Hello my sweeties! How is this 2017 going so far? We thought that after the New Year’s post at the sea the best way to keep with the good vibes was to jump again into our Japan trip memories and share the third stop: Kamakura.
Kamakura is a coastal town 50 minutes away from Tokyo with the famous Daibutsu, the largest buddha statue standing in open air. The visit to the statue is worthy of leaving Tokyo for a little while, but the town has way more to offer, so we decided to take a complete day-off and include many of their other wonders. We will love to show you around, let’s see them!
Kamakura has two main stations both reachable with the Japan Rail Pass, Kita-Kamakura and Kamakura station, according to your plan of the day you may decide stopping at one or the other. Since we were going to follow a trail in the woods to get to the Daibutsu – it sounds more magical, doesn’t it? – we went for Kita-Kamakura, the one in the north. From this little cute station you can reach the temples Engakuji (popular during autumn), Meigetsuin (best on June for the hydrangea), Tokeiji and the Jochiji. The last one is where the trail in the woods to the Daibutsu starts, so it was our starting point.
Since our google maps suggested following a very narrow roadside, we decided that it couldn’t hurt to make sure that we were going on the correct direction by asking some locals. We were just in the entrance of the Tokeiji when we found a group of students with printed maps, whom looked a good candidate to ask. The teacher was super kind and told the girls that since they were going to the same temple they could escort us.
It is very fun to see lots of school groups whenever you are visiting temples in Japan. They usually have missions to learn things or to practise English with the scattered tourists they may find. The girls explained us that they had a map because they were engaged to go on their own on temple hoping (thus practise orientation) while doing some homework at each of the temples. It was lot more fun to go with the girls than us alone, they were very shy but at the same time eager to know things about us, why we were visiting Japan and many other things. We mainly talked with one of the girls because she seemed to have the best English, although poor one she may equally had a little hard time because we heard her shouting to the her classmates in Japanese “tasukete” which means “help me”.
Arriving to the Jochiji temple we bid adieus with the girls, took a picture with them and started the trail. The walk goes up and inside the woods, it has that perfect mix of feeling completely lost in the woods while at the same time the path is well guided and even it has branches strategically positioned to make your steps safer. We stumbled upon some kids (from other schools also on temple hoping due) from now and then, but had the woods for ourselves most of the time. I think it was my favorite part of the trip to Kamakura.
On the way to the Daibutsu and still following the trail you can visit two temples, the first one being the Kuzuharaoka shrine. It was very special because (since it’s not one of the main attractions) it is hardly visited and only by locals. We loved its peaceful atmosphere, was the chance to rest a little, take a drink on the famous vending machines and even ask for some wishes.
Although Kuzuharaoka was great, hands down the most popular stop in the Daibutsu trail was the Zeniarai Benzaiten Shrine, or also known as the money cleaning temple. To get to this shrine you have to leave the trail and make a small detour by getting into a tunnel to reach the cave where the shrine is hosted. It was very surprising to see how much money the people washed at the shrine spring, which the legends explains will make you double the amount. People even washed alongside with the coins some bills: don’t they realise that the special powers of the spring do not automatically convert the bills into waterproof? ha! We washed yens because we thought that if were going to double them, they better were in yens so we could go back to Japan with them.
At the end of the trail we found with lot of excitement the Daibutsu in all its glory! I think we were lucky to find a cloudy/semi-rainy day because it wasn’t as crowded as the travel guides usually warn you it is going to be. For 100 yen (around 1€) you can enter inside the Buddha, which although may sound silly since the visit takes only a couple of minutes, I wouldn’t miss it because, for that price, the feeling you get to be inside is unique!
On our way to Hase Dera temple, the number two visit in the Kamakura’s highlights ranking, we stopped for a snack break. We were happy to find a tako senbei stand, something that was on our foodie wish list but wasn’t sure we would casually find one. They have this super hot iron pans where they put fresh octopus soaked with a little bit of flour and that’s it: they close the pan, press for a few minutes and a super thin and crisp cracker is made. Impressive to see the process and the yummiest to eat. Have you ever eaten one freshly cooked?
With a fuller belly and a smile on our faces we went to the Hase Dera temple, the one that hosts hundreds of little buddha statues. The temple visit was a delight in itself, for the grounds and the perfectly conserved structure but it also has the perk of having a great view to the Kamakura sea view and town. The temple also has a museum but we skipped this one this time because we were more interested in the surroundings.
At Hase Dera you can take a local train back to Kamakura station that just has the cutest drawings on them featuring the main town attractions. We forgot to take some pictures (sorry) so instead to end this post we will have to show you some food to just make it up for you, ha! Oh! I almost forgot, Kamakura has a famous shopping street where you can find a very cute Ghibli store that has two storeys (one exclusively for Kiki and the other for Totoro) and it is also a good place to find souvenirs. Next to Kamakura station we bought little taiyakis (the fish waffle) of different flavours which were delicious and you might have watched us eating them at our silly Instagram stories.
After a day out in Kamakura we went back to Harajuku (Tokyo) where we had a Ramen recommendation that was more a local experience and off the beaten track. The ramen place is called Afuri, and their speciality is a lighter ramen that contains yuzu in the broth. I found it super delicious! Also they offer a veggie ramen option, those who have been in Japan know that it’s not that common to find.
The many (many!) pictures we took that day don’t lie: Kamakura was a fav for us. There are plenty here, but let me assure you we even took more and had a really hard time sorting them out. Hope you like it too and that we will be lucky to enjoy your company as well in the next Japan stop.
Tokyo – Part I
Tokyo – Tokyo DisneySea