Updated on April 11, 2019
The itinerary starts at Kamakura train station and goes through some of the best-considered temples in the city. The exit lead us to the main avenue of the city, that in fact is an old walk adorned with hundreds of cherry trees that goes along from the sea to the first place to visit.
Although it is not the most acclaimed by tourists, it is the most important sanctuary, just during the new year’s holidays it hosts 2 million visitors. From Kamakura Station it takes about 15 minutes walking north. Open from 5:00 (6:00 October to March) 21:00, free admission.
Founded in 1063, it is dedicated to Hachiman, the god of war and the samurai, that’s why is held biannually (April and September) a display of sitting backwards archery from a galloping horse. I have very good memories of this place, since some kind of event was celebrating (unfortunately not the archery on horseback), so despite the rain the atmosphere was festive; it was crowded and most children and some adults were dressed in traditional costume.
It is famous for its bamboo forest, which I was unaware at the time, so I didn’t go but these barely 2,000 canes have made it one of the favorites of visitors. A 20-minute walk east of the former temple, or 10 minutes by bus from Kamakura Station (buses 23, 24 or 36). Open daily from 9:00 to 16:00, admission ¥ 200 or ¥ 500 if you want to participate in a tea ceremony, which is not bad to do once on a trip to Japan.
About 10 minutes north from Hokoku-ji, we will pass by the Jomyoji and Zuisenji temples, from where the Tenen trail begins. Trails are another of the great attractions in Kamakura, as they quickly change from city to truly wooded environment. Tenen is the longest, it takes between 60 and 90 minutes to hike and ends at the next temple.
I did go to this one. It is a 10 minute walk north of Hachiman-gu. There are many buildings, some with traditional thatched roofs, gardens and a hall famous for a painting of a dragon on the ceiling. Open daily from 8:30 to 16:30, admission ¥ 300.
Founded in 1282, it’s a 15-minute walk from prior, northwesterly, close to Kita-Kamamura Station. The highlight is the largest bronze bell in the city and it is a popular place to see the maple trees in autumn. Open from 8:00 to 16:30 daily, admission ¥ 300.
From this area, unless it rains or you are not wearing appropriate footwear, walking the Daibutsu path (Great Buddha) is strongly recommend, it will lead us to, as it’s name suggest, Kamakura Great Buddha. Begins south of Tokei-ji and Jochi-ji temples, immediately south of the station, and ends north of the Big Buddha. It takes approximately 40 minutes.
THE GREAT BUDDHA
Undoubtedly, the icon of the city is the sitting Buddha, 11,5 m high (13’3 including pedestal) and 850 tonnes, the second largest of its kind in Japan following the one in Nara. Made in 1252 in bronze, hollow inside, it belongs to Kotoku-in temple. Open daily from 8:00 to 17:00, admission ¥ 200 (¥ 20 more if you want to enter the statue).
Initially it was inside a building, but in 1495 a tsunami destroyed it; since then, the statue has been outdoors.
If you do not want to walk, the Big Buddha temple is a 5-10 minutes walk north of Hase station, three urban train stops from a private station (therefore, you can not use the Japan Rail Pass) attached to the Main train station of Kamakura.
The latter temple is supposedly famous for its statue of the goddess Kannon, 9 meters tall and nine-headed, but the truth is that what tourists love are shaped stone statues of smiling monks. I pass by the gate but did not enter. It opens from 8 am to 5 pm (October to February) or 5:30 pm (November to March), 300 ¥.