The number of tourists to Japan reached a new record in 2019. I found on some website that it’s been 32 million visitors. By comparison, in 2020 only 8.6 million came to Japan and in 2003 it was only 5.2 million. Not all of those millions are tourists of course, there are plenty of business trip people who have no time for sightseeing, but every single one of the millions of tourists goes to Kamakura!
There is a whole historic period named after the area, from 1185 to 1333 – the time of the Kamakura Shogunate. You can read all about it on Wikipedia etc. Fact is the place breathes history and has myriads of temples and shrines of offer, of which some 25 make it onto tourist maps. I have been to Kamakura (of course) during my very first visit to Japan in (OMG) 1993, when there were probably only 2 million or so visitors coming into the country and then again some time around 2005 with my sister (on a rainy day and we saw nothing much more than the great buddha statue). Ever since I have not been to Kamakura again, scared off by the horrendous number of tourists walking through the small town.
Now it happens that my current apartment is only 50 train minutes from Kamakura and I thought, hey! It’s the chance of a lifetime to explore Kamakura in detail, while there is an entry ban to Japan for 129 countries during the corona crisis.
So far I have been to Kamakura four times and I intend to go another two times or so, since on one trip I manage only 5 to 6 temples and shrines due to heat and rain 😉
There is also a reason for why the place is so full of tourists, because, yes, it is bloody great 🙂 If you like history, temples and shrines, Kamakura is the place to go.
It’s all quite stretched out and you are walking a lot, but you can also take some buses which run frequently through the town.
On my first visit I did the “main” route with a side kick to the great buddha statue, which is at Kohtoku-in temple. Then on to the grand Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine, on to Kencho-ji temple, Meigetsu-in temple and Engkaku-ji temple.
On my second trip I walked through the so called Kanazawa Kaido area with the Eragaten shrine, the Kamakura shrine, the fantastic Zuisen-ji temple, the Sugimoto temple, the Jomyo-ji temple and the other gem of the Hokoku-ji temple.
Trip three brought me to two temples of the Kita-Kamakura area that I missed on the first trip, the Tokei-ji and the Jochi-ji, then down towards the coast to the famous Hasedera and the much less visited Kosoku-ji. The fourth trip brought me to the Jufuk-ji and the Eisho-ji and another highlight, the Kaizo-ji, then to the two big shrines of Zeniarai Benzaiten and my favorite shrine, the Sasuke Inari.
What’s left to explore will be the shrines and temples of the Zaimokuza area, which I will target in August or September.
During the four trips in June and July some temples were virtually deserted, some had a few Japanese visitors and also the occasional foreigner who lives here, but no comparison to the busloads of tourists that usually flock the place. While it is hard for the local businesses to do without those busloads, I can firmly say that I’m greatly enjoying the place without them 😉