- Getting There – Take Train from Tokyo
- Currency – Japanese Yen (¥)
- Language – Japanese
- Population – 174,000
Kamakura is located about an hour and a half south of Tokyo by train offers the perfect day trip for those looking to get out of Japan’s capital city but not make the 3-hour trek to Kyoto or beyond. I’m not against going to Kyoto at all, I just think it’s too tight for a day trip and that Kamakura is a great alternative. I wound up in this beautiful little city during my first trip to Japan and recommend it to anyone looking to get out of Tokyo for a fun day!
How Do I Get There?
The train ride to Kamakura is not only quicker than the one to Kyoto, but it’s also much cheaper. Japan Rail (JR) provides regular trains for approximately ¥1,000, or roughly $9 US depending on exchange rates (compared to $150 US for a one-way ride to Kyoto).
You can consult any tourist counter at a metro station but during my time in Japan (and as I always recommend) I was able to purchase a local SIM card for my iPhone to access Google maps which easily gave me the schedule.
Train Schedule from Tokyo to Kamakura (Google Maps):
Once you find a train, and they run often, hop aboard and get ready for Kamakura!
Getting Around Kamakura
While there are buses to get around the island I chose to go by foot, exploring the coffee shops, restaurants and stores. Like those in Tokyo, the people in Kamakura are extremely friendly and helpful.
You will see maps and signs pointing to the famous temples but you can also ask the locals for directions as they are generally happy to help.
Visit Hasa-Dera Temple
While the dates are disputed, legend has it that Hasa-Dera Temple was built in the eighth century A.D as a place of Buddhist worship. As you enter, I would recommend checking out the gardens and then making your way to the famous 11 Faces Buddha statue, known as Juichimen Kanzeon Bosatsu. Also be sure to check out the gold Buddha statue on your way out.
Connect with the Great Buddha of Kamakura
Less than 10 minutes by foot up the road will bring you to the famous Kotoku-in Temple where you can find the great Buddha statue. Weighing over 100 tons and standing at 44 feet tall, this statue was made in 1252.
A tsunami in the 15th century destroyed the temple that once housed this Buddha, but the statue actually survived and now remains outdoors.
Engakuji is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kamakura that is often regarded as one of the most important of its kind in all of Japan. Founded in 1282, this Buddhist temple dates back more than 700 years and is said to be a memorial for those who were killed during Mongolia’s attempted invasion of Japan.
Herbal Tea Shop
One of my favorite things about Kamakura was the small shops and warm people. While wandering around I found an awesome herbal tea store (email me for more details!) that sold blends with names like Cloud and Rain.
These mixes included ingredients like goji berry, jasmine, oolong and more. And each bag can make up to a liter of tea. Great stuff!
On your way back to Tokyo I would recommend stopping in Yokohama, another city outside of Tokyo.
I stopped there for my first sushi in Japan on my way back
What I Learned in Kamakura
1) Meditate More
Visiting the Great Buddha was by far the highlight of my trip to Kamakura. While I don’t consider myself religious, I do feel a connection to many Buddhist principles such as meditation, self-compassion and mindfulness. Meditating can help you clear out distracting thoughts about the past and future, and get you back to the present moment.
To anyone interested in meditation, a good place to start is with Tara Brach’s podcast channel (as well as her guided meditations). Also, Kristin Neff’s website has self-compassion guided meditations that I have enjoyed. These are great to listen to while traveling, especially when you find yourself with an opportunity to be alone or still, as I was in the presence of the Great Buddha. It’s in these moments of stillness that you can connect with yourself and be in the now.
2) Treat Yourself Well
Many of us spend our time giving. Giving to others, spending that extra hour at work, or listening to a friend complain about that same issue. While helping others can serve meaningful purposes, we often forget to recognize ourselves. Whether it’s just taking a break from a busy day or making a commitment to take a meaningful vacation, we deserve our own care.
3) Find Out What You Love
By traveling solo to Kamakura I learned more about myself and what I actually enjoy doing. I used to spend a lot of my free time in bars or doing whatever my friends wanted. But traveling has helped me realize that I enjoy being outdoors, exploring, and getting into new hobbies like photography. After a lot of research, I recently purchased the amazing Sony a6000 camera on Amazon and I now find myself exploring New York City or new travel destinations and taking pictures of everything!