During my time in Japan I visited Kamakura, an old feudal capital by the sea. It's about an hour away from Tokyo making it a perfect day trip out of the city. It's packed with beautiful shrines and temples, so many that I didn't manage to see all the ones I wanted to. But the ones I did see were incredible.
If you get the train to Kamakura station, there's a tourist information office by the exit where you can get a map and recommendations on what to see and the best ways to get there.
We started off with Hokoku-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple a short bus ride away from the station. This was probably the temple I wanted to see the most because of its bamboo garden. It's even famous for it and often called Take-dera which means bamboo temple.
They really tower over you.
The second temple we visited was Sugimoto-dera. The woman we spoke to at the tourist office recommended it since it's so close to Hokoku-ji and it's one of the oldest temples in Kamakura, reported to have been founded in 734 AD. There weren't a lot of visitors when we went there so it was really peaceful.
Keep an eye out for the ticket booth on the left as you walk up to the temple. It's easy to walk past without realising.
After taking the bus back to the centre of Kamakura and breaking for lunch, we headed off to some of the bigger attractions. We walked through Komachi-dori, the main shopping street with quite a few cool looking cafes (complete with long queues) and then went to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the god of war Hachiman. There's a long approach to the temple where you pass through torii on the way. The grounds are huge with ponds, gardens, sub-shrines and even two museums.
We then walked to Daibutsu and Hase-dera. I completely misjudged the distance, so what I thought would be a 20 minute walk turned out to be more like 35, which isn't a huge difference but when you've been on your feet for most of the day it does tire you out. It did mean more strolling through Kamakura's pretty neighbourhoods though.
Before reaching Daibutsu at Kotoku-in my dad asked skeptically, "so just how big is this big Buddha?". Well, seeing the 13.35m tall statue made him go, "oh, that is big". You can also go inside the Buddha for just 20 yen.
Look at his shoes!
Hase-dera was our last stop before heading back and it was a pretty incredible temple to end on. The gardens and buildings were stunning.
And if the beautiful temple wasn't enough, you also get this view.
So that's it from Kamakura! As much as I love Tokyo, it was great to get out for a bit and see another side of Japan. I definitely recommend going to Kamakura for a day trip since it's small enough to see lots of great sites, but it also might be worth staying overnight to see more or just relax in the city.
Things to know:
- It's worth doing a bit of research on the different temples and narrowing down the ones you want to see so you can plan your day accordingly. I definitely recommend all the ones in this post along with Meigetsu-in.
- A lot of the temples have entrance fees, however they're only around 200-300 yen and cheaper for children.
Also, I made a vlog!