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Japan Travel Tips: Kamakura

Kamakura is a small (relative to Tokyo anyway) city in the Kanagawa Prefecture with a population of approximately 170,000 people. It is a popular tourist destination because it is a coastal city with lots of shrines and temples as well as foliage and is home to a number of seasonal festivals.

We did a day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo because we wanted to get out of the densely populated city and do some hiking and sightseeing. Visiting Kamakura is something I would suggest to anyone visiting Tokyo because after a week inside that concrete jungle, being sandwiched between hundreds of skyscrapers, it felt really good to get back out into nature. The fresh air and scenery was amazing and the sightseeing was excellent to boot. It is only a one hour ride on the Yokosuka line from Tokyo Station so it is less taxing than other day trips that were suggested which would involve over two hours of bus travel to get to some remote city. I think Kamakura was the perfect compromise.

Kita-Kamakura Station

If you are visiting from Tokyo I suggest getting off at Kita-Kamakura Station. It is a few kilometers to the north of the more central Kamakura Station but that makes it the perfect launching spot for an excellent hike before you head down into central Kamakura which is much more densely populated.

If you look at the Kamakura's visitor's guide and select "Hiking Route" you will see that the Kita-Kamkura Station is right in-between the start of two hiking trails, the daibatsu hiking trail and the tenen hiking trail. You can read up more on that website (or in the rest of the article) to help decide what is the trail you want to take but the key point here is to start out in a more remote area of Kamakura before you make your way down to the more populated, touristy areas.

Jōchi-ji

A brisk 10 minute walk from Kita-Kamakura Station is Jōchi-ji temple. It is small, yet beautiful, Japanese temple home to some nice stone bridgework, a graveyard, some bamboo groves and a statue of the god of happiness or good fortune.

Daibatsu Hiking Trail

The street that Jōchi-ji temple is on heads out towards a forest which is one of the entrances to the daibatsu hiking trail. It is a gentle 90-120 minute trail that is almost three kilometers in length. Upon entering this trail I immediately forgot I was in Japan. There was such thick foliage you could barely see the city around you. I was getting flashbacks to the Thanksgiving hikes I would go on with my family back in northern Ontario. The exit for this trail is onto a paved road that is a quick five minute walk to Kōtoku-in.

This hike was one of the hallmark moments of my trip to Tokyo and I highly recommend it for anyone who is in the area. You will not be disappointed.

Kōtoku-in

Kōtoku-in is a Jōdo-shū Buddhist temple that basically only exists to showcase their Daibutsu ("Giant Buddha") to tourists and holy crap is it something worth beholding. I could give you the exact dimensions of the statue (44 feet tall, 30 feet wide, 121 tonnes) and you still won't be able to properly appreciate its massive size. Its head is so large that I could probably stand up inside it. It is also completely hollow and for ¥20 you are able to tour the inside.

Much, much more

We were only in Kamakura for about four hours and there was still much more we could have done. Visit the Hase-dera temple, Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine, Kenchō-ji temple, Hōkoku-ji, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū shrine or embark on the 2+ hour tenen hiking trail to take you back to Kita-Kamakura Station.

I will definitely return to Kamakura at some point in my life and if you are reading this should should consider doing the same.

#Japan#JapanTravelTips

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