Kamakura is a small coastal city about one hours south from Tokyo. The former capital of Japan makes for a great little getaway when you want to escape the craziness of Tokyo for a little while. Kamakura has many interesting sights and is surrounded by beautiful nature, which makes it a popular trip amongst both locals and tourists. With this itinerary we want to offer you some unique locations, less known or popular amongst the big crowds and therefore less crowded. A little more off the beaten track, if you will. This route requires more walking than the Kamakura highlights itinerary but guarantees a relaxing time away from the bustle of Tokyo and discovering some of the best temples and shrines of Kamakura!
Getting to Kamakura from Tokyo
Getting to Kamakura from Tokyo is super easy. There are multiple trains with a direct connect from Tokyo and the travel time is approximately 1 hour. Both JR Yokosuka Line and the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line have a direction connection with Kamakura station. A one way trip takes about an hour and costs approximately ¥950, but if you have a JR rail pass, the transportation fee is free! For the best option from where you are staying we recommend you to have a look at GoogleMaps on the day itself.
Getting around in Kamakura
Kamakura is a relatively small sized town and you can easily explore the centre on foot or by bike. There are many bicycle shops that offer (electric) rental bikes for a few hours. Just note that there are some places where you cannot cycle, like the main shopping street or some of the temples located in the hills. There are also buses and taxis in Kamakura to take you to the more isolated sights like Zeniarai Benten and Zuisenji.
When time and weather circumstances permit we recommend you to explore the area by foot. There are three hiking trails that connect most of the area and the main sights. For the complete route and the details please visit Kamakura Forest Hiking Trails. This itinerary follows the Kuzuharaoka Daibutsu Trail on the western side of Kamakura.
The first stop o this itinerary is the Engakuji Temple (円覚寺). This beautiful temple is located north from Kamakura and it is best to get off one stop earlier than you’d normally do. The temple is located right next to Kita-Kamakura Station. From Kamakura Station it will take you approximately 30 minutes on foot.
The Engakuji Temple is ranked number two of the five great Zen temples in Kamakura, after Kencho-ji. The temple was constructed in 1282 to pay respect to the fallen Japanese and Mongolian soldiers after the second invasion attempt by the Mongols.
Two national treasures can be seen in the temple. The first is an enshrined Buddha tooth in the Shariden hall, the second is the temple’s large bell (ogane). Next to the ogane, there is a teahouse where you can enjoy a cup of matcha tea or amazake (sweet sake) with some Japanese sweets and enjoy the tranquil ambience.
The temple is especially popular during the autumn season for koyo viewing, when the many maple trees turn into a photogenic spot with a sea of red and yellow leaves.
Tip: when you visit on 2nd and 4th Sunday of month, you can try Zen meditation here. The meditation session is free of charge.
8am – 4pm
Admission fee ¥300 per adult
From Engakuji temple, head south towards Jochiji Temple (浄智寺), located about 5 minutes walking. On the way you there are multiple restaurants, all with delicious cuisine. Don’t feel guilty if you cannot resist! It would be in fact a good idea to power up, the next stop after Jochiji Temple takes about an hour to get to.
Jochiji Temple was built in 13th century and is location off the main tracks, in the forest of Kamakura. Is is less known amongst tourists and therefore a great place for you to feel the true atmosphere of Zen simplicity. Next to Jochiji starts the Daibutsu hiking trail, connecting Jochiji Temple and Kamakura’s Great Buddha in about an hour.
9am – 4.30pm
Admission fee ¥200 per adult
Along the way you pass the Kazuharaoka shrine, where you can have a rest and enjoy the surroundings.
Zeniarai Benten Shrine
Zeniarai Benten Shrine (銭洗弁天) is a very special shrine and popular to visit. Legend has it that if you wash your money here, it will multiply (zeniarai means “washing money”) and bring you happiness. The shrine is said to have been founded in 1185 and it is dedicated to a hybrid deity: Benzaiten, a goddess of music, wealth, and water, and a serpent god known as Ugafukujin.
Another reason why Zeniarai Benten is special, is because it is a very rare example of the fusion between Shinto and Buddhist religion. Back in the days, up until the Meiji restoration, these two were commonly mixed but the Meiji restoration ended this fusion and Buddhism and Shinto were completely separated from each other. This meant that Buddhist outings located on same property as a shrine were often torn down. Zeniarai Benten is unique because it is one of few shrines which still stands as a combined Buddhist and Shinto shrine!
Zeniarai Benten Shrine
8am – 4.30pm
Sasuke Inari Shrine
Within 5 minutes walking distance, the next shrine on our list is Sasuke Inari Shrine (佐助稲荷神社), known for its torii gates that show some resemblances to the popular Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. People visit this shrine when they are hoping for good fortune in their work, especially a desired job promotion, and good harvest.
The story goes that Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first Shogun of Kamakura, was visited in a dream by an inari, (a fox) telling him when to attack his enemies. After winning the battle Minamoto no Yoritomo built this shrine to show his gratitude. This gratitude clearly hasn’t been forgotten as you will see you will see many foxes, in all sizes and shapes, at the complex. Foxes are also seen as the messengers to the Shinto gods and for that reason many people give them sweets or sake.
Sasuke Inari Shrine
10am – 5pm
After Zeniarai benten and Sasuke Inari shrine, continue walking for about 30 minutes before you reach the famous Kotoku-in Temple (鎌倉大仏殿高徳院). This temple is widely known for its huge Buddha statue. Read more about this famous Big Buddha in our blog highlights of Kamakura
Before heading back to Tokyo, you should definitely pay a visit to the center of Kamakura and treat yourself to some local snack like flavoured peanuts or delicious ice cream. The famous Komachi street has plenty to offer!
Summary of itinerary and Map
Locations in this itinerary are marked on the map below. The timing of course depends on how many stops you want to make to rest, take pictures and learn more about the location, but we recommend you roughly the following:
09.30 – 11:00 Engakuji temple
11:00 – 12:00 Lunch
13:00 – 14:00 Hiking from Jochiji towards Zeniarai Benten Shrine
14:00 – 14:30 Zeniarai Benten Shrine
14:30 – 15:00 Sasuke Inari Shrine
15:30 – 16:30 Kotoku-in Temple
16:30 – 18.00 Some time for souvenir shopping in the center of Kamakura
We hope you will enjoy this itinerary, showing you locations a bit less crowded. Kamakura is a super popular day trip from Tokyo, and sometimes you want to experience some of the quieter places that are also great to visit. Japan Wonder Travel also offers guided tours in Kamakura where local guides will explain you more about history and meaning of some of the best places in Kamakura. When you want to know more about the rich history of Kamakura as well as the different locations, contact us for a private tour and Kamakura local student tour.
Where to stay in Kamakura
Even though Kamakura can be visited as a day trip from Tokyo super easy, the coastal city is also worth to spend a night or even two! That way you can visit all the places in Kamakura at your own pace and enjoy the evening without the day tourists!
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