The mere mention of Kamakura and Enoshima evokes images of ancient towns, temples and shrines, and the renowned beauty of the Shonan Coast. Every season the region attracts visitors from all over Japan and the world. The best way to enjoy the scenic beauty of the area is to take the Enoden Railway train. Every station along the way boasts its own unique character and points of interest. From Tokyo, taking a day or an overnight trip is a perfect way to see the local sights.
Here are 10 classic must-see attractions.
1. Great Buddha of Kamakura
The Great Buddha of Kamakura -- Photo by Nathan Hosken
The Great Buddha at Kotoku-in Temple is Kamakura's most famous spot. Belonging to the Jodo sect of Buddhism (also known as Pure Land School of Buddhism), the temple is dedicated to the Amitabha or Amida Buddha, who most people call "Kamakura Buddha." Kotoku-in Temple is Kamakura’s only designated national treasure. Meiji era poetess Akiko Yosano Kamakura Buddha once praised the Buddha, likening it to a handsome man standing in a summer grove. This 13.35 meters high hollow statue weighs in at 121 tons! Visitors can even climb inside the Buddha and explore the inside (additional fee).
2. Enoden Railway
Enoden Rail Train — Photo from Flickr cc by Harry Li
The Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden) connects Kamakura and Fujisawa Stations. The 15-station line winds through quiet residential neighborhoods and along a 7-mile stretch of coastline, with magnificent views of the ocean. With many other charming attractions along the way, including famous shrines and temples, the retro Enoden train is a must-see when visiting Kamakura.
3. Kamakurakoko-Mae Station
Kamakurakoko-Mae Station by the Sea — Photo from Flickr cc by Nan-Cheng Tsai
Arguably the most famous station on the Enoden Railway line, Kamakurakoko-Mae Station boasts celebrity status. The station’s east platform was featured in a scene in the famous manga “Slam Dunk.” In addition to drawing fans of the show, the station and its serene setting attracts countless visitors. With only a single road separating the station and the coastline, the station offers prime views of the beautiful seaside. Indeed, the station has earned the title of one of the "100 Top Stations in the Kanto Region."
Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine, one of the Three Major Hachiman Shrines of Japan, is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the Minamoto family (founder and first shogun of the Kamakura government) and also of samurai. The shrine serves as a center of faith for local residents and visitors alike, making the site one of the most popular destinations in Kamakura.
5. Zeniarai Benten Shrine
Entrance to Zeniarai Benten Shrine — Photo from Flickr cc by ume-y
Zeniarai Benten Shrine, dedicated to the Buddhist goddess Benten, comprises a cave with a flowing spring. It is said that washing one’s coins in the spring’s water will bring financial prosperity. Here’s an interesting fact – the name zeniarai means “coin washing.” Every year, visitors come to the shrine to eagerly pray for wealth and good fortune.
6. Hase-dera Temple
Hase-dera Temple — Photo from Flickr cc by David Pursehouse
Hase-dera is a temple of the Jodo sect, dedicated to the eleven-headed statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The 9.18 meter tall statue is regarded as the largest wooden Buddha statue in Japan. Within the shrine grounds, cherry trees and over 2,500 hydrangeas thrive, drawing countless admirers when in full bloom. Two unique omamori (lucky amulets) are available at Hase-dera – one is a strawberry-shaped charm believed to answer all of one’s wishes; the other, a ladybug charm believed to prevent accidents while walking or driving.
7. Meigetsu-in Temple
Hydrangeas of Meigetsu-in Temple — Photo from Flickr cc by Yukiko Yamamoto
Meigetsu-in Temple, located in Kitakamakura, is a temple of the Rinzai Zen sect with over 600 years of history. On the temple grounds, over 2,000 types of hydrangeas bloom every June. Hence, the temple is also famously known as the Hydrangea Temple. Meigetsu-in Temple comprises a main hall, lookout platform, and the tomb of Hojo Tokiyori, a one-time supreme ruler of Japan who was based in Kamakura. The main hall features a circular window, through which one can see the flowers of the gardens below.
Bamboo Forest of Hokoku-ji — Photo from Flickr cc by Reginald Pentinio
Located about 30 to 40 minutes walking distance from Kamakura Station, Hokoku-ji Temple is a hidden gem tucked away in a humble residential area. Although small in size and somewhat off the beaten path, the temple exudes charm from within, where one can find the temple’s famous bamboo garden. With over 2,000 bamboo growing on this small plot of land, the dense grove provides nothing short of dreamy and serene scenery. A great way to drown out all worries and noise, take a seat by the quiet bamboo while sipping on a cup of matcha tea.
Facing Sagami Bay, Yuigahama is a famous beach in the southern Shonan region. The beach, shaped like a crescent, offers calm waters that are perfect for swimming. On hot summer days, the beach attracts many visitors who come to sunbathe and take a dip in the blue sea.
Known as one of Japan’s Three Great Shrines of Benzaiten, Enoshima Shrine is the spiritual heart of Enoshima. The shrine was originally erected by local fishermen, and was dedicated to their protector and guardian. The shrine’s famous red torii gate stands at one end of a lively shopping street. After touring the shrine, visitors can stroll through the shops full of interesting omiyage or souvenirs to take home.
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