About 2 hours away from Tokyo, is the beautiful seaside city of Kamakura. It is an easy day trip from Tokyo. It is also generally the first stop when you are on a “package” sightseeing tour of Japan.
As you enter the city, you get a glimpse of some of the old Japanese architecture mingling nicely with modern Japanese architecture. As I looked out the window in the bus we were traveling in, I loved seeing the mostly “bicycle garages” in multi-storied buildings rather than the “car garages” we are normally used to seeing in the big cities. At once it was obvious we were in a beautiful seaside city!
Kamakura is a very pedestrian friendly city (be aware though – not all areas are flat … please wear good walking shoes and make sure you are comfortable walking up slopes if you choose to explore by walking). The downtown area has beautiful shops and cafes lining it… you can easily spend hours just watching the people go by. We happened to go on a weekend (Sunday) and there was a local festival/ parade taking place…. it was wonderful seeing the celebrations so close (on the flip side – traffic comes to a standstill, so if you are in a car or bus, good luck moving quickly!).
Our first stop was the Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kotoku-in). It is a beautiful, tranquil temple… and once you enter the premises, you automatically forget about the world outside. It is very easy to spend 2 to 3 hours here…. beautiful, shaded areas that allow you to just chill. Once you pay your respects to the Great Buddha, you have an opportunity to go inside the statue after paying an additional nominal amount. While many people opt-out, we decided to go inside the hollow statue just to have an opportunity to see how the amazing statue was built… the experience was definitely worth it.
Because of the parade, we had lost quite a bit of time and were behind schedule. If you enjoy spending time in Japanese shrines, there are plenty of options available. We made a flying visit past the Asama Shrine, Tsurugaoku Hachimangu shrine and drove by Hase-dera and the beach area (Yuigahama Beach is within walking distance of the Great Buddha). If done right and you are able to allocate enough time in Kamakura, then I would certainly recommend taking it easy … enjoy the beautiful downtown area (and have lunch at one of the many intriguing options that are available), and spend a nice late afternoon at the beach before heading back to Tokyo in the evening.
Important note: If you are on a “package” sightseeing tour, you will most likely only spend time at the Great Buddha (Kotoku-in).