Board the delightfully retro Enoden train and chug along the scenic coastline of Sagami Bay, purify your cash in Kamakura’s crisp natural spring water, and marvel at the magnitude of Japan's second-largest Buddha statue, seated cross-legged in the open air. There are so many things to do in Kamakura, the “Little Kyoto” of Eastern Japan.
Kamakura is a seaside city in Kanagawa prefecture that’s located just an hour by train from Tokyo Station, making it an easy day trip from Tokyo. Often compared to Kyoto, Kamakura was once the political capital of Japan, from 1185 to 1333 during the rule of the Kamakura shogunate. Like Kyoto, the coastal city is also home to dozens of temples and shrines—so many that you couldn’t possibly see them all in one day—as well as a serene bamboo grove that’s smaller in scale than the Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto, but still quite charming (and considerably less crowded).
Hopefully, this guide gives you an idea of what to do in Kamakura if you have limited time and want to experience the main attractions. If your itinerary has a bit more wiggle room, we recommend combining your Kamakura trip with a visit to Enoshima, a small island that’s accessible on foot via a bridge from the mainland.
Fans of Japanese calligraphy will also want to head down to nearby Chigasaki for a lesson with a shodo master.
15 Best Things to Do in Kamakura
On a Kamakura day trip? Here are 15 of the top things to do in Kamakura, Japan.
- Ride the charming seaside Enoden train
- Gaze upon the Great Buddha of Kamakura
- Wash your money at Zeniarai Benten Shrine and get rich!
- Enter the sacred world through the torii gates of Sasuke Inari Shrine
- Eat Kamakura street food along Komachi Dori
- Stroll through the bamboo forest of Hokokuji Temple
- Fill up on seafood, like the local specialty shirasu
- Join a Japanese cooking class in Kamakura
- Marvel at the gardens of Meigetsuin (a.k.a. Hydrangea Temple)
- Visit the power spot, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
- Soak up some sun at Yuigahama Beach
- Try the Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, shojin ryori
- Explore Benten Cave and enjoy seasonal flowers at Hasedera Temple
- Take home a piece of Kamakura's carved lacquerware
- Pick up Hato Sabure (pigeon-shaped sable cookies) as a souvenir snack
1. Ride the charming seaside Enoden train
A beloved Japanese train, experience the retro appeal of the Enoden on your journey into the heart of Enoshima. The Enoshima Electric Railway a.k.a. Enoden began operation in 1902, running between Fujisawa and Katase. The sixth oldest railway in Japan, it was the first to use electrical equipment from Germany. Today, the Enoden continues to delight travelers with its nostalgic charm, easy access to sightseeing spots, and scenic views of Sagami Bay.
2. Gaze upon the Great Buddha of Kamakura
The second largest Buddha statue in the country, the Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha) is a designated National Treasure of Japan. A striking figure at 13.35 meters or 43.8 feet tall (including the pedestal), this meditating Buddha is an awe-inspiring sight at Kotoku-in Temple.
Since the year 1252, when the construction of the bronze colossus began, the Kamakura Daibutsu has withstood typhoons, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Daibutsu-den, the wooden building which once housed the Great Buddha, may have been destroyed by consecutive natural disasters, but the Daibutsu endures. Today, the Kamakura Daibutsu sits out in the open air to weather even more storms, inspiring us all with the Buddha’s composure and perseverance.
3. Wash your money at Zeniarai Benten Shrine and get rich!
A curious roadside tunnel opens out into an otherworldly oasis: a sunbathed clearing that’s surrounded by natural rock walls, one section of which has been excavated to reveal a trickling spring. It’s not the fountain of youth, but the natural spring at Zeniarai Benten Shrine is the next best thing. It’s said that if you wash your money here and spend it, it will return to you, multiplied. Using a ladle and bamboo sieve (lent by the shrine), pour water over coins, paper bills, and even credit cards to take advantage of the benefits of this sacred spring.
Pro Tip: Bring a hand towel to help dry off your paper bills, or a resealable bag to keep your damp, purified cash separate until you get home.
4. Enter the sacred world through the torii gates of Sasuke Inari Shrine
Tucked away in an enchanting moss-carpeted forest, stroll up the path towards Sasuke Inari Shrine and through the tunnel of vermillion torii gates, their red flags flapping in the breeze—each step leading you deeper into the sacred realm.
Statues of foxes oversee the shrine grounds, messengers of the kami (Japanese diety) Inari, known as the god of rice. Associated with bountiful harvests, fertility, and prosperity, the most famous (and main) Inari shrine is Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto, with over a thousand gates; but the smaller Sasuke Inari branch shrine’s tranquil atmosphere inspires reverence—and it’s not as overrun by photo-op seeking tourists. Located between the Kamakura Daibutsu and Zeniarai Benten (a 13-minute walk from the latter), we recommended checking out all three Kamakura attractions in one swoop.
5. Eat Kamakura street food along Komachi Dori
Craving street food in Kamakura? Head to Komachi Dori (Komachi Street), spanning from the east exit of Kamakura Station to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Satisfy your need for seafood with skewers of plump shrimp shumai and cups of sushi. Or, grab a sweet cake shaped like the Buddha’s head (a nod—pun intended—to the Great Buddha statue). But while the bronze-cast Kamakura Daibutsu is hollow inside, these cakes are certainly not! Filling options include sweet bean paste, custard, and even ham and cheese.
Check out our rundown of the tastiest bites along Komachi Street for more info!
6. Stroll through the bamboo forest of Hokokuji Temple
Kyoto is not the only city with a famous bamboo forest. Stop by Hokokuji Temple and meander through the bamboo garden, basking in the dappled sunlight streaming through the leaves. Afterward, rest your legs at Hokokuji’s traditional tea house, experiencing the serenity of a bowl of frothy matcha, paired with dried sweets.
7. Fill up on seafood, like the local specialty shirasu
Located by Sagami Bay, Kamakura is blessed with fresh seafood, so you can’t go wrong with sushi or sashimi. But if you’re looking for something unique to the area, how about trying shirasu? These immature whitebait fish can be eaten either cooked or raw, and make an appearance in everything from senbei (rice crackers) to seafood bowls to potato croquettes.
8. Join a Japanese cooking class in Kamakura
Meet cooking instructor Yoko-sensei in her Kamakura home for a rolled sushi bento-making class. Emphasizing “local production for local consumption” you’ll use Kamakura veggies to make a colorful meal including sushi and 3-4 side dishes. Come get a peek into Japanese home life in between all the sightseeing in Kamakura.
9. Marvel at the gardens of Meigetsuin (a.k.a. Hydrangea Temple)
During the rainy season, 2500 hydrangea bushes burst into bloom at Meigetsuin, earning it the nickname Ajisai-dera or “Hydrangea Temple.” Alongside Hasedera Temple and Jojuin Shrine, Meigetsu Temple is one of the three best places to see hydrangea in Kamakura. But the temple’s beauty isn’t limited to just one season; throughout the year, visitors can enjoy the changing florals and foliage, from sakura cherry blossoms to fiery autumn leaves.
10. Visit the power spot, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is considered the most important shrine in Kamakura, with sprawling grounds that include museums, cafes, a treasure hall, and a tea house. Dedicated to Hachiman, the guardian deity of warriors and specifically the Minamoto clan, this 800-year-old shrine houses national treasures and artifacts like swords, woven uchiki garments, masks, and documents pertaining to the shrine’s history. Festivals are held here each month, including the annual Reitaisai Festival in September which features performances of yabusame (horseback archery).
11. Soak up some sun at Yuigahama Beach
Yuigahama is a popular beach in Kamakura, thanks to its easy access from Hase Station and convenient location (Hasedera Temple and the Kamakura Daibutsu are both just a short walk away). A sandy beach with relatively gentle waves, Yuigahama Beach is a safe option for beginner swimmers and surfers alike. During summer, beach huts, rental shops, and cafes are open for business, offering respite from the sun.
12. Try the Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, shojin ryori
With the abundance of temples in the area, Kamakura is a good place to try the Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, shojin ryori. Eat as the monks do, with meals including soup, rice, local vegetable dishes, and the nutty-tasting goma dofu (sesame tofu).
13. Explore Benten Cave and enjoy seasonal flowers at Hasedera Temple
Established in the year 736, Hasedera houses one of the largest wooden Buddhist statues in Japan, depicting the goddess of mercy Kannon standing tall at 9.18 meters in height. Charming little jizo statuettes—guardians of unborn children—are also stationed around the temple grounds, smiling serenely at passers-by. Within the temple grounds, visitors can explore the Benten Cave, dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten. An attraction for nature lovers, the temple features different flowers for every season. Walk along a scenic path lined with hydrangea bushes that bloom around late May, leading to an observation platform with views of the sea and surrounding town.
14. Take home a piece of Kamakura's carved lacquerware
As a souvenir to remember your Kamakura trip, how about a piece of intricately carved lacquerware for your home? Ranging from plates and coasters to hand mirrors and jewelry boxes, every item is carved from wood such as ginkgo and magnolia, before being painted with layers of red or black lacquer and polished for a smooth finish.
During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), the craft of carved lacquerware was introduced to Japan from China. What was first used as a technique to make decorative temple furnishings later extended to tea ceremony utensils like tea canisters and trays, and today it is designated as a Traditional Craft of Japan.
15. Pick up Hato Sabure (pigeon-shaped sable cookies) as a souvenir snack
Before your Kamakura travels are over, stop by Toshimaya for a box of Hato Sabure. These crisp, buttery sable cookies are an iconic local omiyage (souvenir) from Kamakura.
As the story goes, around the year 1897, the founder of Toshimaya was given a western cookie by a foreigner who visited his shop. He had never tasted anything like it and was inspired to create his own version of the treat. He made it in the shape of a dove as a homage to the nearby Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, where local children were entertained by the flocks of birds that frequented the grounds. And thus the Hato Sabure was born; hato meaning “dove” or “pigeon” and sabure being a loan word derived from the French sablė cookie.
We hope you use this overview as a starting point for planning your trip to Kamakura. The laid-back tourist town offers so many restorative things to do, like visiting power spots, soaking up rays on the beach, indulging in local seafood, and immersing yourself in nature—all just a short day trip from Tokyo.