Traveling is leaving and returning. It is discovering new places, meeting people, getting lost easily, opening your mind to diversity and dreaming with wide opened eyes.
The sea, the mountains, the green nature, the temples and shrines, the slow motion girls in colorful kimonos and the local food are some of the many beauties of Kamakura.
This ancient city that once was the Japanese Capital, is located only one hour away from Tokyo by train, and is the ideal cultural option filled of history for those willing to do a day trip from there.
Kamakura is in every tourist guide of Japan, so if you have been doing some research, you might already know most of the famous spots. Which means that I may not be telling you anything new. However, I have the feeling that after reading these lines, you will make the decision of not taking it out of your list or adding it (if it was not on it) even if that list is tight and your time is short.
Some of my recommendations:
Take the train and get off at Kita-Kamakura (one station before Kamakura). This is the perfect introduction to a quiet area full of zen places. A few meters from the train station visit the unique Engakuji Buddhist Temple that was founded in 1282, and nowadays hosts dozens of Buddhist masters. Some of the inner gardens and constructions inside are world heritage.
If you like walking and you feel that you want to take it slow, take a 20 minutes walk from there to Kamakura station. Otherwise, take the train. From Kamakura station you will be able to choose between hundreds of options. You can reach them walking, cycling, by bus or by local train.
My favorite: The Great Buddha or Daibutsu. This statue that was designated as a national treasure is more than 11 meters height and 120 tons weight, and is the center of attention. I assure you that your mind and body will be transported to a different world. So peaceful, so quiet, so special. If you wish, you can also go inside of the Buddha and feel closer and more connected than ever with the Buddhism philosophy and probably with your inner self as well.
Visit the Hōkokuji Temple which is surrounded by 2000 Mōsō bamboo (the biggest species of bamboo). And if you wish, you could enjoy some Japanese sweets and Matcha green tea in a very casual and natural atmosphere. And the best of it is that you will be drinking your hot beverage while looking at the tall bamboos standing in front of you witnessing your adventure.
Stop by the oldest temple founded in the region: Hasadera Temple, which is famous for housing a massive wooden statue of Kannon. This statue that is more than 9 meters tall has 11 heads. Each of them represents a different phase in the search of enlightenment. Also take a few minutes to enjoy the panoramic view of the ocean and the beautiful flowers all over.
Talking about the ocean, Kamakura is the land of most of the surfers in Japan. I will suggest you to buy a drink, take a book or your date and enjoy the advantages of the clean air while seated on the sand facing the nonstop waves and the many surfers doing what they do best.
Once you are ready to start your come back, be sure that you left some extra time for the little streets and alleys located near the Kamakura Station. Those are the best spots to find traditional souvenirs and to meet locals in their own environment.
If walking and exploring make you hungry, get deeper into those streets and discover the tiny restaurants. The best of them: the food and service. The challenge: not all of them offer menus in English, so you might find yourself guessing. However, if you stay positive, you will see it as a way of trying something new and delicious. I would also recommend you to try the street food offered all over.
The bonus track: dress up like a Samurai and join popular games played in the Kamakura era. Try archery and calligraphy for a change and once you feel comfortable enough, take the streets and wander around like a proper Samurai. Visit Voyagin website for details: https://www.govoyagin.com.
Their tours are something that worth to try if you like local and fun activities.
The beautiful Kamakura, as I call it, has much more to offer and more stories to tell. If you have an extra day in Japan, do not hesitate in coming back. Trust me, these are just a few of many more treasures.
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