A 1-Day Itinerary in This Coastal Town Near Tokyo

Tokyo is a hotbed for travellers in search of the quintessential Japanese experience. From Tokyo Tower and the Shibuya Crossing to Tsukiji Market and the Imperial Palace, there’s an almost endless variety of things to see and do. But if you’re looking to wander off the beaten path and discover hidden gems beyond Japan’s capital, consider this Kamakura day trip from Tokyo! 

Also read: 12 Best Day Trips From Tokyo & How to Get There

Kamakura itinerary for a fun day trip out of Tokyo

1. Tokyo to Kamakura

The coastline of Kamakura | Image credit: 7maru via Canva Pro

Kamakura is a seaside town that’s located less than an hour away from Tokyo. Its claim to fame includes beautiful temples, monuments, and a popular beach. Fun fact: Kamakura was also Japan’s first feudal capital. It became Japan’s political centre when Minamoto Yoritomo (the first shogun of Japan) chose it as the seat for his new military government in the 12th century.

To get there, you can take the train on the JR Yokosuka Line, which will bring you directly to Kamakura Station. Alternatively, if you’ve purchased the Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass, you’ll be able to travel from Shinjuku Station via the Odakyu Line.

This Kamakura itinerary will be structured around the most general route, in case you don’t want to purchase the Freepass, and will begin at Kita-Kamakura Station.

Also read: These Trains in Japan Will Take You to a Random Destination in the Country

2. Arrive at Kita-Kamakura Station

A good way to begin your Kamakura day trip is by exploring the temples in Northern Kamakura. Get off the train at the Kita-Kamakura Station first, and then take another train to Kamakura Station to continue seeing the sights around the rest of the city.

3. Explore nearby temples

Engakuji Temple

Temples are one of the main draws around the city of Kamakura. Two minutes away from Kita-Kamakura Station, you’ll find Engakuji Temple. It was built in 1282 to appease the souls of fallen soldiers following the second Mongol invasion at the time. Engakuji Temple is surrounded by beautiful cedar forests and its Shariden hall enshrines the tooth of Buddha, a sacred site that can only be viewed from a distance for most of the year.

Tokeiji Temple

Once known as the Divorce Temple, Tokeiji Temple offered refuge to women escaping abusive husbands and mothers-in-law. Today, the former nunnery serves as a monastery and stands as the only one remaining from the original network of five nunneries known as Amagozan. Tokeiji Temple is a five-minute walk from Kita-Kamakura Station.

Jochi-ji Temple

Right next to the Tokeiji Temple is the Jochi-Ji Temple, nestled in the same picturesque cedar forest. While the temple was badly damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake, visitors can still see the three surviving statues of the Buddhas of the Past, Present, and Future. The temple has a beautiful bell tower and grounds that visitors can explore.

Also read: 10 Must-See Temples and Shrines in Japan

4. See the Great Buddha at Kotoku-In

Image credit: Anton Cherednichenko via Canva Pro

Head back to Kita-Kamakura Station and board the train to Kamakura Station. From there, take a bus to the Kotoku-In Temple. Here, you’ll find the Great Buddha of Kamakura, another must-see destination for your Kamakura day trip. Originally housed in the temple hall, this 93-ton Amita Buddha is 13 metres tall. It’s been sitting outside in the open air for the past 500 years and is one of the most famous icons of Japan.

The original Buddha was made out of wood, but it was destroyed in a storm a few years after being built in 1283. The bronze replacement was commissioned after and took ten years to finish. Today, the sight of the Buddha silhouetted against the clear blue skies makes for a majestic sight and wonderful pictures.

5. Check out Hasedera Temple

Walk for eight minutes from the Great Buddha and you’ll reach Hasedera Temple, another destination that should be on your Kamakura itinerary. This Jodo-sect temple is home to Japan’s tallest wooden statue; the 11-headed Kannon Goddess of Mercy. Standing at nine metres tall, the Kannon is supposedly carved from the same tree as its counterpart in the Nara Hasedera Temple.

Built on the slope of a wooded hill, the temple has a wooden terrace that offers stunning views of Kamakura. The entrance is located at the bottom of the slope with a pretty traditional garden, a small temple hall and a cave with statues dedicated to the protectors of Buddha. Hasedera Temple also has a wooden bookcase which, if rotated, supposedly gives you knowledge of all the texts within.

6. Visit Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

Image credit: Sanga Park via Canva Pro

Next, return to Kamakura Station and continue your journey with a visit to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. This is Kamakura’s most important Shinto shrine. Founded in 1063, it was moved to its current site by Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura government. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the Minamoto family and the samurai.

The shrine is about a 10-minute walk from Kamakura Station and is pretty hard to miss. A path lined with cherry blossom trees runs right through the city centre, directing people right to its gates. Two ponds lie on either side of the entrance; the left one with three islands represents the Minamoto clan and the right one with four islands represents their archenemies, the Taira clan. If you’re planning a Kamakura day trip, don’t miss out on this destination!

7. Shop at Komachi Street

After you’re done admiring the beauty of the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, you can walk for five minutes to nearby Komachi Street. This shopping district is the perfect place to take a break after an afternoon of exploring temples and shrines. Komachi Street started as a small market with the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine itself, before expanding over the years into many alleyways and side streets.

Look for the red torii gate and prepare to walk. You’ll find everything here from boutique fashion stores and restaurants to cafes and bakeries. Komachi Street represents a bright and peculiar strip of modernity in an otherwise ancient city and needs to be part of your Kamakura itinerary.

8. Admire the bamboo groves of Hokokuji Temple

When the shopping ends, walk back to Kamakura Station and take a bus to Hokokuji Temple. Belonging to the Rinzai sect of Buddhism, Hokokuji Temple might seem small and unassuming from the outside, but it hides a beautiful secret.

Beyond the main hall lies a serene bamboo grove, with a forest of over 2,000 stalks that frame a picturesque teahouse within the grounds of the temple.

Also read: Japan Cherry Blossom 2024 Forecast: When & Where to See Sakura

As you can see, a Kamakura day trip from Tokyo showcases plenty of hidden gems in Japan that you’re likely to miss otherwise. It’s an easy journey into a historic city with many unique experiences and sights to offer, so make sure you add this Kamakura journey to your Japan itinerary!

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