One of the most popular day trips from Tokyo is to Kamakura, a small seaside town in Kanagawa prefecture. Kamakura was, for a brief time, the political capital of Japan during the Kamakura Shogunate. Nestled between the hills and the Sagami Bay, Kamakura has numerous historical and cultural sights packed in a small package.
You’ll need more than a day to visit all temples and shrines around Kamakura, but trips to the “Kyoto of Eastern Japan” won’t seem complete without seeing the Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu). The Daibutsu is located on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple, around 10 minutes walk from Hase Station on the Kamakura Enoden Line.
This is the second largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan at 13.35 meters, second only to the Buddha in Nara’s Tōdaiji Temple. It was originally housed in a temple hall but after a tsunami destroyed the hall, they just let the statue sit peacefully in the open air.
At a junction roughly halfway back to Hase Station from Kotokuin, one of the roads leads to Hasedera. Hasedera is a temple of the Jodo branch of Buddhism, also known for its statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy.
Lining the pathways uphill to the temple hall are thousands of small statues of Jizo Bodhisattva. The Jizo statues are believed to comfort the souls of unborn children. Some of the Jizo are even decorated with scarves and traditional umbrellas.
From Hasedera, we took the Enoden train to Kamakura Station at the end of the line. Around 15 minutes walk from the station, we arrived at Kamakura’s largest Shinto Shrine – Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. The importance of the shrine is highlighted by a grand approach through the center of town, with a number of huge Torii gates along the way.
The shrine is popular for traditional Shinto weddings; the ceremony usually takes place at the Maiden, the open-air stage in front of the stairway to the main hall.
The stairway approach to the main hall of Hachimangu was, during our visit, flanked by a huge 30-meter tall Ginkgo tree. It is said that in 1219, the 3rd Minamoto shogun was assassinated by his nephew who hid behind this tree. Sadly, the 1,000-year old Ginkgo was uprooted in a storm in March 2010.
A nice way to end a hectic day in Kamakura is a sunset stroll along the bridge to Enoshima. Enoshima has lots of attractions to merit a day visit by itself, but we didn’t have enough energy left to go around. We called it a day after having dinner in Enoshima and took the train back to Tokyo.
Kamakura is roughly an hour ride southwest of Tokyo. The cheapest way to get to Kamakura and Enoshima is through Odakyu Railway’s Kamakura Enoshima Free Pass, which includes one round trip between Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station and Kamakura, as well as unlimited rides on the Enoden between Fujisawa and Kamakura. The ticket price varies depending on your starting point on the Odakyu line; from Shinjuku it costs JPY 1,430.
- Tokyo to Fujisawa by Odakyu Railways
- Fujisawa to Hase by Enoden train
- Kotokuin and the Kamakura Daibutsu
- Hasedera Temple
- Train ride from Hase to Kamakura
- Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
- Kamakura to Enoshima by Enoden train
- Enoshima to Tokyo by Odakyu Railways