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Temple Time

January 25, 2016
Looking for some shrine time, but can’t face the schlep to Kyoto? Bursting with Buddhist and Zen temples, the historic city of Kamakura (aka ‘Little Kyoto’) is the perfect cure for metropol-itis sufferers seeking old-world respite. And while this coastal cutie is better known as a summertime escape, its sites and beaches are just as scenic – not to mention, far less crowded – during the cooler months.

Japan’s Imperial capital in the C.13th, Kamakura is a hodgepodge of grandiose architecture, bamboo groves, rolling green hills and vast sandy shores, all imbued with a laidback vibe – hardly surprising given this city has been a centre of Buddhism for nigh on a thousand years.

The JR Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station will drop you directly at Kamakura Station within the hour. Choices…

From there, head north along Komachi-dori, where you can’t miss the view-tiful gardens of Tsurugaoka Hachimangū; beyond which is Japan’s oldest Zen training monastery, wooden wonder Kenchō-ji; or to the east of Tsurugaoka Hachimangū is Hōkoku-ji’s beautiful bamboo forest.

Alternatively, from the station head west for tranquil Shinto shrine Sasuke Inari, and just a few skips beyond that is Kōtoku-in temple, with its great bronze Amida Buddha statue dating back to 1252. Also in the vicinity, and worth a gander, are the pretty gardens and charming Jizo statuettes of Hasedera.

The tori gate path at Sasuke Inari will certainly get the heartrate going but, if you really want to give those ramen thighs a workout, there are forest hiking trails that connect many of the temples. Look for the signs.

And be sure to rug up for a bracing walk along the breathtaking Shichirigahama beach. Kama on, what are you waiting for?

Tsurugaoka Hachimangū / 2-1-31 Yukinoshita / Kamakura / +81 467 22 0315 / 6:00 am-8:30 pm daily /
Kenchō-ji / 8 Yamanouchi / Kamakura / +81 467 22 0981 / 8:30 am-4:30 pm daily /
Hōkoku-ji / 2-7-4 Jomyoji / Kamakura / +81 467 22 0762 / 9:00 am-4:00 pm daily /
Sasuke Inari / 2 Chome-22-10 Sasuke / Kamakura / +81 467 22 4711 / 10:00 am-5:00 pm daily
Kōtoku-in / 4-2-28 Hase / Kamakura / +81 467 22 0703 / 8:00 am-5:00 pm daily /
Hasedera / 3-11-2 Hase / Kamakura / +81 467 22 6300 / 8:00 am-4:30 pm daily /