Located an hour south of Tokyo, Kamakura is the old capital that has a lot of history. With temples hundreds of years old, traditional shopping streets and a fantastic museum, the place has long been a favorite for day trippers from Tokyo.
I’ve been to Kamakura four times in the last three years, but this is my first time to enjoy the flora in this charming old town. “Don’t go on a weekend, if you don’t like crowds,” I was warned. So I decided to make the visit on a Friday. I began the trip with Hase-dera, a sacred site that is famous for housing a large wooden statue of Kannon, and also noted for having more than 40 varieties of hydrangeas. I arrived at the temple as early as I could. Still though, it took me about an hour to get inside the hydrangea path, lining up half an hour in front of a ticket machine and waiting half an hour on the temple grounds for my turn. Then I walked past the main building, moving further to the hill, where the combination of many blooms was apparent with a view of the ocean glittering from far away.
The hydrangea path was very crowded with both local and overseas tourists who occasionally stopped to take pictures. Everyone seemed to be overjoyed. I heard an old Japanese lady exclaim in her excitement, “It’s great to see so many flowers in such an elegant temple!”
About 40 minutes later, I decided to give up and take a shortcut, and walked back to the shade of the bamboo forest. The hill was not very steep but my rubber sandals made me struggle to keep balance. It was a warm day, and to cool down I made a brief visit to the small cave located a mellow walk from the main gate. Not that it was the same as an air conditioned room, but it was a lot cooler than the outside. Then I dropped by the restaurant in the premises for lunch. I’ve been there once before and I knew their cold udon noodles were good.
After a relaxing lunch with an ocean view, I headed out to Meigetsu-in, also known as Ajisai-dera (“Hydrangea Temple”), another famous spot for hydrangea viewing. Although equally as spectacular, the variety of the hydrangeas here was in board contrast to the hydrangeas of Hase-dera. I didn’t see a ton of different shapes, sizes and colors. The small delicate blue hydrangeas were the majority.
For some reason, Meigetsu-in was significantly less packed than Hase-dera. There were no students on a field trip, no group tours, and I was probably the only foreigner. So the place made a perfect destination for flora lovers and photo enthusiasts as they could move around pretty easily. The popular photo spots included the stairs lined with hydrangea plants on both sides and the renowned round window.
I spent another two hours just strolling, watching people and taking pictures in this one-of-a-kind Japanese hydrangea garden. It was very sunny but I hardly felt the heat. Maybe it was because of the beauty of these blue flowers, the cool breeze from the bamboo forest or the leafy maple trees that helped block out the sunlight. It’s actually a very good place to come in summer.
From Shinjuku, take the Odakyu Line to Fujisawa, and then transfer to the Enoshima Electric Railway and take the train as far as Hase Station.
It’s about a 5 minute walk from Hase Station.
Hours: 8:00 – 17:30 (summer), or until 17:00 (winter)
Admission: 300 yen
Follow the directions above to Fujisawa Station (or to Hase Station if visiting Hasedera first), and take the Enoshima Electric Railway to Kamakura Station.
From Kamakura Station take the No. 2 Enoshima Electric Railway bus bound for Ofuna Station.
It’s 1 minute from the Meigetsuin bus stop.
Hours: 9:00 – 16:00 (but open 8:30 – 17:00 in June, during the hydrangea season)
Admission: 300 yen (500 yen in June)
For more information, please see http://www.odakyu.jp/english/destination/enoshima_kamakura/