Just an hour south of Tokyo on the coast lies the ancient city of Kamakura. Once an important political and religious center, Kamakura is now known for its proliferation of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines and the famous Amida Buddha statue at Kotoku-in. Here are our top five picks.
1. Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kamakura)
Coming in at number one is the giant bronze Buddha (Daibutsu). Standing at 13.35 meters high, it’s the second tallest bronze Buddha in Japan. Dating from 1252, the Buddha used to stand inside a large temple, which eventually collapsed around it following multiple typhoons and tidal waves in the 14th and 15th centuries.
2. Hasedera (Hase Temple)
This delightful temple hugs the hillside and is surrounded by a Japanese garden and ponds. Its main attraction is the tall (9.18 meter) wooden statue of the multi-headed Kannon, which can be found inside the Kannon-do Hall. Make sure you check out the views over Kamakura from the observation deck.
3. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
Its impossible not to notice the large tori gates in Kamakura’s city center that form an approach to the city’s most important shrine. Dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the influential Minamoto clan (794-1185 AD), the shrine is the focus of many festivals and events throughout the year.
4. Engakuji Temple
You can’t help but feel zen as you wander around Engakuji – one of the leading Zen temples in Eastern Japan. Built on a slope in Kamakura’s surrounding woodland, the temple’s main hall, the Butsuden, contains a wooden Buddha, while the Shariden hall, further into the temple grounds, is home to a tooth of the real Buddha.
5. Kamakura Beaches
Feeling templed out? Then hit the beach. Popular with surfers and buzzing with locals and Tokyoites during the summer months, Kamakura’s beaches are just 20 minutes south of the city center on foot and provide a welcome respite from urbanity.