An FAQ Guide to Kamakura City
An FAQ Guide to Kamakura City
Kamakura, just outside Tokyo is a popular weekend and day trip destination with plenty of sights, a rich history and lots to discover. To help you plan your next kamakura adventure we’ve put together this piece answering the most frequently asked kamakura questions!
Where is Kamakura?
Kamakura is a coastal town that sits around an hour south of Tokyo by train. Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, this historic town was once known as a town with a 'natural fortress' as it was surrounded by hills to the north, west, and east, while the south faced out on to the open sea. Today it's also connected to other popular coastal areas Enoshima and Zushi, and inland areas Fujisawa and Ofuna.
What is Kamakura famous for?
Kamakura has a lot going for it, so depending on who you ask, "what is Kamakura famous for?" You'll probably get a different answer. History buffs will tell you that the area is famous because, during the 12th century Kamakura Period (1192 - 1333), it was the political center of Japan. Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo elected the area to be the seat for his new military government; this power ran until the 14th century.
Today, it's a smaller coastal town with far less political power but plenty of historic sites and great nature spots. If you ask an architecture fan about Kamakura, they'll probably reel off the fascinating temples that dot the townscape or mention the great buddha. Surfers and outdoor advertising friends will gush about the beaches, which aren't spectacular to be honest (the sand is rather grey), but the party atmosphere that takes over the coast during the warmer months can't be beaten.
What to do in Kamakura?
There's enough to see and do in Kamaura to make it worthy of an entire weekend trip, so if you have the time and the urge to get out of the city for a few nights, we couldn't recommend it highly enough!
Tokyo Localized offers a four-hour long curated tour of the area, which is an excellent way to get an overview of everything the city has to offer and let you in on a few additional local secrets. The tour runs you through the history of the area's 12th century samurai, takes you through the picturesque city's major attractions like the Great Buddha and Komachi Market, and includes food, drinks, transportation expenses.
Beyond seeing the major attractions, which we'll talk about later, we recommend you hop aboard the Enoshima Electric Railway (which is pretty much unavoidable if you're planning to visit Enoshima). This scenic railway connects Kamakura Station in Kamakura with Fujisawa Station and runs along the southern coast of Kanagawa, offering excellent ocean views. Who knows, you might see a great wave off Kanagawa just like legendary painter Hokusai did all those years ago.
What to see in Kamakura?
Probably the most famous site in the city is the Great Buddha. At 11.4 meters in height, it's the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan (after Nara's Todaiji Temple). Initially cast in 1252, the buddha has remained an outdoor attraction since the 15th century following the destruction of the temple in which it once lived.
Kamakura is home to plenty of temples and shrines too. The highlights are Hokokuji Temple with its lush, picturesque bamboo grove, and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, the largest Shinto shrine in the city. With an oversized torii gate and wide approach that runs from the shrine to the waterfront via the entire city center, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is the spiritual centerpiece of the city.
Another fascinating spiritual landmark worth adding to your itinerary is Zeniarai Benten Shrine. This shrine, which is located between Kamakura and Kita Kamakura Station, isn't so accessible by public transport. It's a 20-30 minute walk from the stations, but it's well worth the effort because legend has it, if you wash your cash in the shrine's spring water, you'll get rich!
While it's technically not a Kamakura attraction, the beach town of Enoshima is an easy side journey, one that's incredibly popular in summer. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, this island is home to a sprawling shrine, a European style park, an observation tower, and caves waiting to be explored. Also, when the sky is clear, it's a great vantage point for view Mt. Fuji.
What to eat in Kamakura?
Shirasu is the unofficial culinary icon of Kamakura. It's a local delicacy made from tiny baby sardines, herring, and sand lances, sometimes also known as whitebait. In Kamakura, you' l most often find them fried, boiled, or raw served as shirasu-don, which is a bowl of rice topped with shirasu. Not too fishy, and textually very unique, if you do get a chance to try shirasu, we recommend you do so!
In Enoshima, you often see long lines of local tourists waiting to get their hand on an almost A4-sized cracker, which is an octopus cracker, known in Japanese as tako senbei. Tako senbei is made to order and consist of an entire octopus lightly seasoned with salt, soy sauce, batter, and squished with to much pressure they form a one-millimeter thick cracker. As well as being delicious, they're pretty fascinating to look at, like a swirly abstract tentacle painting.
When to visit Kamakura?
There's no wrong time of year to visit Kamakura! In winter, the skies are often clear and offer excellent views of Mt. Fuji, while in autumn, the area is filled with vibrant red and orange autumn leaves. In spring, there are a handful of cherry blossom viewpoints where you can snap that must-have cherry blossom photo, while summer it's at its most popular, with floods of city tourists making the journey to the coast for a little beachside respite.
Where to stay in Kamakura?
If you're planning to explore Kamakura, you can easily stay in Enoshima, Fujiwara, or even Zushi. There are plenty of affordable hotels and guesthouses in the area well worth exploring. If you'd like some local tips or suggestions, feel free to get in touch.
How long does it take to get to Kamakura from Tokyo?
Depending on where in Tokyo, you depart and what type of train you catch, the journey takes between 60 to 90 minutes. From Tokyo Station, the JR Yokosuka Line offers a direct route from station to station, while the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line will get you direct between Shinjuku and Kamakura too.
The Odakyu's Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass, is the most affordable way to visit the area, however, which includes the round trip between Shinjuku and Kamakura plus unlimited use of the Enoden train for 1520 yen.
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