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TRAVEL to KAMAKURA and Enjoy the City – JAPAN

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Kamakura is one of the typical excursions that can be done from Tokyo, capital of Japan. If the world weren’t going through this pandemic, 2020 would have been the peak year for tourism in Japan, with the Olympics and all, so it’s a very visited country.

There are many easy trips from Tokyo and Kamakura is less than an hour south of the city. Super close and highly recommended, because in addition the famous kamakura buddha what do you see in the photo.

Kamakura

It’s a coastal town which is one hour south of Tokyo. It was once the political center of the country, in the 12th century, a government that lasted an entire century under the control of Shogun Minamoto and Hojo regents. Then power passed to the city of Kyoto, when the political successor decided to settle there.

Today is just one quiet little town with many shrines, historical monuments and temples. And as it is on the coast, it has beaches that are usually very busy in summer. How to get to Kamakura?

by train there are three options. you can take the Odakyū line which is the cheapest way. You buy the free Enoshima Kamakura pass and it includes round trip travel between Shinjuku in Tokyo and Kamakura. Moreover, it includes the use of the Enoden, another train but electric, for only 1520 yen. With this means of transport, it takes about 90 minutes to get there, so if you want to take less, you must use the JR line.

jr has the Shonan Shinjuku Line, which connects Shinjuku and Kamakura in one hour and costs 940 yen. You have to wait for the train to Zushi, which is the one that stops at Kamakura station (two departures per hour), otherwise you have to change at Ofuna station. Another line is JR Yokosuka Line connecting Tokyo Station to Kamakura. The journey takes less than an hour and costs 940 yen.

The area has two passes: the Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass, at 1,520 yen, which includes the Shinjuku/Kamakura round trip with use of the Enoden; and the Hakone Kamakura Pass for 7,000 yen), which allows you to use the Enoden and Odayu lines, but also to travel around Hakone for three consecutive days.

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What to visit in Kamakura? Kamakura’s major tourist attractions are spread over three areas near the stations: near Kita Kamakura Station, Kamakura Station, and Hase Station. Like it really is a small town you can walk or, for something more picturesque, rent a bike. There are also buses and taxis, if you want to reach more remote areas.

Our first visit is Great Buddha of Kamakura, Kamakura Daibutsu. It is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha that stands in the courtyard of Kotokuin Temple. It is nearly eleven and a half meters tall and is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in the country. It dates from 1252 and was originally inside the huge main hall of the temple, but the place suffered several typhoons in the 14th and 15th centuries, so it was later decided to place it directly the outside.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura is just a 10-minute walk or less from Hase Station, the third station on the Kamakura Enoden Line. Enoden Terminal Station is right next to JR Kamakura Station and this small electric train connects Kamakura to Enoshima and Fujisawa. The Buddha was closed until June because of the coronavirus and today it is open but its hours are reduced: from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is only 300 yen just under $3.

The Hokoku-ji Temple It’s small, beautiful and a bit out of the way. It belongs to the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism and was founded in the early Muromachi period, being the family temple of the Ashikaga clan. It appears as we climb the hill, past a portico and a small garden to the main hall which was rebuilt in the early 20th century after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

The most precious statue in the temple is that of Buddha, but there is also a small bell tower and the greatest treasure of all: a small and beautiful bamboo garden which is located behind the main hall. There are about 2000 bamboos and narrow paths to walk between them, a tea Room where to drink matcha tea (green tea), contemplating this beauty. There are also a few caves that seem to hold the ashes of some Ashikaga clan lords.

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How to get to Hokokuji Temple? On foot from Jomyoji bus stop (take the bus from Kamakura station, 10 minutes, 200 yen). You can take the 23, 24 or 36. If you like to walk, you can walk there in half an hour or a little more from the same station. The Bamboo Garden is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed from December 29 to January 3. It costs 300 yen and if you want the tea set you pay an additional 600 yen.

Another temple is Hase Temple belonging to the Jodo sect and very famous for its high eleven-headed statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The hall is almost ten meters high and the statue is made of gilded wood, one of the largest of its kind in Japan. Legend has it that this wood is the same that was used to carve the statue of Kannon of Nara. The temple has a museum, which pays an additional entrance, which keeps more statues, drawings and the like. On the other side is the Hall of Amida-do with a three-meter golden statue of Amida Buddha.

The temple, because it is located on the side of a hill, has a beautiful terrace from where the view of the city of Kamakura is magnificent. There is also a restaurant to enjoy more leisurely and you will see, next to the stairs going up and down the hillside, hundreds of small statues of Jizo Bodhisattva, who help the souls of children to reach paradise.

Just at the foot of the hill is the entrance to the temple, with gardens and ponds. Hasedera is only five minutes from Hase station. Open from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. and until 5 p.m. between October and February. It is not closed on any day and admission costs 400 yen.

The most important temple in Kamakura is the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. It was founded in 1603 and is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the Minamoto family and samurai in general. The temple is reached by a long path that starts from the Kamakura promenade, crossing the whole city and passing under several toris. The main hall is on a terrace at the top of a flight of stairs. Inside there is a museum with swords, documents, masks…

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To the right of the staircase, until 2010, there was a ginkgo tree which at one time served as a hiding place for attacking the shogun. Old, beautifully golden in the fall, did not survive a windstorm in March 2010 and died.

At the bottom of the steps there is a stage where there are usually music and dance performances and you can see another shrine and auxiliary buildings around there. You can also get to this temple from Kamakura Station, either by bus or on foot. Free entry.

We cannot describe the number of temples in Kamakura, but we can name them: Kenchoji, Zeniarai, Engakuji, Meigetsuin, Ankokuronji, Jomyoji, Zuisenji, Myohonji, Jochiji, Tokeiji, and Jufukuji. They are all beautiful but it’s true that you can’t spend your time looking at the temples, the third time they are all the same. What we recommend is visit Enoshima and its beaches and go hiking.

Enoshima is a small island near Tokyo which is connected to the coast by a bridge that can be crossed on foot. The island has a sanctuary, an observation tower, caves and gardens. The wooded hill can be explored on foot and you will see many shrines dedicated to Benten, the goddess of good fortune, health and music.

There is also an aquarium and the beaches are great with calm, warm waters and crabs! From Kamakura the Enoden takes 25 minutes, from Shinjuku you can also get there and the same from Tokyo Station.

Ultimately, if you like hiking in Kamakura, there are three routes: Daibutsu course, Tenen course and Gionyama course, now closed due to last year’s typhoon. If you are going there next year, try to check which ones are open. These are fabulous green roads that cross the hills connecting temples and shrines. They usually don’t last more than half an hour to 90 minutes, but they are unpaved, so watch your shoes and the rain.

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