A former feudal capital, a bottomless treasure trove of immaculately preserved religious sites, a breezy seaside locale sandwiched between mountain slopes and Sagami Bay, and less than 60 minutes on the train from Tokyo, Kamakura doesn’t struggle to lure visitors down from the modern Japanese capital.
In fact, according to Owen Skinner from the Backstreet Guides, Kamakura is his most popular day trip from Tokyo.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
“It was once the political capital of Japan along with Kyoto, Nara and now Tokyo, so there is a feeling of the importance of Kamakura for Japanese people when they visit,” Skinner explains. “The main reason to visit is to enjoy the local temples and shrines, which are largely untouched by earthquakes, fires and bombing when compared to Tokyo,” he says. “It’s only around one hour by train from either Shibuya, Shinjuku, Shinagawa or Tokyo Station, so it makes a perfect easy day trip.”
Most people only spend a day in Kamakura before speeding back to Tokyo, but investing a night or two in this historic city makes room to do so much more – particularly following samurais’ footsteps to see the endless list of hillside shrines Kamakura is famous for. Read on to learn how to spend 48 hours in Kamakura, Japan.
Day 1 – Morning
Start the morning at the Kōtoku-in temple, watching the sunlight flicker off the few remaining fragments of gold leaf around the ears of the Great Buddha, or Daibutsu. The entirety of this 13-metre-tall (43-foot-tall) statue was plated in gold when it was built in 1252, but the Buddha has been outdoors since his shelter was washed away in a tsunami in 1492, exposing Kamakura’s biggest attraction to the elements. Visitors can even climb inside for ¥20 (£0.15) – a unique perspective of Japan’s second biggest bronze Buddha, trailing only the one at Tōdai-ji in Nara.
“Daibutsu is probably the most famous image of Kamakura and definitely worth a visit,” Skinner says. “Check out the Buddha’s 1.8-metre-long (6-foot-long) rice straw sandals!”
Day 1 – Afternoon
A couple minutes’ walk toward Hase station from the Giant Buddha, the Hase-dera temple adopts a quantity-over-quality approach to its sculptures. This Jodo shrine shows off an 11-headed, nine-metre (30-foot), gilded wooden statue of Kannon, goddess of mercy, complemented by a three-metre-tall (10-foot-tall) Buddha, a cave dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten surrounded by countless tiny Buddhas, and thousands of Jizō statues outside.
“This is one of our favourite temples to show visitors to Kamakura,” Skinner explains. “There are many beautiful and peaceful spots to enjoy classic temple scenes: koi ponds, another giant statue of Buddha – this time in wood – a seasonally changing garden – which is most famous for the June blooming of ajisai (hydrangea) – and a great view over the bay area.”
Borrowing its name from its star attraction, the Daibutsu Hiking Course connects the Great Buddha and Hase-dera with Tōkei-ji, Jōchi-ji and the Zeniarai Benzaiten Shinto shrine, where believers ritually wash their money in the cave’s waters for future wealth. This easy hike takes an hour or two, bookended by the Hase and Kita-Kamakura stations.
Day 1 – Evening
As well as being home to Kamakura’s top two temples, the area west of Kamakura City boasts a lively food and drink scene – particularly the parts hugging the coast. Only blocks from the sand of Yuigahama beach – which links with Zaimokuza farther east to form one long strip of sand that’s routinely packed with day trippers from Tokyo and Yokohama during summer – lies a mixture of Japanese- and Western-style eateries.
Good Mellows fries burgers on the beach, and Kamakura Garage pours pints of local and imported craft beer in a beachy, West Coast-themed space. Y’cafe serves Japanese dishes in a repurposed century-old home, and Bar Kelpie mixes seasonal cocktails using fresh regional ingredients.
“Although Kamakura doesn’t really have its own unique cuisine,” Skinner explains, “locals will tell you to eat locally grown vegetables and locally caught fish and you can’t go wrong.”
Day 2 – Morning
Komachi-dori – the shopping street trailing north of Kamakura station – offers a mouthwatering menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But one dish every visitor must try is Iwata Coffee’s legendary pancakes: three-inch-thick (7.6-centimetre-thick) fluffy pillows that were reportedly a favourite of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. A box of Toshimaya’s dove-shaped butter cookies is a compulsory souvenir, and a specialty coffee from Brazil-obsessed Café Vivement Dimanche or hipster hub Good Goodies rounds out this breakfast of champions.
“Komachi-dori is a must-do for anyone who enjoys browsing local food and snack stores as well as good-quality Japanese souvenirs,” Skinner says. “Stop at Mameya for nut-and-bean-based snacks and Tsukemono Mikura for local Japanese pickled vegetables.”
Day 2 – Afternoon
A row of red torii gates leads to Tsurugaoka Hachimangū, the most important Shinto shrine in Kamakura. Cross the bridge over the two ponds representing warring clans to enter this millennium-old complex dedicated to Hachiman, god of war and the samurai. From there, spend the afternoon treading paths left behind by those ancient warriors. The Tenen Hiking Course hugs the ridge of the hills between Kenchō-ji – the oldest Zen monastery in Japan – to the leafy Zuisen-ji via a series of yagura (tomb caves).
“There’s various hiking trails in the Kamakura hills,” Skinner explains. “Many follow trails first used by the samurai and are fairly easy for people of average fitness.”
Don’t skip a detour to the Hokoku-ji temple for afternoon tea. The shrine is shrouded in a bamboo grove that supplies a verdant backdrop for the on-site teahouse.
“Hokoku-ji is about a 10-minute bus or taxi ride from Kamakura Station, but it’s worth it,” Skinner insists. “You can sip traditionally prepared matcha tea overlooking the small forest garden of around 2,000 bamboo trees.”
Day 2 – Evening
The laneways around Komachi-dori don’t go to sleep after dark. While Kamakura doesn’t have a particularly pronounced regional cuisine, its signature dish is shirasu – tiny anchovies or sardines, usually boiled and partially dried. One block north of Kamakura Station, Akimoto is Skinner’s top spot for shirasu when it’s in season (April to December).
“The most famous dish that people from Tokyo will travel there just to eat is the shirasu,” Skinner says. “The most popular way to try it is simply on rice and usually topped with ginger and spring onions, with various other topping options often available.”
It’s an acquired taste, so Skinner also recommends Mitsuhashi for soba noodles and tempura seasonal vegetables, Kaedena for kamameshi (a rice dish cooked in an iron pot) and Kamakura Hachinoki for vegetable-based kaiseki (multicourse) cuisine.
Komachi-dori is also the epicentre of Kamakura’s nightlife. Toast two days in town with a tipple at the city’s most accessible tachinomiya (standing bar) Bar Ram, craft-beer barn Rudy Brew, wine bar Pilgrim So San or eccentric venue Milk Hall, an antique store by day and a cocktail bar by night.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.