The smaller Japanese city of Kamakura is a fantastic peaceful getaway for those of you looking to go somewhere serene. While it is, as many places in Japan are, somewhat crowded, the vast number of shrines, temples, and other historic sites creates an atmosphere that is tranquil. Here are a few reasons you should make this your next quiet getaway:
- The Scenery
When you arrive in Kamakura, or “Little Kyoto” as it is commonly referred to, it definitely feels like a step back into old Japan. It has over 100 Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The most notable is probably the Great Buddha, or the Daibutsu. It is located inside the Kotoku-in temple, just a short walk from Hase station. It is relatively easy to find and a pretty great surprise the first time you see it. You’re likely to find yourself in awe of its immense size and have an awesome opportunity for photos. It has been there since the 1200’s!
If you are a fan of matcha or bamboo forests, Hokokuji temple would be another great stop. While a bit of a hike if traveling on foot, it contains a pristine bamboo grove that would be ideal for beautiful photographs. You can also get one of the best cups of matcha available in Japan (according to Matcha Magazine), and sip it while looking into the beautiful bamboo garden. What could be more peaceful than that?!
Other must-see gems in Kamakura include Hasedera Temple and the Tsuruoka Hachimangu shrine. Hasedera temple boasts a jaw-dropping statue of the goddess Kannon. She is about 30 feet tall, is gilded in gold, and has 11 heads. Unfortunately, you can only take mental snapshots of her, because pictures are not allowed in that area of the temple.
Tsuruoka Hachimangu is a huge shrine at the end of Kamakura’s Main Street. You can stroll up a walkway in the middle of the street that is lined with cherry trees until you reach a gigantic Torii gate that marks the entrance. You can then go over an ancient curved bridge and up a gravel pathway to a tall staircase made of stone that leads up to the shrine. Inside the shrine there is a museum you can browse for a small fee, or you can quietly observe people praying from the outside. To the left is an awesome little staircase beneath many Torii gates, and to the right are stunning gardens. Tsuruoka Hachimangu is definitely one of Kamakura’s defining features.
2. The Food
Go to Kamakura hungry! The streets are lined with vendors galore, as well as a wide range of restaurants. My husband is somewhat of a ramen head but doesn’t eat pork, so we spent a lot of our time there searching for ramen that didn’t have broth made from pork bone, or pork slices in the actual soup. It was indeed a challenge, but Kamakura delivered. We found an awesome ramen shop that had options of entirely chicken based broth or entirely vegetable based. Kamakura is famous for its vegetables and offers many vegetarian and vegan options.
While my husband focused (so intensely) on eating ramen, I was much more interested in the street food and snacks. I found a delicious sushi wrap enclosed in tofu with some sort of pickled root that looked like a carrot sticking out of it. It might not sound awesome to everyone but I couldn’t get enough and would probably eat one of those every single day if I could. I also found a super soft and warm bun steamed with beef in the middle, and ate a vinegar-soaked cucumber on a stick as well.
Two of my other favorites included a drink made with the best fruit and honey from the Sugi Bee Garden shop, and a huge candied grape on a stick. There was also a lovely matcha shop with matcha lattes, floats, and ice cream with varying levels of intensity…their matcha latte was to die for!
Kamakura’s Komachi Dori is a very famous “shopping street.” I think there is something here for everyone. There are higher end stores with different gourmet foods, jewelry, and boutique clothing, as well as cheaper gifts like freshly made snacks, beautiful chopsticks, and pretty umbrellas. We were especially excited to find an interesting chemical free, plant-based, organic soap that had a jelly-like consistency. It was from Konnyaku Shabon, made from Konjac potato, or yam extracts. All of the fragrances were natural and my two favorites were definitely the soap containing cherry blossom extracts, and one that had gold flakes in it. The soap is so foamy and fun to try out if you walk by the shop!
Whether you are an architecture nerd, a history buff, a foodie, or an avid shopper, Kamakura has something for you. It is easily one of my favorite places in Japan that I hope to explore in much more depth in the near future. If you are looking for a place with spectacular views that is quiet and an adventure at the same time, this is the PERFECT destination!