15 of the Best Photogenic Sightseeing Spots in Kamakura That You Have to Visit
You will find plenty to occupy yourself on a long trip in Kamakura as it is teeming with sightseeing spots, but it is also perfect for a short day trip over the weekend since it is located quite close to Tokyo. Kamakura has been the setting for numerous manga comics and films and there are a plethora of photogenic and scenic spots, as well as countless landmarks of historical interest. There are more places to visit than you can possibly cover in a short visit, so this article narrows down the list of sites in Kamakura to the best and most representative areas that you simply must visit if you decide to make the trip here.
Jul 12 2019 (Sep 21 2021)
1. The Enoshima Electric Railway
The Enoshima Electric Railway is lovingly referred to by locals as the "Enoden" (short for Enoshima Densetsu, its full name in Japanese) and connects Fujisawa Station to Kamakura Station, making it one indespensible method of getting around to the tourist sites found in the greater Kamakura area. It is likely to come in handy on your trip, too! The area around the Kamakurakokomae Station is a popular spot for anime lovers to visit, particularly for its appearance in the extremely popular series SLAMDUNK. This line runs for a distance of 10km and no matter what station you stop at, you are never too far from a famous tourist site, so it might be fun to go without any plans and simply get off the train wherever along the line takes your fancy.
The line was bulit more than 100 years ago and the stations and trains themselves have a retro feel that give off the atmosphere of a relaxed rural train line. Of course, the number one charm of the Enoshima Electric Railway is that it runs along the coast, giving passengers the chance to view the beautiful blue sea from inside the carriages. This railway offers truly picturesque views framed by the backdrop of the ocean.
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If you leave Kamakura Station via the East Exit, you will be greeted by a shopping street known as Komachi-dori. This street stretches right up to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, a representative tourist site of Kamakura. If you wish to peruse the wares of Kamakura while enjoying a bite to eat on a leisurely stroll, then Komachi-dori is definitely a place you have to go.
Komachi-dori is home to souvenir stores, small stalls selling light snacks such as crepes and dango (sweet rice cake dumplings), as well as stylish cafes offering full lunches. Of course, there's more to Komachi-dori than just food; there are also a number of trendy general stores! Moreover, there are even stores from which you can rent a kimono. What better way to enjoy your stay in Kamakura?
3. Toshimaya Main Branch
While there are a number of different souvenir stores located along Komachi-dori, you can't go wrong with the classic Kamakura souvenir, Hato Sable (dove-shaped shortbread cookies). The manufacturer of these treats, Toshimaya, is located on Komachi-dori. The Hato Sable was first created during the Meiji period (1868 -1912) and has been beloved by people of all ages for more than 100 years as a Western treat of Kamakura. At the main branch of Toshimaya, you have the opportunity to purchase both these treats and many others.
In addition to this, there are also products that you can only buy at this location. This includes miscellaneous goods that form the same dove motif of the famed cookies, and is known as the Dove Collection. The products in this collection contain stationery items, like letter sets and post-its, as well as other goods such as cushions. These unique and cute goods will not only make great souvenirs for friends and family but you may just find yourself wanting to take something home for yourself as well.
4. Enoshima Aquarium
The Enoshima Aquarium is located a 10-minute walk from Enoshima Station, which you can access by a 20-minute train ride on the Enoden line from Kamakura Station. In Japanese, the name of the aquarium is often shortened to "Enosui" (from Shin-Enoshima Suizokukan). At Enosui, while you will find typical attractions such as penguins, dolphins, and creatures from coral reefs, you will also be able to see a breeding exhibition featuring whitebait, an exhibition by researchers working for the Emperor of Japan, and exhibitions showcasing the latest in deep-sea research. A full plate of core exhibitions awaits you!
The jellyfish exhibit is particularly famous. Here visitors can enjoy an almost other-worldy experience, surrounded by the hypnotic jellyfish swimming in the Jellyfish Fantasy Hall. The hall is made in a half-dome shape, with 13 tanks of various sizes and a dome shaped tank in the center. From those who simply wish to see standard coral fish and dolphin shows to fanatics of all things marine, this aquariam has something for everyone!
5. Yuigahama Beach
Yuigahama Beach has been a popular swimming spot since the Meiji period and has also been the site for many shows and stories. In the summer, the beachside huts are home to different stalls and stores and the beach is packed with revellers. Visitors can enjoy marine sports such as surfing and body boarding, or simply take a dip in the sea. Even when the water is too cold for swimming, you can enjoy a walk on the beach as the gentle waves lap up on the shore.
6. Kamakura Museum of Literature
A 7-minute walk from Yuigahara Station will bring you to the Kamakura Museum of Literature, which is located very close to the beach. It is home to a data library with exhibits of collections of documents written by celebrated literary figures with links to Kamakura. There are introductions to literary masters that you are likely to have heard of, such as Natsume Soseki, Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Shimasaki Toson, Kawabata Yasunari, Nakahara Chuya, Yosano Akiko, Masaoka Shiki, and many more, as well as hand-written manuscripts and exhibitions of some of their most beloved possessions. This is one museum not to be missed by fans of Japanese literature!
The grounds of the museum also feature a 600㎡ rose garden where visitors can enjoy more than 200 varieties of the flower on show. The best times to see the flowers are between mid-May and mid-June in the spring, and mid-October and November in the fall. The Western inspired old villa of the Maeda family forms the main building of the museum. Combined with the rose garden in full bloom, you'll feel like you're in a garden somewhere in Europe!
7. The Great Buddha of Kamakura
The Great Buddha statue housed at Kotoku-in Temple acts as a symbol of the city of Kamakura. The famous writer Yosano Akiko spoke of the temple and its Great Buddha in her poetry. Standing to a height of 11.3 m and weighing approximately 121 tons, the statue has a cave-like inside that visitors can buy passes to enter. The Great Buddha at Kotoku-in is the only giant statue in Kamakura to be registered as a national treasure of Japan.
8. Ofuna Kannon
The statue of the white-robed Kannon (also referred to as Ofuna Kannon) is located at Ofuna Kannon Temple. It is larger than the statue of the Great Buddha introduced above. The station can be accessed by a 5-minute walk from the West Exit of JR Ofuna Station. Soon after exiting the station you will be greeted by the striking white statue of Kannon, ensuring that you will not lose your way. As you climb the stairs to the temple, you will feel as though Kannon is staring down at you from above. When you approach the statue, you will realize that despite its scale, it is only the upper half of the deity that is immortalised in this statue. You also have the opportunity to climb inside this statue. Ofuna Kannon is said to bring luck to those seeking to have children.
9. Hase Kannon (Hasedera)
Hasedera stands toe-to-toe with Tsurugaoka Hachimangu as one of the most historically significant temples in Kamakura. While the exact timing is unknown, this temple is said to date to the Nara period (710 - 794). The grounds are seperated into the upper and lower level. The lower level, which has a garden perfect for a leisurely stroll, spreads out across the foot of Mt. Kannon. In this garden, visitors can find cherry blossoms, French hydrangeas, sasanquas, and other varieties that come and go with the changing of the seasons. The upper level of the grounds is home to a lookout platform, offering views of the sea and the cityscape below. There is also a museum dedicated to the deity Kannon and a chance to try transcribing sutra, making a visit to this temple a great choice for those looking to get closer to Buddhist culture.
10. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu has connections to the Genji's guardian deity, Minamoto no Yoritomo. It is ranked as one of the three great Hachimangu Shrines of Japan and is the most symbolic tourist site in all of Kamakura. Moreover, it is linked to a possible bounty of riches, with luck in competition, luck at work, career success, the safe delivery of children, luck in marriage, and luck in love, all set to greet the faithful who gather here. This makes it popular with worshippers seeking a good partnership, safety in childbirth, career success, and luck in sporting endevours. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is the kind of site that is a must-visit for a wide range of travelers, fans of history, temple and shrine lovers, as well as those looking for mystical energy.
11. Meigetsuin Temple
This temple is famous for the hydrangeas that grow in its grounds, so much so that it is also known as the Hydrangea Temple. During the appropriate season, the grounds of this temple are awash with blooming hydrangea. These pretty flowers make Meigetsuin a great spot for a stroll, even on rainy days. In the temple's rear garden, you can also find other spectacular flowers such as the Japanese iris, creating a veritable feast for the eyes.
However, Meigetsuin is not simply about flowers; visitors can also see a traditional rock garden and the round windows of an abbot's chamber, some of the beautiful delights of a traditional Japanese garden. It is the type of tourist site that is perfect for those looking to relax and unwind.
12. Hokoku-ji Temple
The bamboo forest found on the grounds of Hokokuji Temple is out of this world. At the center of this forest lies a tea room, so visitors can enjoy the view while taking in some tea and sweets. Enjoy the refreshing and cleansing feeling of being surrounded by bamboo trees while listening to the rustling of the bamboo leaves and the tweeting of the birds.
13. Engakuji Temple
Engakuji was founded by Hojo Tokimune and is the second of the five great Rinzai Temples of Kamakura. The main gate of the temple is located immediately at the exit of JR Kita Kamakura Station. Both the grounds and gardens of the temple are recognized as sites of historical relevance and scenic beauty, as well as being home to a collection of nationally recognized important cultural properties. These cultural properties are aired and laid out on display to the public for a couple of days during the summer. Moreover, the reliquary hall of Engakuji is the only building in Kamakura to be designated a national treasure. This hall is also only open to the public during the aforementioned summer airing period. On these days you have the opportnuity to pray from up close.
Natsume Soseki used to worship at this temple, and for this reason, there are numerous items on the grounds named after his works, such as "The Gate" (Mon). The temple also appears in the works of Kawabata Yasunari, Shimazaki Toson and Osaragi Jiro, giving it deep links to the literary masters of Kamakura.
14. Zeniarai Benzaiten
This shrine is located a 30-minute walk from the West Exit of Kamakura Station. It is said that the shrine was founded after Minamoto no Yasunari saw a prophetic dream in which he was told by the deity Ugajin to go to the Sasuke Valley, where he would see holy water springing from the stone wall there. This subsequently was the site where he chose to build a shrine to her. Hojo Tokiyori is said to have washed his money in the water at this shrine and brought riches to his family, beginning the tradition of washing money here that continues to this day. The word "zeniarai" in the shrine's name translates to washing coins. There is special water set aside at the shrine for washing coins. If you try it, it is said that whatever sum you wash shall return to you doubled. This makes this site popular with those looking to improve their fortunes as well as those looking for luck in business.
To the side of the main shrine where the water used to wash the money is located, you will find bamboo baskets inside of a cave. If you use these baskets to wash notes and coins that you subsequently use to make a purchase, it is said that you will be blessed with wealth and riches.
15. The Path to Sasuke Inari Shrine
Sasuke Inari Shrine, just like Zeniarai Benzaiten, was said to have been built after a dream had by Minamoto no Yoritomo. In the dream, the deity Inari persuaded Yoshitomo to dispatch troops to supress the Taira family. Due to Yoshitomo's clear victory, this shrine is linked to personal success in life and in particular with success in one's career. The red shrine gates that line the path towards the shrine are said to contain the enshrined spirit of the deity Inari at numerous points along the path. For those looking to get a step ahead in their careers or in life in general, this shrine is not to be missed.
Take a Trip to Picturesque Kamakura!
Kamakura is located just outside of Tokyo and is known as a location for holiday homes. It is great for longer holidays when you want to take in all of the various sites on offer, but it's also great for weekend trips, or when you suddenly have an opening in your schedule.
The mind boggles at the wealth of options on offer and the variety of sites to explore in Kamakura, from touring trendy stores and cafes, to taking a photographer's tour of the most picturesque sites or letting your mind wander into the past with a trip to some ancient temples and historical landmarks. With so many ways to enjoy Kamakura, all thats left is to find the right itinerary for your trip!
*Thumbnail image source: Colorshadow / Shutterstock.com
Translated and republished with permission from：Relux Magazine
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.