Explore Kamakura, Japan

Explore Kamakura, Japan

Explore Kamakura, the small city n Kanagawa Prefecture, JapanKamakura is popular for its dozens of unique temples as well as its beaches with a relaxed atmosphere.

History

Evidence shows human settlement in Kamakura at least 10,000 years ago. Kamakura was the political capital of Japan during the Kamakura shogunate, from 1185 to 1333. On July 3, 1333, the reign of the Hōjō clan ended with the Siege of Kamakura. It is estimated that over 6,000 people committed suicide on that day. In 1956, 556 skeletons of people that died violently around that time were found.

After the Tokugawa clan moved the capital to present-day Tokyo, Kamakura continued its decline to become a mere fishing village. By 1910, the population had declined to 7,250 people.

Kamakura sustained significant damage during the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923.

You can reach Kamakura by plane and by train.

Kamakura is just a little too big to cover on foot, but a network of buses radiates out from the train station. Kotokuin and Hasedera can also be reached by taking the Enoden line three stops out to Hase station. Another option is to rent a bicycle.

For the energetic ones, there is a nice hike starting from Jōchiiji temple and ending near the Kōtokuin. You will walk, with some climbing, through forest. The hike also passes through Zeniarai Benten Shrine, if you are curious about the money washing ceremony. The hike takes about 3 hours, if you also stop and visit the temples along the way. Even in summer, the shade on the path manages to keep the temperature bearable. If you are on a day-trip, doing the hike limits a bit the chances of visiting some of the less reachable temples.

Kamakura’s sights are scattered around the city. Most visitors make a beeline for the Great Buddha and stop off at Hase Kannon on the way; these sights can be very crowded on weekends and holidays. The Tourist Information office outside the East exit of the station gives out an English map with popular recommended routes including a 4-hour hiking route.

 

What to do in Kamakura

Hike

Kamakura has several hiking trails that can provide relief from the crowds at the more popular shrines and temples. The Daibutsu hiking course starts a few hundred meters down the road from Kōtokuin. The trail has several offshoots that lead to various small shrines and temples. If it has rained recently, the trail could be muddy and there are several steep sections.

Beaches

Kamakura is not just a historical city which has a lot of temples, shrines, and other historical buildings — there are also some popular beaches in Kamakura. You can feel the atmosphere of the Shonan Coast in the bright sunshine and have a good time there, especially in summer.

·         Yuigahama . This is a representative beach in Kamakura, so many people visit in summer to enjoy the sea-bathing there. It is also a spot for a good view of the firework display held in summer. Kamakura is famous for aquatic fireworks. (Just remember when walking along this beach that it was not so long ago that a lot of dismembered heads buried in and near the sand were found. The heads were very old, from an era when Japan was not such a friendly place). 

·         Inamuragasaki. This is also a famous beach. The Inamuragasaki Park (Inamuragasaki Kōen) is located there and is well known for its sunsets. The remains of the Hojo, Kamakura’s government, was destroyed there in 1333. It follows along National Road 134. 

·         Shichirigahama. This is also a famous beach in Kamakura. Unfortunately, swimming is prohibited. But it’s still a good beach to relax and have an enjoyable time. Many surfers enjoy surfing there.

Kamakura is famous for a biscuit called Hatosabure, a biscuit shaped like a pigeon. Sold next to Kamakura station and a very popular omiyage (souvenir) among the Japanese.

Alternatively, combine good taste with bad taste by purchasing a pack of Giant Buddha shaped pastries stuffed with red bean paste, sold at the souvenir stands in and near Kotokuin.

There are many places to eat near the train station. For a snack, try the local specialty, purple potato soft ice cream (murasaki-imo sofuto), which tastes much better than it sounds (or looks). It is made from the purple sweet potato found throughout Japan.

In Komachi street, there is a rice cracker (o-senbei) shop where you can toast your own o-senbei.

During the summer months, many temporary bars are set up on the beach due south from the train station, some of them feature live bands and DJ’s and it’s generally a very good atmosphere. And don’t miss the last train home if you are staying in Tokyo, last minute accommodation late in the evening is simply not an option during the busy summer months.

Official tourism websites of Kamakura

For more information please visit the official government website: 

Watch a video about Kamakura

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