If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle that is Tokyo, Kamakura makes for a good day trip. Just one hour outside of Tokyo, it is popular for its many Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
From Kamakura station, we get on the rustic Enoden. About a hundred years old, this streetcar-like train connects Kamakura with Enoshima and Fujisawa. It comes with the full works – conductor blowing his whistle at the platform and all. Cool.
Our first stop was the Hasedera Temple. It was supposed to be just a 5-minute walk from the Enoden station but we ended up taking much longer. Let’s put it this way. Normal people take 5-minutes but if you’re greedy like us, factor in 15 minutes … or more. The street leading up to Hasedera is lined with small shops selling snacks like nuts and Japanese sweets. It’s impossible not to stop.
We popped by a very traditional-looking Japanese confectionery shop to try their Daifuku (大福). It started out with one piece, then three and then I HAD to try the piping hot red bean buns that had just come off the steamer. Only then did we make our way to Hasedera. With happy, full bellies 🙂
Hasedera is set in beautiful garden grounds and is famous for having the biggest wooden statue of Kannon or the Goddess of Mercy.
The sucky thing about travelling in winter is that you miss out on colourful flower blooms or beautiful autum foliage. But we did get to see beautiful Japanese apricot blooms in the Hasedera garden. And spotted a cute little friend.
Lined up in the temple grounds are numerous O-jizou sama – one of the most beloved deities in Japan. He is known as the guardian of children, expectant mothers and aborted or miscarried children.
You will find some of the Jizo statues dressed in red bibs or hats. These are made by mothers as offerings in hope that Jizo will take care of their children’s spirits. Clothes are also sometimes presented as thanksgiving for illnesses believed to have been healed through the intervention of Jizo.
Like most temples and shrines, you’ll find incense burners for good luck. But in the case of Hasedera, I thought their colourful incense were exceptionally pretty.
The temple sits on the edge of a hill and overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the town of Kamakura. From Hasedera, we make our way to see the Great Buddha of Kamakura.
Standing at about 13m, it is the second largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. The statue is hollow and for 20yen, you can go in to take a look.
A tourist-show, a legend told,
A rusting bulk of bronze and gold,
So much, and scarce so much, ye hold
The meaning of Kamakura?
– Rudyard Kipling
As we walked back to the Enoden station, I scored meself the yummiest Dorayaki ever! Freshly made, this red bean pancake was warm and sinfully delicious. As I stood outside the shop and gobbled up my pancake, I finally understood why this is Doraemon’s favourite food. Smart kitty.
By JR Shonan Shinjuku Line
The JR Shonan Shinjuku Line provides a direct connection between Shinjuku Station and Kamakura Station. The one way trip takes about one hour and costs 890 yen. Only trains bound for Zushi, that is roughly every second train (about two departures per hour), provide a direct connection to Kamakura. Otherwise, a transfer of trains is required at Ofuna Station.