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Exploring Kamakura: Discovering the Rich History and Natural Beauty of Japan's Perfect Day Trip from Tokyo

Our son and his family are stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. We spent our first day exploring Yokosuka and Kamakura. We hiked the hills above Kamakura with our son and grandson, then explored the quaint town of Kamakura, Japan. Our visit included a lunch stop for wood fired pizza. For those exploring the sights and sounds of metropolitan Tokyo, breaking away to visit Kamakura is an absolute must. Why should you add Kamakura to your Tokyo, Japan itinerary?

Imagine an idyllic, seaside city, teeming with ancient Buddhist temples, a tranquil atmosphere, gorgeous beaches and plenty of resorts. A stunning destination nestled between the coastline and the inland hills just south of Tokyo, Japan. Kamakura, a small seaside city of 173,000 people, has a nice laid-back surfer vibe that makes it the perfect day trip from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

  • Kamakura has also played an important part in Japanese history. The city was once the ancient capital of Japan (1182 to 1333), a period referred to as the Kamakura Period. The de facto ruler of Japan, the Shogun, lived in Kamakura, while the powerless Emperor resided in Kyoto.

  • Kamakura has so many historic buildings, Zen temples, and Shinto shrines that it is sometimes referred to as the Kyoto of Eastern Japan. The Zen temples in Kamakura are functioning ones where people meditate iand cermonies are preformed. The atmosphere was quiet and contemplative..

You can get around Kamakura by bus or train. Some temples are easy to get to, while others require navigating the bus system or walking 20 to 30 minutes. The people who work at the tourist information center at the Kamakura train station are knowledgeable and helpful.

Getting from Tokyo to Kamakura by Train

The easiest way to get from Tokyo to Kamakura is by train. Although you can take a series of boats, buses or taxis, the fastest, cheapest and simplest way of getting to Kamakura from Tokyo is via the train system, simply take a train from Shinjuku or Tokyo stations. Since Kamakura is only 1 hour from Tokyo, it is an easy and quick day trip. If possible, arrange your trip for a weekday to avoid the crowds of weekend visitors.

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What to See in Kamakura, Japan

The Gardens Surrounding Engakuji Temple, Kamakura Japan

Engakuji Temple, Kamakura

Entrance fee: ¥400 for adults and ¥100 for children

Daily opening hours: 8:00 am – 16:30 pm (March to November) and 8:00 – 16:00 (December to February)

Kamakura is well known for its magnificent temples, some sharing insight into the history of Buddhism and its influence on Japanese culture.The Engakuji Temple is one of the most significant, old and exquisite temples to be encountered on your Kamakura day trip, and it is the perfect first stop.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Temple

Entrance fee: Free (excluding the garden and Shrine Museum)

Daily opening hours: 5:00 am – 21:00 pm (opens at 6:00 am between October to March) The gardens are only open in spring.

Right at the end of Komachi Street, you’ll find the prominent Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Temple. This sacred site is revered as the most important Shinto shrine in the whole of Kamakura and is an absolute must-see. This ancient temple has been around since 1180. It carries a magnificent history and stands with spiritual significance for the locals. It is a sacred shrine for Hachiman, a Japanese patron god of Minamoto family and of the samurais.

The bright red colour and intricate designs make for quite the sight. Make your way to the terrace of stairs that lead up to the magnificent main hall, also known as the Hongu or Jogu.

Kotoku-in, The Big Buddha of Kamakura

Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at Kotoku-in Temple, Kamakura

Entrance fee: ¥300 for adults, ¥150 for elementary school kids and free for children under the age of 6.

Daily opening hours: 8:00 am to 17:30 pm (April to September) and 8:00 am – 17:00 pm (October to March)

Once you’re done seeing the wonders of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine, jump on a bus and head on to the most famous landmark in Kamakura city, Kotoku-in. No day trip to this legendary city would be complete without a stop here, as this is the city’s main attraction. Also known as the Great Buddha, this outstanding monument stands as a symbol for Amida Buddha, one of the most revered Japanese icons.

The Great Buddha is seen in a meditation pose, radiating peaceful energy throughout the grounds that is tangible in the air and felt in the soul. The statue is made out of bronze, and it towers a mighty 13.35 meters, making it the second-tallest bronze Buddha in the whole of Japan. It is a proud National Treasure within Kamakura and the surrounding gardens are considered to be part of this national, historic attraction.

Not only is the statue a breathtaking, spiritually significant landmark, it also holds an immense amount of history, having been around since 1252. Feast your eyes on this meaningful monument and soak in the ambience of the peace represented by Amida Buddha.

Hike the Daibutsu Trail

Hiking The Daibutsu Trail in Kamakura, Japan

Hiking the Daibutsu Trail in Kamakura, Japan is an extraordinary experience that combines stunning natural beauty with cultural heritage. This trail, nestled in the lush hills of Kamakura, winds its way through a picturesque landscape, offering breathtaking views of the city as well as serene moments of tranquility. This is a moderate 3 mile point to point or 6 mile out and back trail.

Along the trail, hikers encounter numerous historical sites, including the iconic Great Buddha (Daibutsu) statue that stands tall at Kotokuin Temple. As you hike, you'll also come across charming shrines, bamboo groves, and serene gardens that add to the enchanting atmosphere. The Daibutsu Trail is a must visit destination for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike, allowing you to immerse yourself in Japan's rich cultural tapestry while enjoying the wonders of its natural surroundings.

Kamakura Zaimokuza Beach

Zaimokuza Beach Kamakura, Japan

Entrance fee: Free

Daily opening hours: 9:00 am – 17:00 pm

Before leaving from Kamakura to Tokyo, end off a long day of explorations and new experiences with a bit of sunset chills on the lazy coastline of Kamakura at Zaimokuza Beach. This is one of the musts on my list of Kamakura things to do.

Final thoughts on the Perfect Tokyo to Kamakura Day Trip

Once you visit Kamakura, your perception of Japan will expand, and you’ll have a better idea of the country’s diverse, colourful history and culture.This is the perfect getaway for anyone wanting to understand some of the Japanese philosophies and traditions.

There are plenty of historical, beautiful and exciting places to visit in Kamakura, but there’s unique character to the city. A day trip to Kamakura is a must when visiting Tokyo, it presents a soothing escape and adds historical depth to your travels in Japan.

Looking for more information about visiting Japan, check out these other articles:

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