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Kamakura Off-The-Beaten Path: Lesser-Known Spots And Tips To Avoid Crowds

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Kamakura is a seaside town close to Tokyo known for its Great Buddha statue, shopping streets, and temples. However, there is more to this ancient capital than meets the eye. Take a relaxed trip to stay a couple of nights in greater Kamakura to fully enjoy this history and nature-rich area.

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Exploring Kamakura: How to Travel Peacefully in the Ancient Capital

kamakura daibutsu

The Daibutsu of Kotokuin Temple, Kamakura, in summer.
Kamakura was the ancient capital of Japan from 1185 to 1333 and remains a thriving, lively area today with its many historic temples, shrines, and beautiful nature. Located along the coast south of Tokyo, this city is a popular day-trip spot, but few people venture beyond the major sightseeing spots, like the Great Buddha, or Daibutsu, and Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, and even less actually spend the night here.

Staying for a night or two to explore the Kamakura and the surrounding Shonan area deeper reveals more of this region's charms. This article introduces lesser-known spots, nature-filled areas, and ways to enjoy the ancient capital safely on an extended trip, without being overcrowded by people.

8 Suggested Kamakura Spots and How Avoid Crowds

view of kamakura

Kamakura is located in the coastal Shonan region of Kanagawa Prefecture, facing the Sagami Bay and Pacific Ocean. There are a limitless number of things to do in the ancient capital and its surrounding towns. Below are eight great places to add to your itinerary that are lesser-known or can be enjoyed without having to deal with crowds.

1. Enoshima Electric Railway - Ride the Charming Enoden

enoden kamakura

Riding the Enoden (short for "Enoshima Electric Railway") is a must when in Kamakura. This railway runs for just 6 miles (10 kilometers) from Kamakura Station to Fujisawa Station, running through narrow passages lined with charming homes and greenery, parallel to the coast for several stops before turning inland. This is the train people ride to get to popular spots like the giant Buddha, Hasedera Temple, and Enoshima.

enoden hase station

The Enoden is a slow train, traveling at around 12 mi/hour (20 km/hour), which allows for great photos to be taken from and of these adorable green and golden-colored trains. Constructed originally during the Meiji Period in the 19th century, the trains and stations themselves retain their antique look that will delight riders. Get a one-day pass to ride the Enoden and get on and off as you please on this charming line, and board on a weekday to enjoy a less crowded ride.

2. Beachfront Cafes - Savor Local, Nutritious Meals

kamakura cafe

With a charming coastline, there are many beachside cafes in Kamakura where one can relax and have a satisfying meal or snack. Pictured above is the view from Magokoro, a stylish cafe offering dishes infused with hemp* located a 5-minute walk from Hase Station. The menu contains local choices using shirasu anchovies, fish, and vegetables, and organic ingredients. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available, as well as vegan-friendly desserts. Sit at a counter seat on the second floor inside to get a relaxing view of the beach while you enjoy the delicious fare.

There are other small cafes lining the road along the coast. For more options, try getting off at Shichirigahama Station further down the line.
*Hemp has been used traditionally in Japan for centuries in everything from sake production to the ceremonial ropes used at shrines, and can be added to food. It is legal in Japan and contains no psychoactive effects.

3. Jojuin Temple - Take in the Gorgeous Coastal View

kamakura view

Hike to the top of Jojuin Temple, a tiny Buddhist temple on a winding hill, to get a breathtaking view of Yuigahama Beach and the coastal area of Shonan. Your view will be framed in lush greenery, creating a shareworthy photo; don't be surprised if you see photographers around capturing a shot, either. During the rainy season, colorful hydrangeas dot the path leading down the hill.

After snapping your picture, head inside the temple and enjoy the tranquil grounds filled with flowers and Buddhist-related statues. The current location of the temple is said to date back to around 1688, making it a place of historical importance as well.

4. Yuigahama Beach - Experience Sandy Shores and Refreshing Water

yuigahama beach kamakura

Yuigahama is a popular beach with swimming in the summer, and a favorite area for surfers. Although a popular area on the weekends, a visit here during a weekday will provide a relaxing afternoon of sunbathing, water, and walks on the beach. On a clear day, you might be lucky enough to see Mt. Fuji in the distance.

To get to Yuigahama Beach, ride the Enoden to Yuigahama Station and walk towards the water. The official swimming season is from July to August: during other months, you can still take a calming, cooling walk on the coast.

5. Genjiyama Park - Hike through Kamakura's Countryside

kamakura hiking

Picture from Kamakura Tour - Zen Meditation, Shrines, And Local Treats
Genjiyama Park and its hiking paths connect the Kamakura Station area with a number of smaller shrines and the Daibutsu. The trails take hikers through lush forests and great viewpoints of the ocean. Hiking here is possible year-round, but the heat in the summer is intense, so be sure to prepare plenty of water and sun protection if hiking during this season. In the spring, cherry trees are in bloom in areas in the park, and fall brings rich red and golden hues to the forests.

It takes about 25 minutes to walk to the park from JR Kamakura Station (use the west exit). Bring durable shoes for walking, as there are steep inclines and narrow footpaths, and be sure to walk when there is ample sunlight.

6. Sasuke Inari Shrine - Be Surrounded by Red Torii Gates and Foxes

sasuke inari shrine

Picture from Kamakura Tour - Zen Meditation, Shrines, And Local Treats
Sasuke Inari Shrine is a lesser-known Shinto shrine in Kamakura located off a small path that can be accessed from the trails mentioned above.

Visually stunning, this shrine welcomes its guests with vivid vermillion torii gates and white fox figures scattered about the grounds. White foxes are considered to be the messengers of Inari, the deity of crops and prosperity, and it is thought that they carry the worshippers' prayers to the deity. People usually visit this shrine to pray for success in business endeavors and encounters.

The bright reds and whites, and greenery surrounding the shrine may make you feel like you've been transported to a dream world. Please note that this shrine is in a residential area, so be respectful of the neighboring houses.

7. Kuzuharaoka Shrine - Trek to a Sacred Spot

kuzuharaoka shrine

Photo by Pixta
Kuzuharaoka Shrine is another Shinto shrine that is easy to visit on a longer stay in Kamakura. Tucked away in a peaceful corner of the city, this shrine is accessible via the hiking trails Genjiyama Park is connected to. The grounds are surrounded by greenery year-round and are best accessed by foot.

kuzuharaoka shrine

Picture from Kamakura Tour - Zen Meditation, Shrines, And Local Treats
Kuzuharaoka is thought to provide good luck in finding and strengthening relationships, whether it be in love, friendship, or professional. If you are seeking help with connections, try tying a five-yen coin to one of the rocks shown above.

8. Komachi Dori - Stroll Down Kamakura's Shopping Street

komachi dori kamakura

The shopping street of Komachi Dori is one of the best-known areas in Kamakura, and is worth visiting for its variety and number of high quality shops and restaurants. Visitors can enjoy street food, souvenir shops, and many sit-down restaurants and cafes here. If you can, avoid visiting on weekends and holidays to beat the crowds. Please be aware that most businesses on this street close by 18:00, so visit early.

vegan goma ice cream kamakura

You will find traditional Japanese treats and flavors everywhere you look. Pictured above is black sesame flavored soymilk ice cream, topped with crushed golden sesame seeds from Goma Fukudo, located about halfway down the street. This vegan-friendly dessert is the ideal pick-me-up on a hot afternoon.

Be sure to stop by Mameya for Japanese-style peanut and bean treats, for snacks to eat on the way home or at your lodging. Enjoy flavors such as matcha, wasabi and seaweed, and an assortment of seasonal choices, including cherry blossom (options vary by time of year). Free samples are also available (as of July 2020, samples are available in individually-packed wrappers for safety).

Tips for Planning a Relaxing Stay in Kamakura

hasedera temple

Photo by Pixta
While Kamakura is a very popular sightseeing spot, there are ways to relax and beat the crowds. For advice on how to enjoy a calming, rejuvenating visit to Kamakura, read below.

Visit Lesser-Known Spots

While it's fun to see the giant Buddha and to stroll through the grounds of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, there's a myriad of small shops tucked away on side streets, smaller temples, and little things to appreciate. Exploring these lesser-known areas freely will make your Kamakura and Shonan trip all the more special, and there will be fewer people in the places, too.

Travel Solo or in Pairs

Kamakura is full of side streets and cute shops that will grab your attention, so it's best to either be by yourself or with a travel partner. Many cafes and restaurants are small anyway, making the city ideal for pairs or solo visitors. It won't be awkward to enter shops or cafes.

Stay Overnight

As mentioned earlier, staying the night in Kamakura or the greater Shonan area creates time to see more spots, but also allows one to avoid crowds at popular spots like Kotokuin and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. There is also nothing quite as refreshing as waking up in the morning surrounded by the lush nature of the Shonan region, whether it be the green forests or the blue ocean. Take a night or two to immerse yourself in the slower pace of life here.

There are many options available on Booking.com; for example, Guesthouse Irodori is a wheelchair-access, barrier-free lodging located just past Kamakura Station.

Visit on a Weekday

Weekends and public holidays tend to be very crowded in Kamakura and the Shonan area, so visiting on the weekday is highly recommended. While it may be difficult for those living in Japan to get off of work or arrange their schedule, it's a proven way to avoid crowds and confusion. Visiting on a weekday also means you'll be eligible to get Noriorikun, the one-day, all-you-can-ride pass for the Enoden trains.

Relax and Experience a Different Side of Kamakura

kamakura street

The first time the author traveled to Japan was during the middle of summer, when the weather in Kamakura is extremely hot and humid. Despite the heat and a lack of Japanese ability, though, it was easy to understand how special this ancient capital of Japan was. The seaside and gentle mountain slopes create a great background for the cultural and historical shrines and structures here.

The slower pace of the locals and the shops in Kamakura and Shonan will capture your heart. This article presents just a fraction of what fun there is to have in Kamakura: those looking for more excitement can explore the surrounding areas of Shonan with beautiful coasts and charming townscapes, like Fujisawa and Chigasaki, or head the other direction towards the Miura Peninsula. All offer a chance to escape from the bustle of every day.


Main image by Pixta

Written by

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Jasmine O

Kyoto, Japan

An awkward Southern California native living in Osaka. Originally came to Japan on the JET Program in Hyogo Prefecture (Kansai) after studying economics in college, and decided to try to stay.

IUC 10-month program graduate. Vegan and interested in all things Japan-related. Left-handed. Very fond of Kansai.

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