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Kamakura - City of Shrines and Temples

Kamakura - City of Shrines and Temples

When traveling to Japan, a visit to Kamakura with the Great Buddha and its many historical temples should definitely be on the itinerary. Kamakura is located south of Tokyo in Kanagawa Prefecture. It is situated charmingly along Sagami Bay, attracting tourists from Japan and around the world. The wonderful seaside location and its central position in Japan contribute to the allure of Kamakura. In Kamakura, visitors encounter the traces of a vibrant and centuries-old history at every turn. For travel from Tokyo, it is advisable to book a Japan Rail Pass, which is valid up to Kamakura Station. The train journey from Tokyo Airport passes through Kawasaki, Yokohama, and Ōfuna, taking approximately one hour.

What sights does Kamakura have to offer?

In Kamakura, the main attractions are the historical temples and shrines with their Buddha statues, typical Japanese gardens, and ancient monastery complexes. In addition to these, there are splendid natural wonders, museums, and many interesting excursions in the surrounding area. For those who are interested, diving into the exotic culinary delights of Japan and trying out local recreational activities are also options.

Buddha made of stone under a tree
Access through a wall to a temple in Kamakura

Temples and shrines

Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are essential elements of Japan's living cultural heritage. Many believers make pilgrimages to these sites several times a year to offer prayers and donate money or items. In Kamakura, the Kōtoku-in, dating back to the Kamakura period, is one of the most well-known Buddhist temples. It houses the Great Buddha statue, also known as Daibutsu. This statue represents the Buddha Amitabha, who holds the highest reverence in Japan. The Great Buddha, or Kamakura Buddha, is a representative of the Pure Land, where believers can be reborn.

Buddha made of stone
flower arrangements in front of Buddha

Other important Buddhist temples in Kamakura include Kencho-ji, Engaku-ji, and Jomyo-ji. Kencho-ji is a main temple of the Japanese Rinzai school and Zen Buddhism, with more than 500 affiliated temples throughout Japan. The Buddha in these temples can be represented as a statue or an image. The walls of these buildings are often adorned with rich decorations and paintings depicting the history of the revered Buddha.

Zen Buddhism read in the magazine »

The Hase-dera Temple is dedicated to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. The Hase Temple houses a giant Hase Kannon statue, standing at more than nine meters tall, crafted from camphor wood and adorned with real gold. Its eleven heads are impressively designed to symbolize the search for enlightenment.

A visit to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is particularly romantic in spring. The path to Tsurugaoka is lined with cherry blossoms in full bloom. To reach the Zeniarai-Benzaiten-Ugafuku Shrine, visitors must walk through a tunnel in the mountain. At its end, they find a spring that emerges from the mountain massif. According to legend, money washed in the springwater is said to multiply miraculously. Large ladles are provided for visitors to perform a hopeful "money wash" without getting their feet wet.

Tsurugaota Shrine in Japan
ripe cherry blossoms

For those interested in ancient Japanese temple complexes, there are numerous additional destinations in Nara, Kyoto, and even in Tokyo itself. The oldest Buddhist temple in Japan is the Gango-ji in Nara.

Japanese murals View now »

Nature and museums

From the hotel, it's not far to the beaches of Yuigahara and Zaimokusa. They are located to the right and left of the mouth of the Nameri River and await visitors with fine white sand. For those who like, you can surf the waves or simply watch the athletes perform their daring maneuvers for a while.

During a trip to the Hokokuji Temple in the hills in the eastern part of the city of Kamakura, you can not only admire another Buddha. Near the temple grounds, there is a small bamboo grove, and a narrow path leads to an original tea house. Here, for a few yen, you can get a genuine matcha and enjoy the wonderful scenery.

Buddha made of stone under a tree
Macha tea in a tea bowl on a wooden tray
Path through bamboo grove
Access through forest to temple

The Kaburaki Kiyokata Memorial Art Museum exhibits works by regional artists. The ink drawings and wood prints impress with their detailed and characteristic depictions. Whether samurai, geisha or scenes from everyday life - here you will find many typical Japanese pictures of excellent quality. In addition to historical works, modern art is also on display.

Ink drawing on paper

For those who want to feel like an amazed child again, the Enoshima Aquarium is the perfect place. Funny crabs, huge sea spiders, whimsical snails, and plenty of fish populate the tanks. The trained dolphins' playful acrobatics and their piercing whistles make them real crowd-pleasers, and visitors can enjoy their performance every day. With a bit of luck, you can observe penguin chicks being fed or taking their first swimming attempts.

Man sitting in front of aquarium window
Fish swimming around in aquarium

Day trip to the surrounding area

Located just before the city, at the mouth of the Sakai River, is the island of Enoshima. It is accessible via a bridge and offers a fantastic view of Fuji on clear days. Notable attractions here include the Enoshima Shrine, the botanical garden, and the two Iwaya caves. The island is a great place to relax and take leisurely walks.

Heading towards Tokyo, you'll find the town of Hakone. Situated in the heart of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, it is a popular destination for both Japanese and foreign tourists. The park includes the volcanic peak of Mount Fuji, the five Fuji Lakes, and the Izu Peninsula. There are numerous hiking trails leading to the lakes and beautiful viewpoints. For those interested in playing golf with a view of Mount Fuji, the Tokyo Country Club, a golf course in the north of Hakone, is a great choice.

Fuji Mountain
Hakone in water

Fans of Japanese flora will be delighted by the botanical garden in Ōfuna. The park has numerous outdoor areas such as the rose garden, the rhododendron garden and the water lily pond. Peonies with historical varieties from the Genroku and Hoei periods will make the heart of any garden lover beat faster. Rare and delicate species from the tropics and Europe can be found in the greenhouses.

Japanese garden read in the magazine »

Food in Kamakura

In Kamakura, there are numerous establishments that delight their guests with traditional and international cuisines. Specialties such as Ramen, Sushi, Tempura, Unagi, or Soba make connoisseurs' mouths water. While Sushi is well-known worldwide, one should not miss the opportunity to try it directly in Japan. Ramen is an aromatic noodle soup that comes in so many variations that you can find dedicated Ramen restaurants in Japan. Tempura refers to small bites that are coated in a tasty batter and deep-fried in hot oil.

A specialty particularly enjoyed in summer is Unagi. It is prepared from filleted freshwater eel, which is smoked and marinated multiple times. This results in a distinctive sweet-salty-smoky flavor. Unagi is believed to impart strength and endurance. Soba are thin noodles, mostly made from buckwheat flour and water. They are traditionally prepared by hand just before consumption. The dough is kneaded thoroughly and repeatedly slammed down. The Soba master rolls the dough into large sheets, skillfully layering them. Using a large knife, fine strips are cut and cooked in a flavorful broth. Purists enjoy these noodles without additional side dishes.

Japanese food on a large serving platter
Japanese recipes read in the magazine »
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