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Hungry travellers, welcome back to another edition of this Japan Food Trips series, in which we enjoy delicious food whilst taking in the beauty of popular sightseeing spots. With this year's rainy season being particularly long (and cold), I decided to take advantage of a good weather forecast to head to the coastal town of Kamakura located in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Known as the of Kyoto of eastern Japan, Kamakura used to be the political center from the late 12th century until the early 14th century, and to this day offers visitors various historical attractions such as temples, shrines as well as its Great Buddha. The town also has many trendy boutiques and shops, and its beaches attracts large crowds in the summer, making it a hip destination to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
Kita-Kamakura's Engakuji Temple
When going to Kamakura, I always try to visit Engakuji Temple, located near Kita-Kamakura Station, one stop before Kamakura Station on the JR Yokosuka Line. It was only natural that I would start my trip there. This extremely scenic temple is dotted with beautiful buildings and gardens on its grounds, and is one of my favorite temples in Japan. It was founded in 1282 and is the number two of Kamakura's five great Zen temples.
I arrived on the opening time of the temple, which meant not many people were around, making my visit very relaxing. I recommend entering one of its building, named the Hojo, to enjoy the view of its peaceful garden.
The main reason why this temple is my favorite to visit is because it is the resting place of one of my favorite Japanese movie directors: Ozu Yasujiro, who directed many famous movies such as Tokyo Monogatari (1953), Late Autumn (1960) and Good Morning (1959).
The grounds of Engakuji made for a very pleasant stroll, and the more I explored, the more I was getting hungry. It was time for me to go get breakfast near Kamakura Station.
After a three minute train ride from Kita-Kamakura Station, I arrived at Kamakura Station and started looking for a nice place to have breakfast.
I settled for Iwata Coffee, a shop which had great reviews for its pancakes. I went in and the staff told me from the get go that there will be a 30 minute wait for the pancakes. Would I be able to survive the wait?
The wait was definitely worth it. This tower of pancakes was satisfying even just to look at. After snapping a few pictures, I dug in and was amazed by how fluffy they were on the inside, but slightly crispy on the top and bottom. Wait for the butter to melt, pour in a ton of maple syrup and there you have it: pancake heaven!
Walking to Hachimangu Shrine
Having gained back some energy (and maybe a kilo) from these delicious pancakes, I was ready to make the walk to my second stop for the day: Hachimangu Shrine. The scenic approach is a long straight road going through multiple torii gates. Founded in 1063 and moved to its current location in 1180, Hachimangu is Kamakura's most important shrine.
Street Food at Komachi Street
From Hachimangu Shrine I made my way down Komachi street for some late morning snacks. The street had a wide variety of shops and restaurants, and is one of the best spots in Kamakura to get some street food. Some of the specialities include: rice crackers (or senbei), macha ice-cream, Kamakura craft beer, pickled plum, and many more. The street has a dizzying amount of choice when it comes to getting something quick on the go.
I stopped by a very popular rice cracker (or senbei) shop which makes crackers on the spot for you to eat. Unfortunately they hadn't started making them for the day, so I had to give it a pass.
I spotted a tiny korokke shop and decided to try their beef korokke which is apparently their number one popular item. Korokke is basically the Japanese version of a French croquette. It's fried, crispy, filled with delicious things, what more could you ask for? The beef korokke was very savory, and the mashed potato and beef filling was very tasty. Ten out of ten, it definitely did the job!
Another shop caught my eye: a little food truck serving steamed kamaboko (or fish paste cake). They had a wide selection of flavors, but I went with what they called the safe choice: butter and potato fish cake. The flavors were great, I could definitely taste the potato in there (more than the butter).
A Stroll on the Beach
Before my next food stop for the day, I decided to get some nice ocean air to help with digestion. Kamakura's beach front can be accessed by train from Kamakura Station via the Enoden Railway or by foot. I went for the latter option, starting from the west side of the station. Along the way were some very trendy cafes and restaurants.
Amazing Views at Hasedera
I made my way via the beach to my next stop: Hasedera Temple. Not only does this temple house a 9.18 meter tall statue of Kannon (the goddess of mercy), it also features a scenic garden with ponds, atmospheric caves and a restaurant with a nice view. I personally love the little Jizo statues dotted around the temple grounds, as well as a tall Jizo statue who has been holding something different at each of my visits to the temple (sometimes it's coins, sometimes a cherry tree blossom, today it was a flower).
Taking a look at the temple's restaurant menu and seeing that they served a vegetarian curry which looked pretty good, my choice was made for lunch. My seat had a very nice view of the town which made my lunch break even more pleasant. After a few minutes' wait my curry arrived and it was very satisfying. Before leaving the temple, I made sure to try out one of their rice cake sticks (or dango) while enjoying the scenery a little more.
Kamakura's Great Buddha
My last sightseeing spot was Kamakura's Great Buddha statue, located a short walk away from Hasedera Temple. I took my time to check out some of the shops and boutiques along the way, and stopped at a senbei shop to try a Buddha-shaped rice cracker. Wrapped in seaweed and covered in soy sauce, this crispy cracker made for a very nice snack.
The Great Buddha dates back to 1252 and used to be inside a large temple hall which later got destroyed by typhoons and a tsunami. With its 11.4 meters, the statue was for a long time the second tallest Buddha statue in Japan, and is to this day very impressive to look at.
I could not leave Kamakura with the risk of feeling hungry mid-way, so I went for a dessert close to the Great Buddha. La Chou Chou is a little shop which sells a wide variety of flavored Japanese pudding. I went for strawberry and enjoyed it on the shop's terrace before heading back to Kamakura Station.
Before hopping on the train back to Tokyo, I went for some quick omiyage (or souvenir) shopping. I recommend getting a box of the popular Hato Sable (a butter biscuit in the shape of a dove), and why not a few bottles of Kamakura's local craft beer.
*Usually said after a meal is finished, meaning "thank you for the feast".
By Charles Sabas, japan-guide.com