Sunset from Kamakura north beach

Photo walks in Japan: off the beaten track in Kamakura

Kamakura makes a great day-trip from Tokyo but it’s good to get away from the main touristy areas. This walk is one I have been doing for years. It’s great in any season, takes you through some amazing but quiet and tranquil shrines and brings you out to the Kamakura’s north beach. 

Kamakura is rather small for a city but was first designated one in 1939. Historically it is best know for once being the de facto capital of Japan and one of the periods of Japanese history is named after it.

Kamakura today is popular for the giant buddha and for the countless shrines. It’s also a popular seaside resort but less so, perhaps, than the nearby island of Enoshima – to which it is joined by the charming ‘enoden’ train.

I first visited Kamakura in 2002 but it wasn’t until around 2009 that I discovered the route I’m going to map out for you below. Since finding this more tranquil side to the city, I rarely go back to the overcrowded areas which are popular with most visitors: the main shrines, the giant buddha etc. This is just my personal preference. There’s plenty to see on the main drag and also up in the charming satellite of Kita-kamakura. I just choose to stay away from the throng.

The route starts at the station and after wending your way a little out of the main part of town through a couple of curious shrines, you find yourself on a walk up into the forest which brings you to the first main stop on my route: Myohon-ji Temple.

I’ve spent hours at Myohon-ji. It’s a beautiful place in any season but autumn and spring are when you’ll see it at its best. In summer, though, the deep cover of green trees provides welcome respite from the heat.

The folks who tend to and run the temple are pretty laid-back. I’ve shot fashion and portraits there, some of which you can see in the galleries below. And as long as you’re not using stands or tripods up on the temple walkways, there’s really no problem with shooting there.

From Myohon-ji the route winds its way gradually towards the bottom of a large hill, where you’ll find the pretty temple of Chosho-ji.

Spend some time here as there are plenty of nooks and crannies to photograph, before heading up through the graveyard and over the hill.

At the top of the hill the route get a little complicated to follow, as the path narrows to what looks like an entrance into someone’s garden. But, shortly after that it widens out again and you’ll find yourself on the little road that heads all the way down the hill.

The residential areas at the bottom of the hill can be a little confusing to find your way out of but aim for Komyo-ji Temple, which is fairly easy to find.

Komyo-ji is quite a sprawling site and has a beautiful outer gate. Inside there are two quite distinct sections of the temple, both beautiful. At one side of the back of the temple is a large pond. On the other side, a stone garden.

It’s a place that, again, I’ve spent at least an hour photographing.

The map of my walk, with key waypoints marked:

Photowalk in Kamakura

Click here to visit the map on Google Maps.

From there it’s a five minute walk onto the North Beach which, in the summer, is covered with pop-up restaurants, bars and places you can rent a deck-chair and parasol.

I’ve generally started this the walk about 10am, taken it a relaxed pace, stopped at Myohon-ji for at least an hour, broken for a lunch bought from the Lawson convenience store in between Myohon-ji and Chosho-ji temples and it’s got me to the beach for sunset in the autumn and spring. Summer setting sun is a little later but in the summer there are plenty of ways to kill time on the beach until the sun drops…. with a drink or something to eat.

The sunset from the beach here is stunning if you get it on the right day, which I have been lucky enough to do a couple of times in my life. The view of Fuji across the bay is great, it’s a peaceful place [a little less so in the height of a summer weekend] and from the beach it’s an 40mins walk back to the station through some funky little backstreets.

Gallery of miscellaneous shots taken on the route:

Gallery of shots made with Mari at Myohon-ji, Chosho-ji, Komyo-ji and then at Hayama [about 20mins drive from Kamakura]: