After a long exciting week in Tokyo, you might be eager to experience more calm wabi-sabi philosophy beyond the hussle of the city and capture the best of four seasons in the process. When my friends don’t have much time to go to Kyoto, I strongly recommend visiting Kamakura to see very traditional temples and to enjoy Japanese foods and crafts. A major 12th-century samurai warrior city, there are many temples remaining from the Kamakura era, offering endless history to discover at every turn. As Kamakura is a relatively small city, it is easy to get around the city center on foot or by bicycle if you plan to visit the Kamakura temples. One of my favorite ways is to walk from Kita-Kamakura Station (one stop before Kamakura) to Hase Station.
1. Engakuji Temple
The starting point will be Engakuji Temple in front of the Kita-Kamakura Station. Engakuji Temple was built in 1282 and has been through several fires and reconstructions. Around the complex you will find impressive architecture such as the Butsuden main hall standing in the center of Engakuji Temple and the Bonsho-bell donated in 1301, a 3-minute walk from Sanmon main gate. To get a more in-depth experience, consider joining a Zazen meditation class bi-weekly on Sunday morning.
Meigetsu-in is a temple that is entirely covered by flowers of the four seasons and the lush green. This picture perfect temple is best enjoyed when the flowers arrive from plum in February through to Autumn leaves changing their colors. Throughout the year you’ll find plenty of flower blooms to discover, but none more impressive than the deep blue tones of the blossoms of iris and hydrangea in Spring and Summer months. It becomes much more popular to take photos of the back garden through the round and open window from the traditional Japanese rock garden. On a weekday in the early morning is best to do so. Gesshoken tea house is located in the Meigetsu-in and is full of greenery and hidden nooks to sit in. It’s a great place to escape and slow down to drink Maccha green tea.
3. Kaizoji Temple
If you want to set out to see historic sites and get a feel for the shogunate capital, my recommendation is to pass cutting roads in Kamakura. The Kamakura Shogunate started here in Kamakura, because it was an easy place to defend due to its natural mountain setting. During the walk from Kita-Kamakura Station, there is Kamegayatsu-zaka cutting road. People carved into the mountains and created a base of defense. It was a very narrow pass slope, but I could feel much cooler, walking under shady, green trees.
Near the end of Kamegayatsu-zaka cutting road, Kaizoji Temple is located. The main attraction of Kaizoji Temple is to visit the 16 small wells and seasonal flowers in the garden. The site is so small and will take around a half-hour to visit.
4. Genjiyama Park
The main reason travellers visit Kamakura is to visit the Zeniarai Benten Shrine near Genjiyama Park. It is believed that washing money in the spring of the Zeniarai Benten Shrine will purify it and bring you more. You can reach here through Kewaizaka cutting road in Genjiyama Park from Kaizoji Temple.
5. Houkokuji Temple
Hokokuji Temple bamboo grove is one of the most photographed spots in Kamakura. The best way to see and take the best photos is by spending a quiet morning.
6. Jomyoji Temple
Jomyoji Temple dates back to the 12th century and is considered one of the best preserved temples in Kamakura. The traditional Japanese dry rock garden is beautifully serene and even manages to be by-passed by visiting tourists. Visit this temple if you’re looking to avoid the crowds. If matcha is your thing, you can’t go past the Kisenan tea shop where you can have a matcha experience with Japanese sweets.
Ishigama Garden Terrace sits perched up on the hill in Jomyoji Temple and offers a health-conscious menu with local produce. Enjoy your meal here and then browse the shelves of their gift store located inside the restaurant.