I hadn’t heard much about Kamakura, other than about the large Buddha that rests here, and I was pleasantly surprised. The city is actually extremely important in Japanese history as here is where the Shogunate and the Regency seat was located from 1192, when the first shogun established himself, to 1333: the Kamakura Period. The shogunate was basically a military dictatorship, this is why castles, samurai and feudalism flourished in this period.
You can get to Kamakura easily with a train from Tokyo. You will first stop at Kita-Kamakura where there is an upper part of the village, and here you can find a series of interesting temples. I fell in love with the Meigetsuin Temple (bright moon temple), known as the “Hydrangea Temple” for the numerous Hydrangea flowers that bloom in the garden, in the main hall you can drink tea and look through the round window into the inner garden. Due to its name and association with rabbits, you will find rabbit decorations around the temple. In Kita-Kamakura you can also see Engakuji, one of Kamakura’s great five temples, with an antique temple bell and a tea house where you can taste tea, amazake (sweet sake) or japanese sweets; Tokeiji Temple where women ran to in order to take shelter from their husbands; and Jochiji Temple, the fourth of the great five temples of Kamakura.
Close to the Jochiji temple starts the Daibutsu Hiking Trail, a walk through the forest that takes about 1 hour, to reach one of Kamakura’s greatest attractions. From what I’d been told the trail would be an easy walk, but it’s not! Not because it’s extremely tiring but because you have to climb up on tree roots and mud. I wasn’t prepared for the hike and was wearing sandals, which I don’t recommend for the muddy path. Anyway it was a very nice walk and fun experience, which I’m glad I did.
At the end of the hike you’ll get to the Kotokuin Temple where the Great Buddha – the Daibutsu – rests, it is an extremely stunning bronze statue cast in 1252. You can actually visit inside the statue.
After the hike we decided to visit also the Hasedera Temple that I particularly suggest you see, because it is striking! The lovely garden with its pond and a hidden cave filled with statues of gods, and then walking up to the main hall, Kannon-do Hall, you can visit the golden Kannon statue, 9 meters tall. From the top terrace you can also have a lovely view of the city of Kamakura and the sea.
To end the day you can relax on the beach in one of the seaside bars. If you’re up for more moving around you can also go surfing, even though the water is not extremely clear.