Written by Hilary Keyes
15 Things To Do In Kamakura For A Memorable Trip
Kamakura, a city rich in culture and with beautiful natural surroundings, located just an hour away from Tokyo, is full of things to enjoy both seasonally and all year long. Here are 15 of the things that any visitor should enjoy in Kamakura.
There are almost too many shrines, temples, historical buildings, shops, and other fascinating places to visit here to count! There are also several routes you can take to reach Kamakura from Tokyo too.
With so many places to choose from, it can be hard to plan out just what to see and do in this area, especially when there are also so many seasonal sights to enjoy as well. Here are 15 things to do and see in Kamakura that you can enjoy both all year long, and seasonally as well.
1. Komachi-dori Street: Shop for Various Items Right in Front of the Station
Komachi-dori is a shopping street filled with old cafes, handicraft stores, take out shops and restaurants, as well as a few chain shops, that ultimately leads those who follow it to one of the biggest draws of Kamakura - Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.
The street itself changes quite often, and is the ideal place to get a firsthand look at just what the Kamakura of the past, present, and future looks like. To learn more about this shopping street's atmosphere, check out Komachi-dori Street, Kamakura: Where The Historic City Begins.
2. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine - Feel History Around You in the Center of Kamakura
Established in 1063, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine was later designated as the center of the city of Kamakura, by the leader of the Kamakura military government of the time, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo. As the leader of the country resided here, the real power of the state became concentrated in Kamakura, which then became the nation's political, economical and cultural center.
One of the must-see parts of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is the approach to it. The full pathway to the shrine is known as Wakamiya Oji, but one section in particular is known as the Dankazura, which is a 450 meter long raised pedestrian pathway leading to the shrine lined with cherry trees and azaleas.
In the spring, it becomes a beautiful pink canopy to walk under, and in the summer, it's a shaded area to stroll on your way to the shrine. For more about Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, take a look at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Kamakura: Once The Center Of Japan.
3. The Kamakura Museum of Literature - See Literary and Political History Right Before Your Eyes
Kamakura has been a well-loved place and hometown to many of Japan's most influential writers, playwrights, and other cultural and political figures. Here at the Kamakura Museum of Literature, you will find artifacts and works by Soseki Natsume, Yasunari Kawabata, Yasujiro Ozu, and many other important persons who lived or worked in the Kamakura area.
Not only that, but the combination of Japanese traditional architecture and the Western art decor style of the building itself makes it quite unique too. Its main building was designated a National Registered Tangible Property in April of 2000, but fans of "Spring Snow", the novel by Yukio Mishima will recognize this building as well.
The garden here is famous for its roses, which bloom both in the summer and the fall, and there are also plenty of fall foliage spots in the area to enjoy as well. If you'd like to know more about this museum, please read The Kamakura Museum Of Literature: Home Of Kamakura's Literary History.
4. Engakuji Temple - Immerse Yourself in Zen
A minute's walk from Kita-Kamakura Station takes you to Rinzaishu Daihon-zan Engakuji Temple, or Engakuji Temple, one of the largest and most important temples belonging to the Rinzai Sect of Buddhism, most commonly known as the Zen sect of Buddhism. Here you will find many examples of Zen principles brought to life, including an incredible garden and courses on zazen meditation too.
Engakuji Temple is a great place to visit in the fall, thanks to its numerous trees, but this is also a beautiful temple to see in the summer as well, thanks to the abundant greenery and peaceful air that it has all year round.
If you are interested in learning more about Engakuji Temple and seeing some of its works, please take a look at Encounter The History And Charms Of Buddhism At Engakuji Temple, Kamakura, and if you'd like to learn more about their soothing zazen meditation course, check out Try Free Zazen At Engaku-ji Temple And Feel Refreshed In Body And Soul.
5. Kamakura Carvings - Learn About One of the Famous Local Handicrafts
Kamakurabori is a type of lacquerware perfected in Kamakura that first began being produced in the 10th century. At the Kamakurabori Assembly Hall, you can not only see extant examples of Kamakurabori dating back from the 13th-20th centuries, but also enjoy Buddhist style vegetarian lunches served on modern Kamakurabori ware as well.
Check out Kamakurabori Assembly Hall - See Exquisite Kamakura Carvings to see more examples of historical Kamakurabori, as well as what else the Kamakurabori Assembly Hall has to offer visitors all year round.
6. Kamakura Moyai Kogei - Enrich Your Daily Life with Handicrafts from Around the Nation
Kamakura Moyai Kogei is a shop that sells handicrafts made by craftspeople from all across Japan. It mainly focuses on earthenware items, but also sell glasses and fabric-based crafts as well.
Part of the appeal of visiting this shop lies in its construction; rather than looking like a typical store, the shop has been designed to look like a mountain retreat, complete with a tile roof and large trees in the garden.
Here you can find amazing works of craftsmanship that are ideally suited to everyday use, and make for some impressive souvenirs as well, plus some special seasonal items such as ceramic nabe (hotpot) pots, and more. For more about the products available at Kamakura Moyai Kogei, see Kamakura Moyai Kogei - Handicrafts From All Over Japan.
7. Improve Your Financial Fortunes at Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine
The Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine is a unique shrine and temple combination, one of the few places in the entire country that survived the differentiation of temples and shrines that took place during the Meiji period.
First built in 1185, the spring found at this shrine is said to improve your fortunes by doubling any amount of money you wash in its sacred waters, which makes it a popular place for those hoping to improve their financial luck. Not only that, but the fall foliage here is pretty impressive too. Check out Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine In Kamakura - Help Your Money Luck! to learn more about this helpful shrine.
8. Hasedera Temple - See Iconic Sights, Impressive Statues and More
Established in 736, Kaikozan Jisho-in Hasedera, also known as Hasedera Temple, is also commonly known as the Hase Kannon as it is home to Japan's largest wooden Buddhist statue - the Eleven-faced Statue of Kannon Bodhisattva, standing at 9.18 meter tall. Within the temple grounds, there are numerous hydrangeas as well, which makes this a must visit place come the rainy season in June.
There are simply too many things to see at this temple to mention in this article, so those interested should read Explore The Wonderful Hase Temple In Kamakura.
9. Books Moblo - Learn More About Japan and Find Limited Edition Works
Taking a break from historical places can be hard when visiting Kamakura, but there are a few places that you should make sure not to miss. Books Moblo is a used bookstore that opened in 2011 that sells a wide variety of books (many in foreign languages), from picture books, to photograph collections, and even limited edition zines as well.
A zine is a private journal authored by an individual, without any ties to bookstores or publishing companies; these have been quite fashionable in Japan recently, and many of those available here are very rare and may not be found anywhere else in Japan or the world.
If you'd like to add to your library, or just see what sorts of works have been selected by the staff of this shop, take a look at Books Moblo: A Unique, Used Bookstore In Kamakura.