We are fortunate enough to live just a couple train stops away (or our preferred method traveling locally ~20min bike ride) from the small city of Kamakura. If your traveling from Tokyo it will take ~1 hour via train to get to the bustling town, making it a great day-trip! Once a political capital of Japan (during the Middle Ages), Kamakura has a bit of everything. Looking to explore shrines and temples? Got it! Looking to get away and do a bit of hiking? Check! Need a coffee stop to refuel? There are plenty to choose from! Beach? Yup! Just want to stroll around and take it all in? This place is perfect. Like all things in Japan, we continue to work through and explore areas as we have time, so this is no where near a comprehensive list of #allththingstodoandsee. Check out the Kamakura Travel Guide if you don’t find what your looking for below Here. 

Shrines/Temples

Due to the location of this city we go back frequently. The following are some of our favorite shrines and temples that we have visited and recommend!

IMG_2748

Kotoku-in (Great Buddha – Daibutsu): This is where the second tallest bronze Amida Buddha statue in Japan stands (11.4m in height). Cast in 1252 it was originally housed inside a temple, however due to numerous natural disasters the Buddha had to be moved to a new location which (since the 15th century) has been outside.

Daibutsu (Giant Buddha): 

  • Hours: April – September: 0800 – 1730, October – March: 0800-1700
  • Admission: 200yen/Adults, 150yen/Students 6 – 12yo, Free/Children 6yo and under

DSC06399

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine was founded in 1063, the shrine was later altered and moved to its present day location in 1180. The shrine is dedicated to the patron god of the Minamoto family (the family who founded the shrine), Hachiman.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine: 

  • Hours: April – October 0500 – 2000, October – March 0600 – 2000
  • Admission: Free

IMG_3835

Ofuna Kannon, the goddess of mercy, weighs ~1,900 tons and stands 25m tall on a small hill. It was built in 1929, but stood incomplete until 1960. The statue has a small red piece of jewelry on her forehead (“byakugo”) which is supposed to give light to the world.

Ofuna Kannon Temple:

  • Hours: 0900-1700 (may close @1630 during the winter season)
  • Admission: 300yen/Adults, 100yen/Child (Elementary and Jr. High age), Free/Children 6yo and under

Meigetsu-in Temple (“Hydrangea Temple”): Founded in 1160, the temple was originally constructed as a place of rest and in memory of a man who lost his life in a battle for power during the Heian Era. During the month of June you may enjoy viewing the multitude of hydrangea blooms (most of which are the “Princess Hydrangea” variety).

Meigetsu-in Temple:

  • Hours: Everyday, 0900 – 1600 (0830 – 1700 in June)
  • Admission: 300yen/Adult normally, 500yen/Adult to enter in June

Meigetsu-in Temple Tip: If you can manage it, try to time your visit for the month of June! Visiting during the beginning of the summer will afford you the opportunity to view the breath taking hydrangeas! If you’re a lover of seasonal flowers get out there and check it out. This temple can get a bit crowded this time of year as it is popular, so going during the week is best to avoid the crowds.

DSC04358

DSC04381

Hokoku-ji temple (bamboo forest):

  • Hours: 0900 – 1600
  • Admission: Temple is free, but admission charged to enter the bamboo forest (200yen/adult; Free/kids)

Check out video

7 Lucky Gods Pilgrimage

Each year many Japanese people go and visit each of the 7 Lucky Gods Temples & Shrines to start the New Year off right and bring them luck throughout the upcoming year! There are many pilgrimages scattered ALL over Japan, so the one below is just one of many. Traditionally, people do this pilgrimage during the month of January, but given the fact that we needed to stay close by because Dom was on call, the weather was clutch, and it was a Japanese Holiday weekend (read: heavy traffic), it made sense to spend the day outdoors biking around town and completing the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage.

IMG_5544

Fortunately for us, there are several pilgrimages offered year round, including the one in Kamakura (we completed the pilgrimage in October)! Basically the pilgrimage feels like one big scavenger hunt (which you rely on Google Maps for lots of help).  Along the route, you visit seven lucky deities from Japan, India, & China (only one is from Japan). Each time you stop at a temple or shrine on the list you collect various kinds of “luck” (we documented our journey, on a stamping sheet – see below). Full disclosure: We did not make it to the last stop the same day. Essentially the pilgrimage is 8 stops because the Japanese Goddess, Benzaiten, has two shrines one must visit – one in Kamakura and the other in Enoshima). With Enoshima being a bit further out it took us a bit longer to finally check off (We ended up FINALLY getting the 8th and final stamp from Enoshima Shrine the following April. But hey, it got done!). See below for the list of temples/shrines (in the order we completed them) and a photo of the (almost) completed board.

IMG_5751

  • Myogonzan Hongakuji Temple for Ebisu – God of Commerce
  • Hokaiji Temple for Bishamon – God of War
  • Myoryuji Temple for Juroujin – God of Wisdom
  • Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine for Benzaiten – Goddess of Music & Beauty
  • Jochiji Temple (Kita Kamakura) for Hotei – God of Happiness
  • Goryo Jinja Shrine for Fukurokuju – God of Fortune
  • Hasedara Temple for Daikokuten – God of Wealth

Hiking

If you’re interested in breaking a bit of a sweat, Kamakura is loaded with many hiking trails! The following are some solid options. Like I mentioned before, I continue to think of Kamakura as an exploration work-in-progress. Don’t see what your looking for below? Check out some more info on Kamakura Hiking Trails: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3113.html

DSC02180

Daibustu Hiking Trail:

  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission: Free

Daibutsu Hiking Trail Tips:

  • The trail starts @Jōchi-ji, a Temple for Hotei, the God of Happiness. Our favorite mode of local transport is biking and this temple is an easy bike ride from the house. If your local ride your bike out here during the spring! Free bike parking available on site. If you are coming down from Tokyo or perhaps another area in Japan I suggest public transport. Parking in Kamakura (although available) is pricey!
  • The trail is ~3km (each way). You will wind through the woods and through the hills from Kita-Kamakura area to Daibutsu in Hase (aka Kotokuin Temple aka “The Great Buddha”). It’s really beautiful!
  • Allow ~1½ hours if you are taking the kids and go at a good clip. Build in more time if you choose to stop and have lunch @Itsuki Cafe Terrace Garden (see more info in the “Eats” section below).
  • Along the way, you will pass several small, quieter temples and shrines, including Kuzuharaoka Shrine & Zeniarai-benten (details below!).
  • Before reaching the turn around point (The Great Buddha), make a stop @Itsuki Cafe Terrace Garden to have “pancakes in the trees.” This was the big motivator in getting Miles to do the whole hike by himself! During our time here, Fuji-san graced us with her presence, making an already beautiful place that much more majestic and my cup of coffee that much more enjoyable.
  • And like always, don’t forget your Goushin book on this adventure (if that’s your thing)!

DSC02163

Kuzuharaoka Shrine: At this shrine you’ll have the opportunity to throw (and break) a plate for 100/yen (~$1usd) to help cleanse yourself of negativity.

  • Hours: 0900 – 1630
  • Admission: Free

DSC02289

Zeniarai-benten is another stop you will have the opportunity to make on this hike. As you walk through the cavelike entrance you will find a clearing where visitors bathe their money in natural springs. It is said that bathing your money here will bring one financial success.

Zeniarai-benten: 

  • Hours: 0800 – 1630
  • Admission: Free

DSC02210

Itsuki Cafe Terrace Garden (“Forest Garden”):

  • Hours: 1000 – 1730
  • Admission: The menu is semi-expensive for what you get (portions are small). The restaurant is cash only. When you get there grab a menu and pick out what you want to order. Before you’re seated, the staff will have you both order & pay.

DSC02280

Gion-yama Hiking Trail:

  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset
  • Admission: Free
  • Location: https://goo.gl/maps/xyXdfqwrPzx (the Trailhead for the hiking course begins essentially directly behind Omachi Yakumo Shrine)

Gion-yama Hiking Trail Tips:

  • This is an easy hike with very few technical sections (i.e. I completed it in Converse although I think I would have benefitted from shoes with a bit more traction as it was a bit muddy/slippery in spots.)
  • The trail is a point to point and is ~1mile (each way). With our 4year old walking the entire way it took our family ~40min to complete making this hike a great additional activity to your day. We coupled it with Yuigahama Beach one weekday afternoon!

IMG_3958

Red Leaf Hiking Trail: About a month after we arrived in Japan we experienced our first typhoon, so as you can imagine, the weather forecast wasn’t exactly ideal for adventuring that weekend. But since our house still felt like a poorly decorated dental office inside being outside was still better than being in (even with the less than desirable weather). We decided to join up with a group led by a local Japanese volunteer, Fusako-san, to hike the Red Leaf Trail (part of the Tenen Hiking Course) in Kamakura. Lots of beautiful greenery, mid-70s, minimal complaining from the kids, and just a little light rain made for a very enjoyable morning. The leaves don’t change in this area of Japan until a bit later (we went in September), however if you go later in the fall there is an explosion of yellows, oranges and reds!

Eats

We don’t go out very often to eat as the kids (mostly Penny) have a difficult time staying composed for that long of a period. But here are a few of the places we have visited and love!

Breakfast/Lunch

DSC02214

Café Terrace is a great place to stop for coffee/breakfast/lunch along the Daibustu hiking trail. On a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji through the trees.

Café Terrace:

  • Hours: 1000 – 1730
  • Admission: The menu is semi-expensive for what you get (portions are small). The restaurant is cash only. When you get there grab a menu and pick out what you want to order. Before you’re seated, the staff will have you both order & pay.

Ramen

IMG_2226

The self-proclaimed smallest ramen joint in Japan located on Komachi Street (Seriously, so tiny! The seating area couldn’t have been more than 3ft. wide and had room for only 6 seats, y’all. SIX.). It has a very discreet store front, so keep your eyes peeled as it is easy to miss!

Hirano:

  • Hours: 1100 – 2000
  • Admission: Typical Ramen prices: ~700 – 1100yen per bowl

Date Night

Matchpoint  (We celebrated my birthday here right after we arrived in Japan!)

  • Hours: 1130 – 2400
  • Admission: Entrees ~1500 – 2500yen

Coffee

IMG_7127-Edit

As you stroll down Komachi Street make sure to duck into the little alcove where Café Sizuku sits. It’s a small place, but they offer hand drawn character lattes that are pretty unbelievable. Last October we stopped by and ordered “Peter Pan” lattes (choice inspired by our family Halloween costume in 2017).

Café Sizuku:

  • Hours: 1100 – 1800
  • Admission: Hand drawn character lattes are about 800yen/each

Café Sizuku Tip: Pull up a picture of the character you want drawn on your latte on your phone. This decreases the chance that something is lost in translation!

DSC09735

California based coffee shop that roasts their own beans. Very hip/mid century modern interior makes for a relaxing place to kick back with a coffee and relax (totally insta-worthy!). It’s particularly nice in the fall/spring as they open the large windows in the front of the store.

Verve coffee shop:

  • Hours: Everyday, 0800 – 1800

IMG_3596

Cat café on Komachi Dori (Animal cafes are super popular in Japan and a huge hit with our kids! Uninterrupted coffee time anyone?! Yes, please!) For the life of us, we couldn’t find the actual name of this place, but its on the right side of the street if you are walking from Kamakura Station down Komachi Dori (street). Just look for the big cat sign…you can’t miss it!

IMG_3636

Kamakura Cat Cafe

  • Hours: Opens @1030
  • Admission: Must purchase 1 drink or 1 food item per person (800 – 1000yen each)

DSC04412

If your looking for a bit of kawaii in your breakfast this is the spot! Located on the main drag in Kamakura, Floresta has a good variety of animal inspired doughnuts!

Floresta Doughnuts:

  • Hours: 1100 – 1800

Directions to Floresta: After you exit Kamakura Station (the side McDonald’s is located on). Walk towards Starbucks and KFC, turn down the road once you reach KFC, go a block over and then turn right. It’s a small store front, but there will be a large sign, so it is hard to miss.

Floresta Tip: There really isn’t a great spot to sit down and eat the doughnuts after purchasing (at least at this location), so plan on taking them to go! Don’t worry, the staff will put a few small ice packs in the bag to make sure that your doughnuts stay fresh until you get to your final destination!

Street Eats

IMG_0758

There’s a small stall (I have no idea what the name of it is) that’s located right when you exit Kamakura Station. One word: Taiyaki. Pure deliciousness. If your feeling the urge to indulge, buy a small bag of these Japanese fish-shaped cakes filled with red bean paste, sweet potato, cheese, custard, or chocolate (there’s a slew of flavors and I may not have tried almost all of them – #worthit). We picked some up before diving into some Christmas shopping last Decemeber! Best. Decision. Ever.

IMG_5554

On many weekends there are many stalls flanking the path to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine (scroll up to the “shrines/temples” section of this post for the details). Do yourself a solid and find the stand with the candied grapes and purchase one for 100yen. You can thank us later.

IMG_5629

Takoyaki. We get it basically every. single. festival. It’s 100% deliciousness rolled up in a ball. So what’s inside? Diced octopus (“tako”), green onion, tempura bits (“tenkasu”), a tad of ginger which is mixed into a flour batter. There are lots of festivals that pop-up all over this small city, so be on the look out and if you haven’t tried it give it a go and see whatcha think!

Brewery

Kamakura Brewery: Unlike the U.S. Japanese breweries (at least the ones we have visited so far) are different in that there isn’t a specific “tasting room” available. You can stop in and buy bottles, but then you take them to go never tasing the beer at the brewery. Beer was good here, but a tad pricey.

Beaches

DSC02397

Yuigahama: One of the closest beaches to Tokyo and just south of Kamakura. Honestly the beaches in this area of Japan aren’t the best on mainland (head down towards Izu Peninsula to experience those! You can read more about our Izu beach adventures Here!), but they do in a pinch. During the summer you’ll find beach huts set up along with numerous places to grab a bite/drink and relax on the sand.

Yuigahama Beach:

  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission: Free

Shopping

IMG_2058

Stroll Komachi St.

IMG_2253

Gram: Have a personalized ring crafted!

  • Hours: 1100 – 1900
  • Admission: Free. The rings are fairly inexpensive with the medium width silver band costing ~3,990yen.

Gram Jewelry Tips: Go through side door and take number. This number will have a time on it and that’s when you need to report back to the store and get in line. When you arrive back @ the specified time be prepared to wait in line. In the meantime take some time and stroll Komachi Street or grab a latte @Café Sizuku next door.

Activities

DSC09836

Takara Clay Studio:

  • Hours: By reservation: 1000, 1130, 1300, 1430
  • Admission: We walked in and did not have a reservation (although I’m sure that’s preferable). Regular bowl 3000yen.

Takara Clay Studio Tip: The bowls are fired collectively and you will not be able to pick them up for two months. So if you’re visiting from out of town make sure to set up a way to have it shipped to you!

Festivals

DSC06332

Yabusame Festival (September): Never a family to let a beautiful weekend afternoon go to waste, we decided to hop on the bikes and head to Kamakura to take in the Yabusame Festival near the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in late September. The Yabusame (Horseback Archery) Festival has been largely unchanged for hundreds of years. It celebrates the history of Kamakura through the Middle Ages when the city was a capital of Japan. We grabbed some candied grapes and apples from the nearby vendors and worked our way through the thick crowds to watch the contestants race down the corridor trying to hit targets along the way. It made for some challenging photography (and the kids had a bit of a tough time seeing despite being held), but it was amazing to watch the traditionally dressed samurai take aim.

Full disclosure we act as an affiliate for several sites, so clicking through and purchasing products via our links does make us a little money and allows us to continue to put out (hopefully) useful content.