Day trips from Tokyo – Kamakura

Snow on the mountains and a conscious decision not to bring winter hiking gear has managed to override my normal inclination to get out to less populated areas on my days off. While not ideal, this has opened up several locations I would otherwise bypass in favor of mountain trails.

I had intended to get to Kamakura at some point anyway, and a few days ago a good opportunity to do so presented itself. For those not familiar with Japanese history, Kamakura was the “big” second city to Kyoto for several hundred years and by some accounts the de-facto capitol. Unfortunately the gradual loss of importance, several fires, major storms, and natural disasters have combined to remove most of the historic structures, so it is less a place to follow in historic footsteps than a place to recognize what was through knowledge of the past rathar than signs of the present. That is not to say that there are no markers – if you look close enough there are many stone monuments engraved in Japanese to commemorate what once was – but very few of them have translations and they do not jump out at you.

An exception to this is provided by the many temples, and they are Kamakura’s main draw. Chief among these is Kotoku-in featuring a massive bronze Buddha which once was housed by a large structure that has long since disappeared. There are also several other temples, which if it were not for the giant Buddha nearby would be key draws in their own right.

As a coastal town that receives lots of tourists, Kamakura has an odd mixture of beach shops, high-end resort shopping, and the normal day-to-day shops of a town it’s size. The beach itself is a mix of recreation and working waterfront – there were surfers on the water and workers harvesting seaweed and hanging it to dry on the shore as couples strolled past.

All in all a worthwhile day out. There are some hiking trails in the area, but lacking a proper map I opted for the waterfront sidewalk which makes it’s way to a couple of good viewpoints along the way.

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