Whenever a friend or family member comes to Japan, one of the places that I recommend is Kamakura. Many people tend to go for the popular tourist spots around Tokyo, such as Harajuku, Shibuya and Asakusa but I feel like the time it takes to do the rounds of the main attractions in Tokyo goes by so quickly. Before you know it, you have been to several places all in a couple of days, and you are left pondering what to do next. But in Kamakura, you could easily spend the whole day there and fall in love with the place.
While it takes a wee while to get there by train depending on your location, it is still quite doable. If you go on a nice day, you will be sure to get a pleasant feeling watching the scenery unfold from the train. After going through a tunnel, the scenery makes you feel like you were transported into a Ghibli movie; the local houses and vast blue skies contrasting with the greenery is so refreshing to see. Though I have never been, Kita-Kamakura (the station just before) looks like a beautiful place to visit. But anyways, back to the topic in question.
I was able to visit just recently on a day off, with no particular plan in mind. I have always enjoyed going to shopping streets and Kamakura’s Komachi shopping street has so many Japanese sweet shops and even trendy shops to shop at. Since bubble tea has been blowing up recently, I wasn’t surprised to see a few stores there. As an added bonus, many of the stores on this street have free samples to try out as well. Just make sure you don’t fill up on those samples though. Go on an empty stomach because there are so many delicious-looking shops around and shops offering whitebait rice bowls, a local specialty, scattered around too. You will have a hard time choosing only one you want to try. A word of advice though, you should be careful while you walk around with food. The hawks/falcons there will swoop in and snatch it from your hands. The hawks are quite fearless there.
Kamakura is well known for having many temples and shrines. When you reach the end of the shopping street, there is a large shrine nearby called Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, nice and clean, with security cameras even by the praying area. There also happens to be a peony garden in the same vicinity too which has a 200 yen entry fee. After this shrine, it is a straight shot to the ocean, it is around a 30-minute walk and you can enjoy the breeze and the surprisingly fashionable, upscale buildings and cafes along the way. Even the police station was as stylish as any building in Aoyama.
If you get the opportunity, it is definitely better to pay some money to rent a bicycle there so you can cover more ground and visit more temples. The Kotoku-in with the Giant Buddha is a must to visit, but it takes time to see and is tiring to walk around. Once you hit all the places there you can chill at another restaurant for some good food or sleep on the train back to Tokyo, thinking fondly of the day you just had as you look through all the photos you took.
wee (adj.) – little or short; small in nature
blow up (phr. v) – to become famous, successful, and respected usually within a small amount of time
swoop (v) – (especially of a bird) to move rapidly downwards through the air
snatch (v) – to quickly grab (something) in a rude or eager way
chill (v) – to relax or to take a rest