Kamakura - A Traveler's Guide to Japan's Medieval Capital

Kamakura's historical landscape is a tapestry that chronicles the rise and fall of the samurai era. As the seat of the first shogunate government in the 12th century, the Kamakura period marked a significant shift in Japanese history, from court aristocracy to military rule. Once the political powerhouse of Japan's medieval era, Kamakura now offers a tranquil retreat from the city's modern pace. With its rich history, Kamakura is a treasure trove of shrines, temples, and the celebrated Great Buddha statue. The town's proximity to Tokyo makes it an exceptionally convenient day trip for those eager to immerse themselves in Japan's ancestral roots.


Getting to Kamakura from Tokyo

The Enoden line train in Kamakura, Japan

Getting to Kamakura from Tokyo is straightforward: for many, the journey begins with the JR Yokosuka Line, a direct and efficient route that takes approximately one hour and costs around 920 yen for a one-way ticket. Those looking for a scenic ride might opt for the Enoden train, a charming local line known for its picturesque views of the coast and the urban landscape. While slightly longer, the trip on the Enoden is a favourite for photography enthusiasts. For visitors planning a comprehensive Kamakura day trip from Tokyo, specialized passes like the Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass and the Hakone Kamakura Pass can be of great value. The Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass, priced at about 1,620 yen, includes a round trip from Tokyo to Kamakura on the Enoden Line and unlimited use of the Enoden trains between Kamakura and Fujisawa. The Hakone Kamakura Pass, on the other hand, is ideal for those extending their travels beyond Kamakura to include the Hakone region, known for its hot springs and natural beauty. This pass is available at a higher price point but provides three days of unlimited travel within the specified zones, making it a convenient option for a broader exploration.


The Great Buddha and Kotokuin Temple

A statue of the great buddha in Kamakura, Japan

The Great Buddha of Kamakura, a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha, cast in 1252, is also known as Daibutsu in Japanese. At over 13 meters tall, the statue is hollow, and visitors can even view the interior for a modest fee.  Kotokuin Temple, the Buddha's serene home, asks for a small entrance fee—150 yen for adults and 50 yen for children. Visitors are welcomed from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM.


Temple-Hopping in Kamakura

Hase-dera Temple in Kamakura, Japan

Hase-Dera, famous for its wooden statue of Kannon, is adorned with terraced gardens that bloom with hydrangeas and offer a panoramic view of the sea. A short journey away, Hokokuji may seem modest, but it hides an enchanting bamboo grove, allowing for a meditative walk or a cup of matcha in the teahouse. Other must-see temples include Kenchoji and Engakuji. Kenchoji is the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan and its grounds unfold into a garden that leads to the Hansobo Shrine, guarded by mythical Tengu statues. Engakuji, known for its autumn colors, has an air of solemnity that is palpable, especially during the fall when the foliage frames its historic buildings in fiery hues.


Coastal Charms

Seaside view from Kamakura, Japan

Yuigahama Beach, the nearest stretch of sand to Kamakura Station, is a popular destination, particularly in the summer months. It's a hub for locals and visitors alike, who come to enjoy the sun, sea, and surf. Beyond Yuigahama, beaches like Zaimokuza offer quieter shores, while Inamuragasaki is known for its iconic views of Mount Fuji on clear days. Renting a bicycle is a favoured way to explore the coast, providing the freedom to discover lesser-known vistas at one's own pace.


Culinary Delights and Keepsakes

A bowl of Shirasu-don in Kamakura, Japan

Kamakura is known for such specialties as Shirasu-don, a bowl of rice topped with fresh whitebait, straight from Sagami Bay. Sweet potato treats, another regional favourite, are a must-try, with various shops offering everything from baked goods to ice cream flavoured with this versatile root. For those seeking to take a piece of Kamakura home, the city's souvenir shops are treasure troves of unique gifts. Komachi Street is a prime spot, lined with stores selling handcrafted goods, traditional sweets, and items emblazoned with Kamakura's iconic symbols like the Great Buddha. Whether it's artisanal crafts or food delicacies, visitors will find no shortage of options to commemorate their visit.


Kamakura's Celebrated Traditions

A person riding a horse with a bow and arrow during Kamakura Matsuri, Japan

Kamakura's calendar is dotted with festivals that bring its streets to life: the Kamakura Matsuri, held annually in April, is perhaps the most illustrious of these. It commemorates the city's prestigious past with a week-long celebration filled with events that include traditional archery on horseback, known as yabusame, and parades featuring locals dressed in samurai armour. Stalls line the streets offering traditional foods and crafts, and the city buzzes with a celebratory energy that honours the legacy of the samurai.



A day trip to Kamakura is a journey through the vibrant tapestry of Japan's history and offers a glimpse into Japan's past. Kamakura's proximity to Tokyo makes it an accessible day-trip, whether it's for a few hours, a whole day or more.