Kamakura (from Yokohama) - Port Guide
Karen's Quick Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
- The ship docks about 15 minutes walk from the train station of Nihon-Odori, Yokohama where you start your journey to Kamakura.
- You walk straight along the pier to the start of the city, follow the map across the street, round the corner, to where Nihon-Odori train station is. There is also a shuttle that takes you from the ship to Minatomirai Station, which is a bit closer to Yokohama station. This is free and leaves every 30 minutes. However, it wont be there for coming back, only runs for the morning, so I personally think its easier overall to walk to Nihon-Odori so you know what the closest station looks like from the start, and know how to walk back to the ship and get your bearings rather than going to a totally different station each direction.
- From here, take the train to Yokohama central station.
- Then when you arrive in Yokohama station. Then take the train to Kamakura. (This takes 25 minutes, leaves every 15 minutes).
- Once you arrive there, you take the local transit (which leaves every 15 minutes) aiming for the Hase Temple. (We weren’t sure which bus to get here, but luckily a young woman saw we were lost and came to help us. She was from Hawaii, studying in Tokyo and took us on the bus with her as she was going near to the same place, and had worked out the transportation already).
- From here, you walk about 10 minutes to the Hase Temple. (Again, we must have looked a little lost here, so a local woman came up to use and we told her Hase Temple and she walked us the 10 minute walk to it).
Winter Oct-Feb cold 5-12 degrees Celsius, with snow possible Nov-Feb. Spring: Mar-May 10-18 degrees. Summer: 15-25 degrees. Rain possible year round.
Sights & Sites
- Daibutsu, The Great Buddha – This is a stunning and very interesting site, beautiful and there is great information about it there. Your ticket costs only 200 yen (about $2). You can go inside the Buddha’s head to visit for only 25 more yen (25 cents). It is interesting to see the inner workings of it so definitely worth that, so keep some change handy. There are good souvenirs of anything Buddhist if you are interested. Good luck charms, protection things for family etc.
- Hasedera (more commonly called Hase) Temple – This costs 300 yen to go in. ($3). It is totally worth it. Situated just 10 minutes walk from the Great Buddha, the map is clear showing the way, or ask any local, they are very friendly. The temple is beautiful. You can get the info booklet, like one in this folder, at the door for free, which serves as a very good guide for the whole place. It is worth walking around the whole place if you have time. There are Buddha statues all over the grounds, and many shrines, a walk above the hill of the place, with amazing views of the city and coastline from there. The flowers here are beautiful too, and worth enjoying. You can light a candle for your lost loved ones for about 50 cents if you like too. Or write a message to them on a small shell that will be added to the art.
- Main street shopping & food – The main street of Kamakura has lots of small shops, stalls, carts, snack joints and cafes where you can buy souvenirs, hand crafts and have a quick bite or stop for a coffee on the way to or from the temples.
The temples themselves are good places to buy souvenirs of anything Buddhist if you are interested. Good luck charms, protection things for family etc. There are long narrow streets of small shops on the main street of Kamakura all the way along to the temples which sell all manner of souvenirs, trinkets, toys, and handcrafts, and local art galleries with lovely paintings and carvings.
If you only have two hours
Kamakura takes about an hour and a half each way to get to, but Yokohama city is right next to the ship, so for this port, check out Yokohama.
What is it known for?
Kamakura was the capital of Japan from in the Kamakura dynasty. It was the royal seat of power and religion and still today has two of the most important Japanese temples, the Hasedera (or Hase) temple, and the Daibutsu Buddha. These are not to be missed and really give you a feel of the power of history and ancient culture still present in modern Japan.
Food & Drink
There are many small stalls and cafes along the way to the temples where you can stop for a small snack up to a lunch. My pick was to have some snacks actually in the Hase Temple. There is a nice restaurant (about $7 for a very nice complete lunch) if you have time. Or you can sample small delights at the cart at the lookout point too if you don’t have much time. My time was short this trip, so I ate here. There are Mantou buns, and miso soup for about $1 each, cold water, and juices, also $1. Be careful of kite birds (large seagulls) here coming to eat your food though, they prowl the area for unsuspecting tourists to get a free lunch.
There is free Wi-Fi in the Hase and Daibutsu temples! Ancient meets modern as usual with Japan, how I love it! You can enjoy the peaceful historic atmosphere viewing all the shrines then post your selfies on Facebook when you have your snack stop. Most cafes and restaurants around the city have free Wi-Fi with a purchase too.
There are many ATMs throughout the city, as well as Bureau de Changes.
Karen’s Top Tip
If you can, spend a whole day here. Check your transport times to make the most of time there without wasting time waiting for trains. Really enjoy the temples and spend your time in them contemplatively, whatever your religion. They welcome all. Eat on the go by sampling cart snacks in the temples or from the street vendors if you don’t have too long, so you can maximize your time at the sights.
My experience here
Getting to Kamakura and its temples isn’t quite as simple as I first thought. I went here when I had to be back on the ship by 1pm, and thought it’d be quicker than going into Tokyo and something to do without too much time. There ended up being 2 trains, a transit bus and a 10-15 min walk to get there, so lining up the public transport with each other wasn’t as fast as I though, but we did it and saw both the Hase Temple and Great Buddha from 8am-1pm, so it can be done! You just have to be aware of your surroundings, and ask for help from locals with a map to show them if unsure. They will help you, whether or not they speak any English, but having a map helps a lot. I took the train, train, bus then walk to the temples and spent the morning in the Hasedera (or Hase) Temple. We walked up to the top of the hill it is situated on and admired the many small Buddha statues, and lit candles. We stopped for snacks here pausing for the view, then made our way to the Daibutsu Buddha. This iconic, imposing large statue is really beautiful and a true symbol of Buddhism in Japan. Go inside the head and check out the souvenir stalls for just an extra 25 cents.
My Most Memorable Moment
This was my first experience in a Japanese temple, and it made a large impact on me. I fell in love instantly with the serene welcoming, including environment. I lit candles in the Hase temple for lost loved ones, and admired all the carvings and prayer areas respectfully. I loved the various Buddhas, and enjoyed snacks at the stop there. The feeling I have noticed in every Buddhist temple has been one of serenity, peace, and inclusion. Everyone is welcome, and it is a working temple, where families have lunch and greet each other as well as pray. My lasting impression was of actually feeling like I was in Japan, finally, as I had longed to visit the country for a long time before going here.
In Kamakura I really felt like history is part of the modern world, respected and kept alive. Looking at a “cute” Buddha and out on the stunning view of the bay of Kamakura from the Hase Temple is the image that stays in my mind the most and brings back that peaceful feeling I had there of feeling at home whenever I conjure it.
Nick and I adventuring all over Japan trying as many delicious Japanese dishes as possible.