Brimming with tales of monks, samurai and supernatural beings, Kamakura is a fascinating stroll through several hundred years of Japanese life.
Once a prosperous medieval capital, the city and its surrounding hills are a treasure-trove of cultural and religious sites— from the world-renowned, great Buddha (as seen in many postcards) to the mysterious, ‘Zelda-themed’ Enoshima Island.
Tying it all together is the Enoden– a small, ’60s, electric light railway that offers excellent, beachy views of the coastline.
As a hub for Japanese beach life, Kamakura has its fair share of interesting finds, including several surf-shops and organic eateries. The city’s laid-back, hippy vibe also makes it a great escape– and study in contrasts– from Tokyo, which is only an hour away by train.
What to do
Whether it’s hiking, shopping, temple viewing, or simply lounging, Kamakura has loads to do.
The Great Buddha of Entouko-in
Surviving nearly eight centuries of tsunamis, earthquakes, and typhoons, the 93-ton, bronze Daibutsu is as Japanese as it gets! At roughly 44 feet tall, it casts an impressive shadow.
For those interested in the engineering side of statue making, it’s possible to view the Daibutsu’s inner construction.
Built on a lush, wooded hillside, Hasedera has sloping gardens, peaceful temple grounds, and an excellent, bird’s eye view of downtown. Of particular interest are the temple’s many Jizo: the guardian Bodhisattva of children. He’s easy to spot: usually depicted as a kindly, bald monk in a robe.
Enoshima Island— Cats, Temples, and Triforce
Once the haunt of a mythical, five-headed dragon, Enoshina Island is now home to a steep hill-top shrine, a historic garden, and an oceanside cave complex.
Getting to the island is easy via a 700m footbridge from the mainland. Those who undertake the journey are in for some spectacular views of Mount Fuji over the water– especially during sunset.
The island is particularly surreal near dusk, when the narrow streets light up and temple cats come out to play. The Hōjō family crest– which most will recognize as the Legend of Zelda’s “Triforce”– is on display everywhere– on lamps, signs, gates, and souvenirs.
For more on the origins of the Triforce.