The Kamakura Shogunate (bafuku), Hojo clan, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Minamoto, and Ashikaga, are the most common words you would hear about when someone tells you the history of Kamakura. A majority of travelers there are interested in discovering the historic temples & shrines, and seasonal beauty found in the gardens than hunting for its history.

Although impressive seasonal beauty and historic structures are good reasons to visit the ancient city of Kamakura, the old stories of the past still fascinate me. That’s why my advice to you is; don’t just travel but experience the history that reveals what Kamakura really was.

Kamakura Daibutsu at Kotoku-in Temple. Photo Credit: David Baron at Flickr.

Kamakura in the fall is breathtaking marvelous with its beautiful gardens and fascinating old traditional style buildings. This is probably a very unique travel zone to exploring the historical and cultural experiences of Japan. That’s why often it is marked as a little Kyoto!

The small town is located south of Tokyo (one hour train ride) in Kanagawa Prefecture, surrounded by mountains and the sea, offers you enjoy a full-day trip from Tokyo to Kamakura. As it is seen to be one of the best places to hunt momiji in Japan, I guess to admire hidden beauty of its top attractions; you better learn the ways of spending a great holiday adventure in Kamakura. Let’s get started now!

1-Day Trip to Kamakura in Autumn

The entrance to Engakuji in the fall. Photo Credit: Leng Cheng at Flickr.

You can get to Kamakura either from JR Shinjuku Station or Tokyo Station on the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line, and JR Yokosuka Line. Alternatively, you can reach there by Odakyu Railways. Staying an overnight in a hotel located near Shinjuku Station would be a great idea. Below are the best hotels you can make reservation.

1) Shinjuku Prince Hotel
2) Shinjuku Granbell Hotel
3) Tokyo Hotel Keio Plaza

Hop on the train to Kamakura and get off at Kita-Kamakura Station, not at Kamakura Station.

Kamakura is a heaven of sacred temples and shrines, pretty gardens, fresh air, Buddha statues, and awe-inspiring views. It’s the best day trip from Tokyo along with Nikko for those who are very interested in Japanese history, daily life, culture, hiking, and nature. Therefore, I would highly recommend you to start off your trip with a visit to Engaku-ji.

The Sanmon (Main Gate) of Engakuji. Photo Credit: Pierre Doyen at Flickr.

Not far from Kita-Kamakura Station is Engaku-ji. It takes only few steps to reach there. Nestled into the slopes of Kita-Kamakura’s forested hills, Engakuji is a historic Zen Buddhist temple, built in 1282, by Hojo Takimune. It ranked second in the Five Great Zen Temples of Kamakura and my favorite temple ground to see autumn foliage in the town.

Explore its treasure such as the Sanmon (main gate), Butsuden (main hall houses a lovely wooden Buddha statue), the Shariden (hall where a tooth of Buddha is enshrined), Temple bell, and a Teahouse. Please don’t forget to have some fresh tea and amazake.

Meigetsuin temple’s inner garden in autumn. Photo Credit: Gideon Davidson at Flickr.

Make your way to Meigetsuin Temple, and walk into the garden to see various kinds of plants and trees. The temple is known for its beautiful hydrangea in the rainy season, but a stroll along the trails in the fall would be a great outdoor experience.

A lot of temples and shrines can be found in Kamakura, though you should never run after them all. Instead, why don’t you think of taking a hike in the wood? Are you interested in it? You can go for a hike along the Tenen Hiking trail (2 hours). It’s a really nice way to explore fall colors in the wild!

When you go on a hike along the Tenen Hiking Trail, you will encounter many unique statues like this. Photo Credit: Guilhem Vellut at Flickr.

Before you reach to the trailhead, first you have to walk through Kenchoji Temple’s ground. The temple is only a few minutes’ walk from Meigetsuin, and it is said to be the oldest Zen temple in Kamakura. Spend some times there exploring its beautiful landmarks; especially don’t miss the view of the Zen garden, located behind the Hojo.

Then head towards the staircase that takes you to Hansobo, this is where the trail begins. Shortly after a little hike, you see an observation deck for admiring the great views over the city. And there is a big surprise awaits you – you can experience a majestic of Mount Fuji on a clear day.

Zuisenji Temple and autumn leaves. Photo Credit: Ryosuke Yagi at Flickr.

The trail direction should be like this: Kenchouji -> Hansobo -> Oohira-yama -> Zuisenji . You will find a rest area with a food store and public toilet in the middle of the trail. The trail also offers a great view of Shishimai Valley’s incredible fall colors!

Zuisenji was built by Muso Kokushi, the Zen master and Japan’s famous garden designer. A breathtaking Zen rock garden can be behind the main temple’s hall. You must see it before leaving for Hokukoji Temple.

Hokukoji temple’s bamboo grove. Photo Credit: LuxTonnerre at Flickr.

Next you will be visiting a tranquil place known as Hokukoji, a small Zen Buddhist temple with a beautiful bamboo grove, garden, teahouse, and the main temple hall, where you can see a historic Buddha Statue (Shaka Nyorai). Stroll along the path of the grove, and enjoy the taste of some matcha tea served in that small teahouse.

Take a taxi to JR Kamakura Station. There you can find many restaurants to have your lunch from. No doubt, the area is well known for serving various mouthwatering dishes.

Hase Temple fall colors. Photo Credit: Leng Cheng at Flickr.

You still have enough time to see other sightseeing spots. After your lunch time, you make your way to Hase Station from JR Kamakura Station by train. It’s a short but a quick comfortable ride. Take a walk for about 5 minutes and you will be at the entrance of Hasedera (Hase Temple).

The temple belongs to the Jodo Sect, and is profound for its eleven-headed statue of Kannon. You can find it in the Kannon-do Hall (main temple building). Explore the museum, located next to the main hall.

The garden of Hase looks stunning with its surrounding deciduous trees, and ponds. It’s inspiring to walk into the garden and marvel at the beautiful surrounding. Early December is the best time to see vibrant fall colors there.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Daibutsu) at Kotoku-in. Photo Credit: CaptChrisCoconutAdvent at Flickr.

Probably you have been thinking the whole morning “when to see the Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu)?” Actually, you are heading towards this remarkable landmark now, often called as the symbol of Kamakura.

This 13.35 meter bronze Amida Buddha statue stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. This is without question the best photogenic spot for tourists in Kamakura.

A thousand year old giant ginkgo tree, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. Photo Credit:

Now you take a taxi to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, the most important shrine in Kamakura, built in 1063 by Minamoto Yoriyoshi.

How could you leave Kamakura without a visit to this historic attraction? The shrine ground is large with many interesting treasures to explore. So take your time and enjoy roaming around its spacious grounds.

Komachi-dori Street, Kamakura. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons,

You finish your day tour by taking a walk along the Komachi-dori Street on the way back to JR Kamakura Station, a perfect place to find some souvenirs, cafes, restaurants. Walk down the street, buy some souvenirs from the shops to take home.

In general, people like to walk along the street from Kamakura Station to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, while you will do the opposite. When you reach at Kamakura Station, wait for the train to get back to Tokyo.

You can modify this suggested itinerary by excluding and including or replacing the attractions with other sightseeing spots of Kamakura. You can read this post to know more about Kamakura’s top fall foliage spots including access information from Tokyo.

Thanks for reading this.