Kamakura is my favorite place to take a day trip from Tokyo. It's not too far away, but it's the perfect change of pace. Whether you're looking for history, nature, or just a break from the tall buildings, Kamakura has it all.
We've taken all of our visitors this year to Kamakura, and while I don't think I could actually get sick of the place, I've definitely spent more than my fair share of time there over the last few months.
A new discovery this year is Hokokuji, also known as the bamboo temple. The temple itself is quite small, but what makes it so special is the bamboo grove behind it. In my opinion it's smaller, but just as nice as the bamboo forest in Arashiyama, Kyoto. Particularly if you go on a weekday or in the morning, it's less crowded. I'd never heard of this temple before this spring when a Japanese friend recommended it. It's not in the guidebook I have, and it's too far to walk, but it's a quick bus ride away. Just take bus 23, 24, or 26 to the Jomyoji stop.
My all time favorite part of Kamakura is Hasedera, a temple a few train stops away in Hase. The temple is dedicated to women who have experienced miscarriages, abortions, or still births, and is also visited by women who are trying to conceive or hoping for healthy pregnancies. The grounds are breathtakingly beautiful from the pond at the entrance, to the temple itself, to the hill beyond the the temple which is covered in hydrangeas in spring, and offers a view of the coastline. On the walk up to the temple you will pass hundreds upon thousands of jizo, small statues that have been left by women who have lost children. It's beautiful and sobering at the same time. One note, if you come in June during hydrangea season, it may take upwards of an hour to see the hydrangea covered hill, but you'll have no trouble with the lower grounds, the cave, and the temples.
These are my two highest recommendations, the absolutely can't miss parts of Kamakura. But even on a day trip there should be time to visit more places. I also recommend Hachimangu, a shrine on the way back from Hokokuji, and the shopping streets on the way back from Hachimangu to Kamakura station. In Hase, the Giant Buddah is only a few minutes walk from Hasedera. If the crowds are getting to you, I also recommend Engakuji, a zen temple that is less visited and more relaxing, in Kita-Kamakura.
|Jizo Statues at Hasedera|
|The pond at Hasedera|
|Hydrangeas (and crowds) at Hasedera|
|Hokokuji's Bamboo Grove|
|Tea in the Hokokuji Teahouse|
|Festival Decorations at Hachimangu|
Hours: 9:00-4:00, closed Dec 29 - Jan 3
Admission: 200 yen, 700 yen for admission + tea
Hours: 8:00-5:30 (5:00 Oct-Feb)
Admission: 300 yen