Kamakura, Hakone and Nikko are a few of the most recommended day trips from Tokyo. I had a free day to my own in Tokyo and had a tough time making a decision, finally deciding on Kamakura! An hour by train from Tokyo, Kamakura is located in the Kanagawa Prefecture.
Solo Day Trip to Kamakura
I arrived, not knowing much about this coastal town. I had no idea its size or how to get around. All I knew was Kamakura has a giant bronze Buddha statue, and bamboo trees at Hokokuji Temple. Thankfully, there was a Tourist Office at Kamakura’s station. The officer recommended some places of interest and general info on getting around (mainly bus).
The small but beautiful Hōkoku-ji Temple
I arrived at Hōkoku-ji Temple, to be greeted by amazing autumn foliage and quiet zen gardens.
It was the second week of December and I’d never expected to see autumn foliage at all. Stepping into the temple grounds, I gasped in surprise. It was so beautiful.
Autumn foliage at Hōkoku-ji
Further in, the autumn foliage within the inner grounds took my breath away. With such outbursts of colors among trees, plants, shrubs, a little zen garden ahead, and a little bamboo pipe dripping water melodiously into a tiny river, all my senses were captured right then. I took many photos, afraid my memory will fail me in future, before turning to mindfully appreciate the serenity and beauty in front of me.
Hōkoku-ji’s Bamboo Garden
Hokokuji is known as the Bamboo Temple because of its bamboo garden within the temple grounds. Though a very small garden which you can walk through within minutes, the size and sheer height of the moso-bamboo (the biggest series of bamboo) from ground up were enough to overwhelm. When the sun shines through from the top and the trees sway in the wind with a hissing sound, you feel strangely enveloped by a sense of serenity. This memory became more distinct to me than experiencing Arashiyama’s famous bamboo grove.
Visiting the Great Buddha (Daibutsu)
After lunch at the train station, I took another bus to visit the Great Buddha. Again, autumn foliage awaits.
Took a walk down the road after leaving Daibutsu’s grounds since I have no more plans in Kamakura.
Not too long after, I saw signs leading to Hase-dera, and decided to visit it.
Hase-Kannon Temple (Hase-dera)
The temple grounds have a pretty garden and ponds, an observation deck as well as a small cave where you need to duck to walk through.
(There are many staircases at this place.)
Hasedera Temple is known for its 9.18m-tall, wooden statue of Kannon (otherwise known as Guanyin – Goddess of Mercy), one of the finest wooden statues in Japan, housed in a hall. To pray for blessings, I lit a little candle and left it there, before leaving to explore the rest of the temple.
By 4.30pm in the season, the skies in Kamakura were already turning dark.
The next time I visit Kamakura, I’ll rent a bicycle to get around. With that, I made my way back to Shinjuku, tired but very contented!
How to get to Kamakura from Shinjuku:
Method 1: The JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line train that is bound for Zushi (逗子) will stop at Kamakura (about one hour’s ride).
Method 2: Take JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line train and if the train is bound for Odawara, transfer at Ofuna towards Kamakura.
For other methods, refer to this page.
Tip: Kamakura Free Kankyo Tegata is a useful one-day bus pass which costs 570yen/adult, 290 yen/child, available for purchase at the Tourist Office at Kamakura train station. The bus pass is not available for sale on 1-3 Jan.
Are you intending to visit Kamakura as a day trip the next time you’re in Tokyo?
Visited: Dec 2015
Other resources referenced in this post: Japan-Guide | Kotoku-In