Two weeks in a year Japan turns into a burst of pink, so surreal that you think you are living a pink illusion. The fresh scent in the air, against the blues skies, hues of pink everywhere you turn, the soft breeze blows and more pink petals settles in your hair, your shoulders, there is no escaping.
Hanami 花見 or cherry blossom viewing in the end of March till the first or 2 week of April, depending on the weather (always check and plan before hand or sometimes you can be disappointed if you are especially going to Japan to view the blossoms) draws throngs of tourist to Japan, especially the more famous cities. However, if you walk that extra mile you may be able to escape from the crowds, not entirely but at least at your own pace, without being impatiently chased away by the rhythm of stopping steps from the herds of tourist behind you!
It is important to be able to absorb all the pink and allowing your brain to process all the beauty of nature at the moment, how else to say it that that it really BLOWS YOUR MIND!
Few trains from Tokyo come to this idyllic town by the sea. Renown among surfers and also a quick weekend getaway for Tokyo dwellers, this sleepy hollow is underrated and a keep it a secret if you know!
The JR Yokosuka Line connects Tokyo Station directly with Kamakura Station. The one way trip takes just under an hour and costs 940 yen. Along the way, the trains also stop at Shinagawa Station, Yokohama Station and Kita-Kamakura Station among others.
By JR Shonan Shinjuku Line
The JR Shonan Shinjuku Line provides a direct connection between Shinjuku Station and Kamakura Station. The one way trip takes about one hour and costs 940 yen. Only trains bound for Zushi, that is roughly every second train (about two departures per hour), provide a direct connection to Kamakura. Otherwise, a transfer of trains is required at Ofuna Station.
By Odakyu Railways
The cheapest way of visiting Kamakura is by Odakyu's Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass, which includes the round trip from Shinjuku to Kamakura and unlimited usage of the Enoden train for only 1520 yen. Note however, that when using this pass, the journey to Kamakura takes at least 90 minutes, versus about an hour by JR. Furthermore, there is the Hakone Kamakura Pass that also covers Hakone.
Where to view Sakura in Kamakura
Depending on which station you arrive in, I think it is best to orientate yourself around the Kamakura station area as it is the centre of the town. You could start your walk from around Kamakura station or taking the Enoden (single line train). I recommend taking the Enoden day pass, where you can hop on and off within the line throughout the day.
Most tourists head to the Great Buddha and the Hase Temple to view the lovely blossoms. But personally my favorite spot is Hase-dera Temple.
Hase-dera Temple is located in up a hill and overlooks the town and with views of the sea! It is best to prepare yourself a little picnic and simply absorb the enthralling scenery! You wished time could stand still!
Note: If you are having a picnic here please beware of the preying hawks that circle up in the sky! My son's sandwich was lost to hawk here! Thankfully he was unhurt but the claws of the hawk is sharp and wide! Just beware!
Check out the Underground Grotto in the temple!
Perhaps the most interesting part of the temple complex is the Benzaiten Grotto (Benten-Kutsu) – an underground cave dedicated to the Sea Goddess Benzaiten.
300 yen for adults
100 yen for children under 12 years old
Many tourist come to Kamakura to see the Big Buddha. The Kamakura Daibutsu is a bronze statue build in 1252, has endured tsunami, earthquakes, war but still sit tall at 13m and weights 121 tonnes despite being hollow! I don't find this place particularly great to view the blooms but if you have to come here, come here to see the Buddha!
300 yen for adults
150 yen for children under 12 years old
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine鶴岡八幡宮
There is a 500meter boulevard of cherry blossom trees leadings to this main 800 year old shrine of Kamakura. At the peak of the bloom, this part of town is simple spectacular!
Wakamiya-jinja Shrine, located in the gardens, was restored in 1624
Two beautiful ponds represent the Taira and Kamakura clans
The whole shrine was moved in 1180
In April, a massive festival centered around the shrine attracts thousands of visitors, as does the yabusame horseback archery festival in September.
Kenchoji takes the title of Kamakura’s oldest zen temple, having been founded in 1253. Kenchoji has ten smaller temples and a plethora of gates and other structures, so you can spend lots of time wandering around the area just inside the main gate. This temple is rather quiet as compare to the 3 temples.
normally the Japanese have picnics under the cherry blossom tree, laugh over a glass of sake and food, whilst admiring the lovely blooms! If making a sandwich takes too much time, visit the local supermarket to get a pack bento (lunch box) and a carton of beer or green tea bottle and have your lunch break among the trees!
typically the sakura period is during the time of the Japanese Golden week holiday and it is tough to avoid crowds but come in the morning, the crowds are relatively less in the mornings.
If you arrive late, the trees will start sprouting leaves and the pink won't be as intense as during the peak blooms. However some different species of sakura blooms from the 3rd week in April, namely magnolias and cluster cherry blossoms! They are equally as beautiful as the Japanese cherry blossoms but they are not so many therefore less intense.
This 2 weeks of cherry blossom bloom is a magnificent show of nature at it's best! No words can describe the beauty of this period! This is surely BUCKET LIST WORTHY!!