Kanagawa: a day trip to discover Japanese culture
On my day trip from Tokyo I visited a majestic Shinto shrine in Kamakura, tried stand-up paddle boarding at a nearby beach, and ended the day with drinks in Yokohama.
About Kanagawa Prefecture and the coastal town of Kamakura
Kanagawa is a prefecture neighboring Tokyo on its south side. Kanagawa is large and offers many landscapes and lifestyles. You can experience a modern city at Yokohama, mountains at Oyama, forest and a lake at Hakone, a historical old town and city at Kamakura, and the beach at Zushi. It is a small Japan in itself. With great access from Tokyo it naturally became a popular place for Tokyoites to escape from their routine.
Between 1192 and 1333 the city of Kamakura was Japan’s capital. During these 142 years as Japan’s political center, the city grew and many temples were constructed.
The access to Kamakura is quite easy from Tokyo and it takes less than an hour by train (from Shibuya):
SHIBUYA → YOKOHAMA 27 minutes on the Tokyu Toyoko Line (express train)
YOKOHOAMA → KAMAKURA 24 minutes on the JR Yokosuka Line
Yokohama, the capital city of Kanagawa, is home to International Stadium Yokohama, located by Shin-Yokahama station, and is where many games of Rugby World Cup 2019™ will be held!
A lovely walk to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shinto shrine
Kamakura station is quite small and has only two exits: the West exit and the East Main Exit. Both exits face a shopping street so it is very convenient. The West exit opens onto a street that will lead you to the beach. The East Main exit will bring you to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shinto sanctuary, which is where I went first.
On the way to the temple, the walk along Komachi Street is very colorful and full of tasty-looking foods. There is a wide variety of shops, offering sushi, sweets, soft ice cream, bubble teas, and local beers, as well as clothing and rental Yukata (light kimono).
At the end of the street there is the massive Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shinto shrine. Walking through the big red gate, the entrance of the shrine, it feels like you are back in feudal Japan. At the top of a long steep stairway, the temple proudly dominates the Kamakura landscape, with a beautiful view of the city below.
For 200 yen you can get an omikuji (holy fortune-telling message). If the prediction is good you can keep it in your wallet. If the prediction is bad, you should tie the paper on a dedicated area in order to avoid the bad things happening. For me the message was positive, but also recommended me not to move house this year.
The walk around the temple is lovely. There’s a wide variety of flowers, such as Lotus, Ipomea, and colorful Hydrangeas, which is the symbolic flower of the city.
Enjoying Kamakura’s waves with a beginning SUP experience
After the temple visit, I hit the the road to visit the beach for an exciting activity. Kamakura is a famous place for surfers, sailboard and SUP (Stand Up Paddle boarding). That day there were no big waves so it was a good day for my SUP debut.
There are many rental shops, whose staff are all welcoming with bright smiles. Not all the people speak English fluently, but fine enough to understand each other and laugh together. A teacher will guide you on your first paddle on the board. It’s very comfortable to feel the board sliding so lightly under your feet.
To the west you can admire Enoshima island, and the far west scenery reveals Mount Fuji’s shape.
It was the first time for me but I didn’t fall in the water! I think SUP is a very accessible activity that everyone can enjoy. Even a beginner like me could stand on the board after 5 minutes of practice.
Paddling and paddling made me hungry. It’s time for Lunch!
Restaurants in Kamakura
Around Kamakura there are a lot of restaurants with a wide variety of offerings: Italian, Korean, modern Japanese, traditional Japanese, sushi, … and even French restaurants. Kamakura is famous for its vegetables and shirasu (baby anchovies).
I had a lunch course which was a cross between French cuisine and the local speciality. It had baby corn baked with lemon mayonnaise and deep fried shrimps, local eggplants with mascarpone cheese and tomato sauce, Maguro Tuna grilled with some butter and anchovy sauce. It was delicious.
Through the windows, I enjoyed watching the scenery of the blue sky melting into the sea, while sipping a glass of white wine. It was definitely a great moment.
After lunch you can enjoy getting lost walking around the beach and the town.
Getting a taste of Yokohama’s nightlife at Noge
With the evening coming soon, I took the train back to Yokohama and headed to the picturesque Noge district. It is very close from Yokohama Station:
YOKOHAMA → SAKURAGICHO 6 minutes by train on the Negishi Line
During the Edo era Noge was a crossroads for trade and naturally became a very crowded market place. At that time there was even a common saying: “You can find anything at Noge”. After the development of the highways and train lines, many of the original shops disappeared, but little by little they have been replaced by restaurants, bars, and Izakayas.
Today, Noge is a popular nightlife spot that could only exist in Japan. It’s an accumulation of hundreds of small shops where people meet up after work to drink and have some quick fried or grilled food. I enjoyed liver, steak, mini fishes and scallops you can grill yourself on an incandescent charcoal barbecue.
The shops are so tight together that you naturally get to talk to the people next to you. My neighbor recommended me Yokohama’s local beer and some other local cocktails based on lemon or umeboshi (dried Japanese plum) – I decided to try them all, and enjoyed the night with those new friends I made.
Kanagawa is definitely a great place to visit on a day trip from Tokyo.