Spring is in the air, which only means one thing in Japan: cherry blossoms. Every year, during this much-awaited season, people from all over the world flock to Japan to witness these beauties first hand. Blooming left and right, they’re practically everywhere. While places like Tokyo and Kyoto have been reputed as top destinations for cherry blossom viewing, Kamakura also has equally great spots to offer.
Blossoms in Kamakura -- Photo by Angeline Elopre
Last week, a friend and I decided to escape city life momentarily and sought refuge in Kamakura, a small city in the prefecture of Kanagawa. Kamakura is popular for its many temples and shrines, which happen to also make for perfect spots for cherry blossom viewing. Even though they were just beginning to bloom at the time of our visit, the cherry blossoms around the area are expected to be in full bloom by early April.
At the top of every tourist’s list of places to visit in Kamakura is Tsurugaoka
Hachiman-gu. Several ways lead to the temple from the Kamakura train station: through Komachi-dori, or on the Dankazura, a raised pathway. To enjoy your trip to the fullest, however, I would suggest taking the Dankazura to the shrine and returning through Komachi-dori. The Dankazura has a fantastic view of the several hundred cherry blossom trees lining the narrow pedestrian path, while Komachi-dori offers many snacking and shopping opportunities.
If you plan to pass through the long, busy street of Komachi-dori, make sure to try out their sakura-themed snacks and check out seasonal omiyage (souvenirs) to bring home for your friends and family. Popular snacks during this season include Sakura Mochi, a sweet, pink-colored rice cake filled with red bean paste and wrapped in a pickled sakura leaf, as well as Hanami Dango, three rice cake balls that are pink, white and green, representing the cherry blossoms in spring, snow in winter and grass in summer. A giant red torii (gate) flanks the entrance to the shrine. Upon reaching Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu, several cherry blossom trees immediately come into sight, lining the river which runs through the area and the small island near the pond to the right of the shrine.
Hase-dera Temple -- Photo by Angeline Elopre
, famous for its gigantic wooden statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon, is another spot not to be missed in Kamakura. This temple may be half an hour walk from Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu, but the lengthy journey is well worth it. Another possibility is to take the Enoden train from Kamakura station to Hase, which is only three stops away. Entrance to the temple costs 300 Yen for adults and 100 Yen for children. Built on a hill, the temple overlooks all of Kamakura, yet another spot to view the cherry blossoms from above. At the bottom of the hill is a vast garden filled with some of Hasedera’s very own cherry blossom trees.
Just a short walk from Hase-dera, you'll find the Daibutsu
(“Great Buddha”) of Kamakura. For an entrance fee of 200 Yen, visitors do not only get to view and take pictures with the famous monumental statue, but they also have the opportunity to see some of Kamakura’s finest cherry blossoms, which look especially picturesque at sunset.
Kamakura Daibutsu, the Great Buddha of Kamakura -- Photo by Angeline Elopre
Forget about travelling for hours and spending thousands of Yen just to see cherry blossoms. If you are in Tokyo and want to celebrate spring outside the busy city, visit Kamakura and its great spots for cherry blossom viewing, which tie in culture, history, and the beauty of nature altogether.
To read more on Angeline's favourite spots in Japan click on her profile below!