Kamakura Travel Guide
Located within day trip or weekend break distance from Tokyo, Kamakura is a popular temple town that attracts Japanese and foreign visitors alike.
If you are all about these attractions, give yourself three to four days here, as there are a lot of significant temples to see here.
Come check out our Kamakura travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Kamakura, Japan.
There is no shortage of temples in Kamakura, so it can be tough to know where to start your sightseeing. In our opinion, beginning with the Hase Temple is the best move, as it is home to the largest wooden sculpture in Japan.
A Zen Buddhist temple dedicated to Kannon, a Japanese deity of mercy, the statue depicting this eleven-headed being stands more than nine metres tall above those who have come to see it. Learn more about this divine entity at the on-site museum; while most of the captions are only in Japanese, a pamphlet is provided that provides a basic translation in English.
With a number of interesting Buddhist statues and a spectacular temple bell among other artifacts, it is part of this temple that is definitely worth seeing. Finally, stroll through the garden outside, as its many stunning trees (which burst into colour come Fall) and koi ponds will complete your visit here.
When you are done taking in this place’s main attractions, stop to check out the view, as this hillside temple allows sweeping views of the historic city of Kamakura below.
After this, make Kenchoji Temple your next stop. This is the oldest temple in Kamakura, as it was built in 1253 during the Kencho Era. Like the Hase Temple, it is set up on a hillside, with plenty of sub-buildings spread over the lower slopes below the main buildings.
Soon after passing through the main gate near the base, you’ll come across Bonsho, a temple bell that is considered to be a National Treasure. Beyond that, the next couple of halls contains statues of the Jizo Bodhisattva and Kannon respectively, with the latter one being the largest wooden temple building in Eastern Japan.
The Hojo (main hall) lies at the top and used to be the home of the head priest. While this building is impressive in its own right, the main attraction here is the Zen garden located behind it. A calm place located high up in the hills above the town of Kamakura, its relaxing nature will provide an antidote to the stress that life in nearby Tokyo can build up in you.
Continuing on, Hokokuji Temple is another must-see religious point of interest in the Kamakura area. Built during the Muromachi Period, the temple itself is somewhat unassuming (though, this may make this place more appealing to those who detest crowds), but the Buddha statue contained within is worth seeing.
What does make this temple worth seeing is the sizable bamboo grove, which contains 2,000 strands of this massive species of grass. Within this grove lies a series of caves where the cremated ashes of former lords were scattered, and a tea house where you can enjoy a cup of matcha amidst an amazing setting.
Finally, those on a tight schedule should make time to see the Great Buddha of Kamakura before leaving Kamakura. Formerly housed by yet another temple, typhoons and then a tsunami destroyed the building that contained it, locals got tired of rebuilding and converted this landmark into an outdoor monument.
With a height exceeding eleven metres tall, it is the second largest bronze Buddha statue in all of Japan, so don’t miss it if at all possible.
Got more time? If you are game to check out more of the temples that can be found in the Kamakura area, ensure that Engakuji Temple is on your list of places to check out.
Built to honour the fallen in the wake of the second failed attempt by the Mongols to capture the Japanese islands, this hillside temple is known nationwide for containing a relic of the Buddha (one of his teeth).
Come by in Autumn, as the colours of the trees are especially beautiful at this time.
Proceed next to the Meigetsuin Temple. Known locally as the “Hydrangea Temple” for its abundance of flowers of this type that bloom in its gardens, it was built by the son to honour their father, who died in a clash between clans in the Heian Period.
As you make your way around, keep your eyes open for live rabbits and rabbit decorations, as they have long been associated with this temple.
Behind many of the temples in Kamakura, you will find plenty of hiking trails leading further up into the hills. Active travellers will want to dedicate a day to exploring many of these, as they allow for an escape into nature that will offer an added dimension to your trip to Japan.