Day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo
Day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo
Kamakura is a small coastal city with a population of less than 200,000. Just one hour south of Tokyo, the city enjoys pleasant, moderate weather all year round, making it the perfect day trip from the capital of Japan.
It was the 1st of January when we decided to make the trip to Kamakura. On the first day of the year, it was customary for locals to visit a Shinto shrine to usher in the new year. Some locals opt to visit temples instead. This tradition is known as Hatsumode.
For our first Hatsumode experience, we debated between visiting Nikko and Kamakura. Nikko seemed like the obvious choice with its hallmark shrine, Nikko Tosho-gu. However, we were not too fond of crowds and opted for the lesser-known seaside city, which is also home to dozens of temples and shrines.
Although we visited in the middle of winter, the weather was comfortably chilly, very much like spring. The atmosphere was generally more laidback and relaxing compared to Tokyo as well.
Getting to Kamakura
From Tokyo station, you can take the JR Tokaido line to Ofuna station and transfer to the JR Yokosuka line to Kamakura station. Alternatively, you can also board the Yokosuka line bound for Kurihama to reach Kamakura directly.
Always check Hyperdia for the most up-to-date schedule!
Kintsuba from Kamakura-Itoko
Kamakura was noticeably crowded and we decided to avoid the crowd and focused our day on Hase instead. Before the train arrived, we took the opportunity to walk around the shopping belts near Kamakura station and spotted this shop selling Kintsuba, a type of traditional Japanese sweets.
Kintsuba comes in a substantial square tile made of pastes in various flavours, lightly covered in batter. We tried it in sweet potato and taro. The taste was, well, interesting but it was slightly too dry and crumbly. Trying it once was sufficient for me.
Getting to Hase from Kamakura
The Enoden serves the route between Kamakura and Hase and the train ride takes merely 4 minutes. Well, walking is an option too and will take you about 30 minutes.
Kotoku-in and the Great Buddha of Kamakura
Our first stop in Hase was Kotoku-in where the iconic bronze Buddha resides. Standing at more than 11 metres tall, the statue was cast in 1252 and survived the halls that housed it twice, once in 1369 and the other time in 1495. The statue now sits in the open, casting a benevolent gaze on the visitors as they step onto the temple grounds.
The temple sits on a compact plot of land and has a small but well-kept garden. It took us less than an hour to walk around the temple.
Purple sweet potato croquettes at Imoyoshi
Just a short walk from Kotoku-in is Imoyoshi, a famous eatery selling purple sweet potato (Murasaki imo) snacks. We were drawn in by the modest crowd at the shopfront and really couldn’t pass up any chance for croquettes. We ordered a purple sweet potato croquette and an Uji matcha soft serve to share. Both were awesome and you should definitely get them when you’re in the area!
Less than ten minutes on foot from Kotoku-in is the Hase Kannon temple, one of the most beautiful temples I’ve visited.
The calmness was palpable and the atmosphere peaceful. With its immaculate and richly layered gardens and shimmering koi ponds, you can easily spend hours walking around the temple, admiring the sights.
The temple also houses rows and rows of Jizo statues. While the statues look cheery, Jizo statues are often placed on temple grounds by parents who mourn the loss of their children, in hopes that the deity can take care of their children’s souls.
There’s also a vegetarian restaurant, Kaikoan, on the grounds. We wanted to get dinner there but unfortunately, by the time we were seated, they only had desserts left. We tried a red bean dumpling dessert and a glass noodle with sweet dipping sauce. Neither could satisfy our need for real dinner food but I guess the taste was adequate. Pictures of their curry looked really awesome and I can only hope to find the chance to try in the future.
Sunset at Hase-dera
Perched halfway up Mount Kamakura, the temple grounds are terraced and at higher levels, visitors can get a good vantage point of the city and Yuigahama beach. We were lucky and caught the sunset from there.
Heading back to Tokyo
We made our way down the temple after the sunset and took a train from Hase station back to Kamakura station. By then, it was about 5:30 pm, which was a slightly awkward time to fit in another sight. We had some time before the next direct train back to Shinjuku (Tokyo), so we decided to just roam around the nearby shopping belts. There weren’t many people around, which was really nice and relaxing.
Overall, we had absolutely no regrets for choosing to make this trip to Kamakura! Given the chance, I would definitely visit again.
Looking for other day trips from Tokyo? Try these:
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Thanks for the detailed transportation tips! That’s what I always mess up on
Sometimes the beauty is in getting lost too! 🙂
You are definitely an expert here! You’re posts are always so detailed…I love it!
Thanks Cate! 🙂
What a cool day trip! Kintsuba looks pretty good and the purple sweet potato croquettes sound really yummy! The Great Buddha is really impressive and the Hase Kannon temple is beautiful.
The croquettes are superb! I don’t know how the Japanese do it but their croquettes are always crispy and never too oily.
We have visited Tokyo but never thought about doing a day trip outside to Kamakura. What a beautiful place to visit. The Temple is beautiful and it does seem very serene and peaceful from your photos. I have never heard of Jizu statues, so sad to see so many statues representing the loss of the children.
I was glad to have stumbled upon Kamakura! Hope you have the chance to visit. 🙂 I didn’t know about statues until I did this post and I was only thinking how adorable they looked when I was there. 🙁
From the map of the park I see many other sites as well. This place could really spend a whole day. I didn’t know the place when I visited Tokyo and stayed there for good 5 days! Well, next time I probably should look around as well.
Yes, Hasedera (which is the place I shared the map for) is big on its own! But Kamakura too, offers many places of interest. Worth a day trip!
I’m drooling over everything in this post!! Japan is my dream destination, and now you’ve given me another place to visit. Kamakura is a great day trip from Tokyo and is a place I’d love to see. That matcha soft serve and sweet potato croquette look delicious too!
I hope you get the chance to visit! It’s a lovely country. 🙂
Kamakura looks like a perfect day-trip destination from Tokyo. The 11 metres tall Great Buddha statue looks extremely fascinating. Hase-dera would be my favourite place to visit. There are so many beautiful sights to behold in the temple. Those glass noodles and red bean dumpling dessert look delicious. I would also love to try Kintsuba, sweet potato croquette and matcha soft serve.
Hase-dera is beautiful! You won’t regret visiting!
After reading your post, I understand why my friend enjoyed their visit there. It’s not big and crowded, but it’s so Japan! It is sad to hear about the Jiro statues though. Hope someone up there heard the parents’ prayers. Talking about the snack, so far I found Japanese snacks pretty and cute in the packaging, but not so much in taste. But again, I haven’t tried a lot.
Kamakura comes across as a vibrant and enchanting place. It was fascinating reading about the Hatsumode custom. The Massive Buddha statue reminds me of a similar one that we have seen Bodh Gaya, India. This is the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment. Indeed Kamakura seems to be great for a great day trip from Tokyo.
Kamakura was one of those places that we didn’t expect much but turned out really awesome. 🙂
I didn’t realize that visiting a shrine was customary in the New Year. That’s such an intimate tradition. I definitely agree with you that the temples in Kamakura looked crowded, but you did get some very beautiful, intimate shots of the memorials and shrines. The food and sweets you indulged on your short day trip look divine! I definitely would want to sample a taste of purple, sweet potato croquette! I hadn’t thought about venturing into Japan in the winter, but you definitely make it seem doable!
Yes, and the locals still piously carry out the tradition. The ones I visited are already the less-crowded ones so be sure to set your expectations if you visit a popular shrine on the first day of the year! Winter in Japan is extremely manageable because they have good infrastructure and facilities (like heaters everywhere)!
This was a great post to read, thanks for the share, Tokyo is my dream place to go I will surely go there at least once in my lifetime.
Yes you have to! 🙂