An hour’s train ride south of Tokyo is historic Kamakura, Japan’s old capital in the Kanagawa Prefecture. A visit here transports you back to medieval Japan with its historical sites and magnificent Japanese architecture.
Take a leisurely stroll along Komachi-dori Street, which stretches from Kamakura station to the north of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Over 250 shops and restaurants line the street, offering local products such as juicy Kamakura ham and traditional Kamakura carvings. Before hitting the next destination, grab a Japanese-style crepe at Crepe Coquelicot (1-6-4 Yukinoshita. Tel: +81 467 22 7286) for a late breakfast.
A big bright Torii gate marks the entrance to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine , the city’s most important shrine, dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the samurai. Established in 1063, the shrine served as a political centre as well as a place for religious ceremonies when political power was moved from Kyoto to Kamakura in 1192. Kamakura became the first Shogun regime in Japanese history. The shrine has passed down 800-year-old rituals and ancient traditions such as Yabusame horseback archery, Japanese dance and the tea ceremony.
Take a local bus from Tsurugaoka Hachimangu to Jomyoji Temple, one of the five great Zen temples of Kamakura. Stroll through the temple grounds with its beautiful rock and sand garden, and teahouse. Then head to Ishigama Garden Terrace , a Western-style restaurant for a laid-back lunch with a stunning garden view. The restaurant offers a three-course Italian menu prepared using local produce and herbs from the English garden.
A 35-minute ride by local bus from Jomyoji Temple lies the Zeniarai Benten Shrine (2-25-16 Sasuke. Tel: +81 467 25 1081), a must-visit for those who aim high. This is no average shrine. At the end of a dark tunnel inside a cave, the Zeniarai Benten Shrine awaits those who wish to succeed in business and become rich. It is said that when you wash your money in the shrine’s holy spring water, your prayers for financial success will be answered. So don’t forget to bring lots of coins when you visit.
A visit to Kamakura will not be complete without seeing the enormous Kamakura Daibutsu, or the Great Buddha of Kamakura (kotoku-in.jp) in the Kotokuin Temple grounds. Constructed in the 13th century, the bronze Buddha is over 11 metres high, making it the second tallest Buddha statue in Japan, and labelled a national treasure. Add 20 yen (S$0.25) on top of the 200 yen (S$2.50) entrance fee, and you can explore the interior of the Buddha.
Stroll through Yuigahama Odori shopping street towards Sagami Bay, stop by at Yuigahama Beach and enjoy a beautiful sunset before heading for dinner.
Dine at Mastsubaraan, a 70-year-old traditional two-storey house with a charming al fresco dining area. The speciality here is homemade buckwheat soba noodles prepared and cut by hand, and elegant traditional Washoku cuisine. Try the hamaguri soba (warm soba noodle soup with juicy fresh clams) and tempura, another popular dish recommended by locals here.
Hop on the train from Kamakura station and head westwards to Enoshima Island, or the Land of Three Goddesses, just under half an hour away. It sits in the middle of Sagami Bay, connected to the mainland by a scenic bridge. Visit the Enoshima Shrine, which comprises three shrines across the island.
The local speciality on Enoshima is shirasu don, or rice bowl topped with baby anchovies just about a centimetre long.
These little fish are caught off the waters of Sagami Bay. You’ll find them served at many local restaurants here, including 140-yearold speciality restaurant Uomitei. Here, tuck into shirasu don (JPY860/S$11), sashimi, grilled hotate scallops and sazae (sea snails) while soaking in a picturesque view of the Atlantic sea and Mount Fuji on a sunny day. Visit the Iwaya Caves in the cliffs of the island’s southern coast, or the lighthouse, called the Sea Candle, after lunch.
On your return to Kamakura, treat yourself to afternoon tea to wind down and relax. Established in 1982, Les Anges offers a luxurious tea menu with delicate French pastries, while Sabou Kirara (16-7 Onarimachi. Tel: +81 467 24 9741) welcomes you with Japanese desserts like uji shiratama creme anmitsu, fluffy shiratama glutinous balls with matcha ice cream, red bean paste and fruit.
This was first published in Wine and Dine’s October 2016 issue, The Oishii Issue ’48 Hours in Japan’s Old Capital’