1. Bamboo garden, Houkoku-ji
    Photo: Wangyf1983/DreamstimeThe serene bamboo garden at Houkoku-ji
  2. Kotokuin Temple, Kamakura, Great Buddha
    Photo: Yekaterina Golatkina/Unsplash
  3. Meigetsu-in
    Photo: Kuroten/Photo-ACMeigetsu-in

Guide to Kamakura: best things to do, attractions, restaurants, cafés and shops

Here's how you can spend a perfect day in Kamakura, a charming seaside town just south of Tokyo

Tabea Greuner
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Tabea Greuner
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Shiori Kotaki
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Kamakura, located less than an hour from the capital, boasts magnificent temples, fantastic restaurants and a popular beach. Famed for its Great Buddha as well as its seasonally changing landscape, particularly the hydrangeas that appear at the start of summer and the multicoloured splendour of autumn leaves, Japan’s first feudal capital is a big hit among those looking to escape the city for a day. 

It can get busy, so visit off-season if you want to escape the crowds. Here are our best picks for a great day in Kamakura.

RECOMMENDED: The best day trips from Tokyo

Temples and shrines

Meigetsu-in
Photo: Kuroten/Photo-AC

Meigetsu-in

This scenic temple is popular for its well-kept gardens, which manage to look beautiful no matter the season or the weather. Be warned, though: when the hydrangeas bloom in summer or the autumn leaves first appear, it gets so crowded that queues often form before opening. To avoid the throngs, try going just before closing time.

189 Yamanouchi, Kamakura (Kita-Kamakura Station). 0467 24 3437. 9am-4.30pm (last entry 4pm) daily. ¥500, junior high and primary school students ¥300, free for younger children. The temple is located closer to Kita-Kamakura Station, one stop before Kamakura Station.

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Kamakura

Famed for its beautiful bamboo grove with an eye-catching wooden teahouse inside, the 14th-century Hokoku-ji temple is the perfect spot for matcha and sweets while taking in the sumptuous scenery. If you’re planning on strolling through the grove first, keep an eye out for the ancient yagura caves cut into the surrounding mountains. They’re said to be the burial site for samurai from the powerful Ashikaga family. The admission fee to the bamboo grove is ¥300, while ¥600 gets you a cup of matcha with wagashi sweets.

Restaurants

  • Restaurants
  • Kamakura

This café-restaurant is located close to Kamakura Station, along Onari street, serving comfort food from around the world. The owner describes his food as fast, cheap and nutritious; simple yet perfect meals usually cooked by mothers for their families. The menu (from ¥1,100) changes daily, but the line-up of recipes includes Egyptian koshary, Kenyan nyama choma, Greek kotopoulo lemonato and other international dishes which you usually won’t find anywhere else. The restaurant itself is furnished with pieces from the west coast of the US, of which some are even on sale.

Note: Wander Kitchen is currently open from 12noon-8pm daily. The store is closed once a month, check its Instagram for updates.

  • Restaurants
  • Kamakura

Located along Yuigahama street, Woof Curry serves – as the name implies – a variety of curry dishes, including beef (¥1,200) and vegetable (¥1,000) curries, a special mushroom version (¥1,100) and a number of European-style curries. If you’re a fan of both meat and veggies, then opt for the shop’s special curry (¥1,350). You can choose between beef, pork and chicken, and the meal even comes with a boiled egg. The meals here are only mildly spicy, so don’t worry – they won’t have you gasping for water after every bite. Occasionally, there are live music events on the second floor, so take a seat in the rocking chair at the window and enjoy your visit. 

Woof Curry is nearer to Hase Station, which is a 20-minute walk from Kamakura Station or three stops from Kamakura Station on the Enoden line.

Note: Woof Curry is currently open from 11am-8pm (last orders 7.30pm), closed on Wednesday.

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  • Shopping
  • Kamakura

There are many different bakeries in Kamakura, however, La forêt et la table is known for its Tea Blanc, a small bread with white chocolate, black tea paste and leaves kneaded into the dough – a must-try treat for tea lovers. For the shop’s full line-up of breads and pastries, make sure to visit around 11am, as many items are sold out by the afternoon. You can choose among 25 different types, including the signature baguettes, seasonal breads, sandwiches and more. Repeat visitors who already know the menu can also make a reservation and order in advance.

  • Restaurants
  • Kamakura

This restaurant on Kamakura’s main avenue Wakamiya Oji – the approach to the area’s largest  shrine Tsurugaoka Hachimangu – is a great place to enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine in a calm setting. The venue is run by chef-owner Daizo Hashida, a former chef of the Japanese embassy in Spain, and his wife Kazue, who’s a qualified sake sommelier. Hashida’s hometown Imabari in Ehime prefecture borders the Seto Inland Sea, so you can look forward to a large number of meals using ingredients from this area.

Opt for the omakase course (chef’s selection; ¥11,000 during both lunch and dinner time) that includes an appetiser, sashimi, tai-meshi (rice with minced sea bream), a dessert and more, all using seasonal ingredients. There are just 12 seats, so you’ll need to make a reservation in advance.

Note: Daizo is currently closed due to the state of emergency.

Cafés

  • Shopping
  • Kamakura

Japanese confectionery shop Hanabishi specialises in daifuku (sweet chewy rice cakes), but instead of a standard red bean paste centre, the treats feature a range of fruit fillings. The daifuku here use premium quality fruit sourced directly from farmers, which are then wrapped in a thin layer of white bean paste and habutae mochi, a higher quality type of mochi (sweet rice cake) that has a smooth and silky texture.

You’ll find classics like ichigo (strawberry) daifuku as well as more unusual creations including grape, melon, mango, fig, pineapple and even a giant daifuku made with a whole mikan (orange). There are around a dozen kinds of daifuku on offer daily, but the menu changes depending on what’s in season.

The confectionery shop is located closer to Kita-Kamakura Station, one stop before Kamakura Station.

  • Restaurants
  • Kamakura

Among all those trending cafés serving fluffy pancakes and bean-to-bar chocolate, Gen, founded in 1987, is a cosy traditional café along Kamakura’s main avenue Wakamiya Oji. Upon entering the store, you’ll spot about 180 teacups and saucers that are neatly lined up behind the wooden counter. The collection even includes beautiful pieces of Japanese Arita and Bizen ware. Definitely opt for a counter seat so you can choose your favourite teacup and saucer to use during your stay. Pair your cup of in-house roasted coffee (from ¥700), tea (¥700) or cocoa (¥750) with a piece of cheesecake (¥600) or other sweet treats. In summer, the shop also serves a special fresh-squeezed peach juice that comes with frozen pieces of peach.

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  • Restaurants
  • Kamakura

Close to Yuigahama Station, you will find this small shop specialising in taiyaki, a fish-shaped pancake traditionally filled with bean jam. The snacks are made to order in a traditional icchoyaki mould over an open fire, boast a thin yet crispy skin and come with either bean jam (¥150), sesame (¥170), matcha (¥200) and roasted chestnut (¥200) fillings. You can also choose from a large variety of breads, including Russian pirozhki and focaccia, plus homemade yakisoba noodles (from ¥280). In summer, opt for Namihei’s Shirokuma, a kakigori shaved ice dessert in the shape of a polar bear with a syrup made from yoghurt and cream cheese.

The taiyaki shop is located closer to Yuigahama Station, a 17-minute walk from Kamakura Station or two stops from Kamakura Station on the Enoden line.

  • Shopping
  • Kamakura

This crêpe shop in Kamakura is popular among visitors of all ages for its reasonably priced sweet treats, starting from ¥350. We recommend the lemon sugar crêpe, which uses fresh-squeezed lemon juice, or the more grown-up one made with rum and sugar. If you’re looking for a savoury option, then go for the crêpe filled with ham and lettuce. The store also has a little eat-in space, so take a break and pair your French pancake with a steaming hot coffee or tea. 

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Kamakura

Most temples and shrines in Kamakura close between 4pm and 5pm, meaning trains towards Tokyo are usually crowded until 6pm as most visitors head home. Our tip: extend your trip with an evening visit to a local bar and wait until rush hour is over. Wine bar Tres is the best place to spend a few hours, run by a husband and wife duo who both are certified sommeliers.

Besides white, red and rosé wine (from ¥850), you’ll also find orange wine, which gets its distinctive colour by fermenting white wine grapes with the peel still on. Your glass of wine will go well with some cheese (¥770) from a local dairy in Chiba, or homemade boiled gyoza filled with lotus root (¥600).

Note: Tres is currently open from 11.30am-8pm, closed on Wednesday, and alcohol is not available during the state of emergency. The current menu only serve a hot dog (¥1,250), pasta with a sunny-side-up fried egg and cheese (¥1,250), and a salmon sandwich (¥1,200).

Shops

  • Shopping
  • Kamakura

At stationery store Tuzuru, you can find a broad selection of pens, letter paper, postcards, stamps, and more, all hand-picked by shop owner Ryoji Shibata. Especially noteworthy is the large selection of unique fountain pens – something Shibata fell in love with at the age of 16 as they gave his notebooks a more personal look. After purchasing your preferred pen and letter set, take it to the next room, where you can compose a letter to a loved one and even send it off from the store’s handmade postbox.

Note: Due to Covid-19, the mail service is currently suspended.

  • Things to do
  • Kamakura

Located close to Kamakura’s Great Buddha, Haseto offers a variety of pottery classes, including hand moulding and using an electric potter’s wheel. For an authentic Kamakura souvenir, opt for the workshop in which you learn to craft little Buddha statues. It’s perfect for beginners, as you only need to add small parts and facial expressions to a pre-made Buddha-shaped piece of clay. We recommend making a reservation before dropping by. The experience takes about 60 to 90 minutes (¥7,150).

The workshop is located closer to Hase Station, a 20-minute walk from Kamakura Station or three stops from Kamakura Station on the Enoden line.

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