigetsuin remains.
    The main temple hall can found at the back of the temple complex, it features a a nice circular window which frames the scenery of the inner garden behind it. This is a popular spot to photograph as well as sit and look at.

    The circular window in the main hall at Meigetsuin is a popular place for photographers

    The circular window in the main hall at Meigetsuin is a popular place for photographers

    The stone steps which lead visitors to the main temple hall become thick with hydrangeas on both sides during the early summer months

    The stone steps which lead visitors to the main temple hall become thick with hydrangeas on both sides during the early summer months

    The grounds of Meigetsuin

    The grounds of Meigetsuin

    The inner garden is lush and houses an array of flora, although it is only open to the public twice a year, once in the early summer and then again in late November when the autumn leaves are changing colour.

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    rating

    4.0

    รีวิว 418
    place
    จังหวัดคานากาว่าเมืองคามาคุระยามะโนอุจิ189
    phone
    0467243437
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  • 07

    Jochiji Temple

    The final stop on our tour of Kamakura’s top picks is Jochiji, a small and rather quiet Zen Buddhist temple in the Kita Kamakura area, across the train tracks from Meigetsuin.
    Founded in 1280s Jochiji is an out-temple that belongs to the much bigger (and mentioned above) Engakuji Temple. The temple is accessed via a long set of stone steps which are visible from the road below, as you reach the top of the steps the main temple can be seen.
    Behind the temple hall is a circular path that leads you through the temple gardens, past old thatched roof buildings, a graveyard and some caves. Compared to the other places listed above Jochiji is a relatively quiet temple with a serene atmosphere.

    The stone steps that lead to Jochiji Temple

    The stone steps that lead to Jochiji Temple

    The main hall at Jochiji is quiet and understated, it houses several statues of Buddha

    The main hall at Jochiji is quiet and understated, it houses several statues of Buddha

    Outhouses at Jochiji look like something from a bygone era

    Outhouses at Jochiji look like something from a bygone era

    A cluster of stone monuments in the graveyard at Jochiji

    A cluster of stone monuments in the graveyard at Jochiji

    The main gate at Jochiji

    The main gate at Jochiji

    วัดโจชิจิ
    rating

    4.0

    รีวิว 133
    place
    Kanagawa Pref. Kamakurashi Yamanouchi 1402
    phone
    0467223943
    info
    【URL】https://jochiji.com/en
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