Kamakura: what to see and where to eat
(article updated to 2020)
Kamakura is an oceanfront vacation site just 50 km from Tokyo full of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
Located in Kanagawa prefecture, it is a city with an important history: in 1192 the shogun Minamoto Yorimoto established the feudal capital there until 1333, when the capital of Japan became Kyoto. From that moment Kamakura became a simple village, until the railway line that connected it to Tokyo was built, thus becoming a popular seaside resort.
Kyoto is also a more dispersed city than many others (Tokyo in the first place), so plan your trips well in advance.
Make sure you buy the pocket wi-fi from Italy and pick it up as soon as you arrive in Japan at the airport (alternatively you can have it delivered to your hotel). This tool is essential because it allows you to always stay connected to the Internet during your trip. On your return, you can send it by post by inserting it in the envelope that will be given to you and leave it at the airport post office. The best and safest place to buy it is this.
Google Maps works perfectly all over Japan, but if you want to use the site that the Japanese themselves use, download the HyperDia app (it's also in English) to find the timetables of public transport.
Japan Rail Pass: considered essential by many, in my opinion it is not always the case. My advice is to make a precise and feasible itinerary before leaving and to calculate with HyperDia how much you will spend with the means of transport. Very often making this purchase is futile. If not, it must be bought from Italy on this site.
Powerbank: always better to buy one so as not to remain with the phone down.
Money: here's what NOT to do before leaving, to exchange money in Italy. Changing is never convenient, so it's best to exchange money as soon as you arrive at the airport. However, bring a certain amount of cash money (needless to say that no one will steal it) because it can happens that the cards give problems, especially to ATMs. I recommend you top up your PostePay (the classic yellow, not the Evolution one) and if you have an ATM or a credit card it is always better to contact your bank to warn it that you will make payments in Japan (if you do not warn, they could block the card); also ask to put the card in "worldwide payments" mode on. Keep in mind that in Japan cards are used much less than in the West, so it is always good to have a certain amount of cash with you. Many restaurants only accept cash.
Health insurance: it is good to be careful and buy a valid insurance that covers as much as possible (you never know what can happen). In Japan health care is both public and private, and being outside the European Union, prices and bureaucracy are different. You can buy it here.
HOW TO GET
The easiest and fastest way is to leave Tokyo.
From Tokyo Station, take the JR Yokosuka Line and get off at Kita-Kamakura station.
1 hour trip, cost 940 yen
WHAT TO SEE
Kamakura is easily explored on foot and is perfect for an out-of-town trip. It is known not only for its maritime aspect, but above all for the historical value of some monuments of fundamental importance for national history.
It is one of the most important Zen temples in all of Japan.
Founded in 1282 at the behest of Hōjō Tokimune, this temple had the function of commemorating the fallen during the arrest of the Mongol-Korean advance. Subsequently, the temple suffered severe damage from earthquakes and fires. It was later restored during the Edo period. Of the original 42 total temples, today there are 18. It is counted among the national treasures.
Opening 08:00 - 16:00, cost 300 ¥
It is the most important Shinto temple of Kamakura .: built in 1063 at the behest of Minamoto Yoriyoshi (who laid the foundations for the long reign of samurai supremacy), it was for a long time the center of the political and religious life of the country. Furthermore, until there was a clear division between Buddhism and Shintoism, this temple was the center of the union of these two currents. For this reason it is possible to admire artistic elements of both religions here together. After the separation, many of the previously present works have been moved elsewhere. Either way, the temple continues to retain its original charm.
Opening 08:00 - 20:30, cost 200 ¥
Small Buddhist temple, whose visit is not essential except for lovers of Japanese cinema. In the small cemetery here is the tomb of the great director Akira Kurosawa.
It is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Kamakura, famous for the large wooden sculpture of the Buddhist deity Kannon and the hundreds of small Jizo statues placed by parents after losing their children (due to complications at birth or miscarriage). Here you can also admire the famous hydrangeas of the temple.
Opening 09:00 - 16:00, cost 300 ¥
This is certainly the main attraction of the resort. With a height of 13.35 meters and the possibility of entering it, it is the main tourist destination of Kamakura.
Opening 08:00 - 16: 300, cost 200 ¥
It is not a fundamental destination, but if you are in Kamakura it is still a pleasant naturalistic destination to visit. The island is connected to the city by a 600 meters long bridge and houses the Enoshima shrine and is famous for the lighthouse, as well as the Iwaya caves created by the erosive activity of the sea 6,000 years ago.
If you want to see the ocean, Kamakura is definitely the right place. Crowded in the summer months, melancholy and quiet in the winter months, the beaches of Kamakura are populated by rich crows that leave nice footprints on the beach. A single experience for western tourists, used to seeing only seagulls in the maritime areas.
WHERE TO EAT
The premises in Kamakura are generally the same. The area near the beach has many very nice places to stop for a quick snack: since Kamakura is a destination to visit in the day and the main attractions always close early enough, it is better not to go too long with the lunch break.
This is the Kamakura shopping street. Originally born as a market area of the city, today it is the street where you can shop for souvenirs, sweets (strictly hydrangea, the symbol of Kamakura) and eat something typical, first of all the whitebait (very small fish, banished in Italy).
JAPANESE KAMAKURA HASE CAFE / 鎌倉 い と こ カ フ ェ 和 甘 (CLOSED)
I point out this small bistro where I had lunch in Kamakura. The owner is very kind and will pamper you with her thousand attentions and excellent musical taste. Here, several quality dining sets are offered, all with names inspired by the tourist attractions of the place. The food is excellent and presented perfectly. Don't miss the amitsu (typical Japanese fruit salad) served with hot tea. Really very good!
Opening 11 am - 5:30 pm, website, address: 1 Chome-15-13 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0016