Kamakura is a city located south of Tokyo that has many interesting attractions. Nature, temples, beaches, delicious cuisine and above all, views of Mount Fuji! We introduce you a list of 20 things to do in Kamakura.
1. Go hiking
Kamakura has many attractive hiking trails in the hills that surround the city. The trails have different difficulties and are not paved, so it is better to use them on dry weather and with good walking shoes.
Tenen Hiking Course – Connects Kenchoji Temple and Zuisenji Temple. Takes 1 – 1½ hours to complete
Gionyama Hiking Course – Connect Myohonji Temple with Yagumo Shrine and the Harakiri Yagura, a cave tomb. Takes 1 – 1½ hours to complete
Daibutsu Hiking Course – Connects Jochiji Temple with the Great Buddha Statue. Takes 1 – 1½ hours to complete
2. See the Great Buddha
The Great Buddha is a 13.35 meter tall bronze statue located on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple and is the main landmark of Kamakura. It is the second largest Buddha statue in the whole country (the largest being the one at Todaiji in Nara). The statue dates from 1252 and it was originally inside a temple, but the structure was destroyed after a big tsunami. The Great Buddha is shown seated in a lotus position while doing the Dhyani Mudra, a gesture of meditation.
3. Visit temples and shrines
Kamakura has a number of interesting temples and shrines such as Hachimangu Shrine, Hokokuji Temple, Hasedera Temple, Engakuji Temple, Kenchoji Temple, Zeniarai Benten Shrine, Jomyoji Temple, Meigetsuin Temple, Ankokuronji Temple, Zuisenji Temple, Myohonji Temple, Jochiji Temple and other smaller ones. With a beautiful architecture and a peaceful atmosphere, an afternoon spent exploring them will surely become a good experience!
4. Go to the beach
Kamakura is located right next to the ocean and has several beautiful sand beaches. The most popular ones are Zaimokuza and Yugihama, two neighboring beaches which are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, strolling and surfing. The beach season in Kamakura starts in the beginning of July and ends in late August. Beach huts and rental shops are opened during summer, providing visitors with beach items, food and drinks.
5. Visit Enoshima Island
Enoshima is an attractive small island just outside Kamakura. The island is mostly occupied by a hill that must be climbed in order to get the south area. The hill has a Shinto shrine, an observatory and a park. The island also has a marina area with benches and a rocky coast that offers astonishing views of Mount Fuji, especially during sunset. A ferry was put in operation recently that connects the entrance to the island to the southern rocky coast.
6. Go on a city tour
Free guided tours are organized in Kamakura. Visitors can request a special day for the tour or go on the one that is held every Friday. Tourists can also choose the attractions they want to visit, or they can let the guides plan an intinerary. Going on a tour with a guide will help visitors see hidden interesting areas outside the popular areas and also broaden their knowledge about the city’s and Japan’s history.
- Website: https://www.govoyagin.com/activities/japan-kanagawa-kamakura-walk/838?gclid=CM_nks-5xssCFRK3GwodVGgFxA
7. Enjoy seasonal flowers
Many flowers can be enjoyed in Kamakura every season.
Spring: magnolia, quince flowers, cherry blossoms, roses, irises, azalea, wisteria
Summer: camellia, hydrangea, lotus, crepe myrtle, trumpet flowers
Autumn: cotton rose, cluster, bush clover, scarlet sage, cosmos, gingko
Winter: silverleaf, winter rose, peony, apricot flowers
8. Go surfing
Surfing in Kamakura is a very popular activity in the aforementioned Zaimokuza and Yugihama areas. There are several shops close to the beaches where surf equipment can be rented. Even if you never tried it before, it is a fun activity that is worth learning. You do not have to worry if you are not able to stand on the board too much – just playing in the water is enough!
9. Write on an ema plaque
Ema are small wooden plaques found at Shinto temples where people write their wishes on. The ema are then hanged on special stands or put in containers together with other people’s ema. The plaques have various images on them, most often images of animals, and many have the word “gani”, which means “wish”, written on the side. People write all kinds of wishes: from health prayer to wishes to hit for Japanese idols’ concerts tickets.
10. Bathe in a hot spring
The place to bathe in a hot spring in Kamakura is Inamuragasaki Onsen. The establishment offers sparkling hydrogen carbonate water which is said to benefit the skin. The owners are said to have discovered the waters while digging a hole for a well. The bath’s windows offer views of the ocean, making it the perfect place to watch a sunset.
- Price: around 1500 yen
- Access: just outside Inamuragasaki Station
- Opening hour: 09:00
- Closing hour: 21:00
- Holiday: none
- Website (Japanese): http://inamuragasaki-onsen.com/
11. Enjoy local food
Have a meal at one of the many restaurants in Kamakura or buy some street food to enjoy while walking around! Delicious foods include Kamakura style okonomiyaki (Japanese vegetable and meat pancake), tsukemono (pickled vegetables) and senbei (rice crackers), hato sabure (dove shaped cookies). There are restaurants close to the beaches where you can enjoy an unobstructed view of a beautiful sunset!
12. Look for seashells
The beaches in Kamakura are full of seashells of different colors and shapes. It is a very enjoyable activity to do with your kids, lover or even by yourself! The waters bring new types of shells everyday, so it is a very fun experience, not to add that you can bring the shells with you back home to keep as memories or give to your friends as souvenirs.
13. Visit a bamboo grove
Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura is best known for a small bamboo located right behind the temple’s main hall. The grove is pretty dense, with over 2000 bamboo stalks. There are alleys that go among the stalks which lead to a small teahouse. The teahouse sells matcha, so for a small price you can sip a cup of tea and enjoy the surrounding grove. The atmosphere is very peaceful, making it the perfect way for a relaxed afternoon!
- Price: 200 yen
- Access: just outside Jomyoji bus stop (take buses 23, 24 or 36 from Kamakura Station)
- Opening hour: 09:00
- Closing hour: 16:00
- Holiday:December 29 to January 3
- Website (English): http://www.houkokuji.or.jp/english.html
14. Enjoy a beautiful sunset
There are many places where you can enjoy a beautiful sunset in Kamakura. First of all, the beaches that line the edge of the city offer amazing views of the sun in the evening, which are sometimes combined with Mount Fuji on good weather days. Another place to see a sunset is Enoshima island, either from the rocky coast in the north or from the observatory that stands at the top of the hill. The views from the observatory are particularly beautiful, combined with the ocean below and Mount Fuji.
15. Learn to cook traditional food
There are special cooking classes organized in Kamakura. Visitors can go to a local’s home and enjoy cooking and eating traditional Japanese cuisine. All instructions are in English, so you do not have to worry about the language barrier. You can learn how to cook miso soup, maki sushi rolls, Japanese sweets and other types of dishes.
- Website: http://www.japanese-cooking-class-kamakura.com/
16. Go to a museum
The Kamakura Museum of National Treasures is a good place to spend a rainy afternoon when it is not possible to enjoy the nature outside. The museum houses over 4000 objects from the region such as sculptures and paintings. Most of the works date from the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (1185-1537). The name of the museum was given because some of the objects inside are considered national treasures.
- Price: 200
- Access: a 15 minute walk from Kamakura Station
- Opening hour: 09:00
- Closing hour: 16:30
- Holiday: none
17. Enjoy the city from a bike
Exploring Kamakura from a bicycle is much better than taking the train because one can find a lot of interesting places that otherwise would remain unseen. Bicycles can be rented at various places around the city, like hotels or special renting centers. Riding a bike on the road that goes along the ocean is particularly beautiful. And with a bicycle, you can go to other nearby cities located on the coast and visit more!
18. Go on a rickshaw tour
Visiting the city with a rickshaw is also another good way of exploring. The staffs are very knowledgeable about the region, so you will also find out interesting information about the places you see. The staffs also know less popular attractions that do not show up in guides but might still be worth paying a visit. The tours can last from 10 minutes to as much as 3 hours and the final destination can be chosen by the tourist.
- Website: https://www.govoyagin.com/activities/japan-kanagawa-take-a-kamakura-shonan-day-trip-with-rickshaw-enoden/3174
19. Ride the Enoden train
“Enoden” is the short word for Enoshima Electric Railway company which runs trains that connect Kamakura Station with Fujisawa Station. The route is 10 km long and has small trains that go past a number of attractions like the Great Buddha or Enoshima Island. Just riding the train between the two ends is a fun way of seeing the region.
20. Visit the Botanical Garden
The Kanagawa Prefectural Ofuna Botanical Garden located in Kamakura is a nice way of spending a few hours. Here you can see a variety of flowers such as irises, camellias or azaleas. There are rare plants such as peony or Japanese iris which have been cultivated from the Taisho period (1912-1926) and can only be seen inside the garden. The whole collection of the plants and flowers goes up to 5700 plant species.
- Price: 360 yen
- Access: a 15 minute walk from Ofuna Station
- Opening hour: 09:00
- Closing hour: 16:00
- Holiday: Mondays and from December 28 to January 4
- Website (Japanese): http://www.pref.kanagawa.jp/cnt/f598/
Enjoy Kamakura and all its attractions!
Have a good trip and travel!