Tokyo: Side Trips

Kamakura

Kamakura Jon Hicks / CORBIS
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An easy day trip from Tokyo, Kamakura is less than an hour from Shibuya Station by commuter train. Kamakura has two hiking trails and a beach, as it's on the Pacific coast, but the big draw here is the Daibutsu — the big bronze Buddha statue on the grounds of the Kotokuin Temple. Cast in 1252, it's more than 13 meters, or 43 feet high, making it the second-largest in Japan (next to the one in Nara, the ancient capital south of Kyoto) and the largest one that sits outdoors — the wooden temple structure that once housed having been destroyed in a tsunami about 500 years ago. The temple (open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., or 5:30 p.m. in winter) is near the Hase Station on the local Enoden line; take a JR train from Tokyo to Kamakura Station and transfer, or get off at Kita-Kamakura and take the hiking trail.

Also worth visiting: Hase-dera, a temple known for its many Jizo statues. There are thousands of them clustered around, on ledges and along stone paths and stairways. The Jizo, a Japanese form of bodhisattva, is believed to be the guardian of children and is usually depicted as a Buddhist monk, so we're talking herds of little bald men, some wearing crocheted hats and capes to help keep them warm. Hase-dera is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (4:30 p.m. in winter).

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