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How to get to Kamakura:
• Take the JR Yamanote Line to Shinagawa Station.
• At Shinagawa Station, leave the Yamanote track, go up the stairs, turn to the right, and go to the last track, which is track #14, the Yokosuka Line.
• Take the next train to Kamakura – it goes through Kawasaki and Yokohama and takes about 50 minutes.
To get to the Zeni-Arai Benten Shrine (“Money-Washing Shrine”):
• Get off the train at Kamakura Station
Note: It’s an uphill walk at the end for about a quarter mile, so if anyone in your group has trouble with that, it’s best to take a cab.)
• Go out the “Zeni-Arai Benten” exit and follow the arrow toward the shrine. Keep walking straight along this road, jogging to the left at the intersection and continuing straight. Stay on the right side of the road.
• Walk through the tunnel, past the wine store and tea cafe. You will reach an intersection with a tasteful white signpost on the corner pointing to the right for the Zeni-Arai Benten Shrine. There is also a big red Coke vending machine, which is easier to spot. Turn right.
• Walk straight down this street, past many nice houses, and up the steep hill to the shrine. (About a ten minute walk.)
• On the left side of the road, a stone torii gate over an opening in the cliff face marks the entrance to the shrine. Go through the tunnel in the rock and you will find yourself in the shrine precincts.
• It’s nearly impossible to catch a cab back to the station area, so it is best to walk back, using the route described previously. It is all downhill or flat, so it’s a pleasant walk.
To get to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine:
• When you arrive back at Kamakura Station, outside the exit for the Zeni-Arai Benten shrine, look to your left. You will see a little plaza with benches. Cut through the plaza and follow the small street that loops around it to an underpass that takes you to the other side of the station.
• The other side of the station sits on a large square.
• Past the McDonald’s on your left, a street branches off under a large torii gate. This is a nice little shopping street, but it doesn’t lead to the Hachimangu Shrine.
• Directly across the square from the station, a street leads from the square. If you walk along it for about half a block, it intersects with a large boulevard. Turn left.
• There is a pedestrian walkway running right down the middle of the cherry trees planted in the center of the boulevard. This boulevard ends at the Hachimangu Shrine. Directly ahead is the bridge that divides the famous lotus ponds and leads to the shrine grounds.
• The shops that line this boulevard sell typical Kamakura specialties: Kamakura lacquerwork, sweets, and pickles.
• From Tsurugaoka Hachiman, it’s a nice walk to the Hokoku-ji Bamboo Temple for lush green walking paths through a bamboo forest and a teahouse that serves mattcha. 🔎 Google map
To get to the Daibutsu (Giant Buddha):
• Exit Kamakura Station on the Zeniarai Benten side, next door will be the ticket machine and turnstyle entrance to the Enoden local train line.
• Get on the train to Hase Station.
• At Hase Station, go out the “Daibutsu” exit and walk straight up the street to the Daibutsu.
To get to Hasedera (giant Kannon):
• Go out the exit from the Daibutsu and walk straight down the street back toward the station. Watch for signposts to Hasedera.
• You will pass an excellent basket shop on the left and eventually come to a Japanese restaurant on a corner to the right. Turn right and walk up the street to Hasedera. (This corner is also marked with a signpost.)
Within walking distance from Kitakamakura Station (also on the Enoden Line) are the Divorce Temple, the Hydrangea Temple, and Chaya Kado, a restaurant that serves nagashi sōmen, the cold summertime noodles you have to snag with your chopticks as they float by down the chute in the middle of the table. 🔎 Google map
• Exit the station on the side that does NOT lead to Engaku-ji temple. Walk along either of the streets perpendicular to the station and you’ll reach a main road (Kamakura-kaidō). Turn left and walk along this road.
• On the right, the first temple you’ll reach is Tokei-ji, the Divorce Temple. Founded in 1251 when women were not allowed to divorce, the only way a woman could get out of her marriage was to seek asylum with the nuns at this temple. If a woman stayed on the grounds continuously for three years, she was considered divorced. The grounds are quite beautiful, with many mossy alcoves and shrines.
• Continue along the main road and within ten minutes or so you’ll come to a wooden bucket shop and a stretch with no houses. Right after that, on the far corner of a small intersecting lane, you’ll arrive at the restaurant Chaya Kado, where nagashi sōmen is served from March to October.
How to eat nagashi sōmen:
This summertime delicacy is something you can only have in Japan. Sōmen noodles are very white and thin, always served refreshingly cold with a savory dipping sauce, condiments, and (optional) tempura on the side. The most fun way to eat them is at a restaurant where the table is built to represent a mountain stream, with a bamboo trough running down the center. Cold water sluices down the trough and the server stands at the head of the table, sending bundles of noodles down periodically. Diners sit on either side of the table, chopsticks poised, and grab the bundles of noodles as they float past.
When you order your sōmen lunch – which is served outside under a vine-covered arbor – you will receive a cup of cold dipping sauce and a dish of optional condiments to mix into it (chopped green onions, wasabi horseradish) and a small bowl. (If you order the meal with tempura, you’ll receive a basket of shrimp and vegetable tempura as well.) To eat your sōmen, catch a bundle as they float by, and put them in your little bowl. Dunk each bite in the sauce first, then eat. You can eat as many noodles as you like until your sauce runs out.
Return to the Kita-kamakura Station:
•As you walk back to the station, the Hydrangea Temple (Meigetsu-in) will be on your right. If you’re there in June, the hydrangeas are spectacular. 🔎 Google map