Where Are the Best Places to View Hydrangeas in Kamakura?
The best time to view Hydrangea in Kamakura is between June and early July. I had nine friends joined me in Tokyo last year and we had an incredible journey tasting different kinds of food in the city.
Before my friends arrived at Tokyo though, I had some time to myself and I decided to have an excursion in Kamakura, a small city just about an hour away from Tokyo and it’s best known for its Great Buddha in Kōtoku-in. When hydrangeas are blooming, visitors flood in the city and some of the hot spots could get a little crowded. I visited there on a Tuesday but when I reached JR Kita-Kamakura Station, the platform was completely full and I almost couldn’t step out of the train!
Today, I would like to share with you my Kamakura hiking-hydrangea-viewing route. It is a relaxed, slow-paced stroll, with the exception of overwhelming crowds in some popular attractions. 😛
How to get there?
There are three JR passes that offer visitors a discount getting around the Kamakura area.
- Take Enoden (JR Line). Enoden 1-day pass ticket “Noriorikun” costs 600 yen and it permits unlimited use to board and disembark at any station on the Enoden line within one day. Enoden Line covers some of the best attractions in Enoshima including Engaku-Ji, Mitama Shrine, Gokuraku-ji, and Joju-in.
- Kamakura Edoshima Afternoon Pass is only for sale (1000 yen) after 1pm. The pass covers access to Noriorikun, Escar, Samuel Cocking Garden and Sea candle (lighthouse observation tower). The entire combo worths 1,460 yen and if you start your day after 1pm, it could be a good choice for you.
- Lastly, Enoshima 1-day pass “Eno=Pass” costs 1000 yen, and it offers unlimited access to 4 popular sites at Enoshima in a day. It has the advantage to combine a round-trip discount ticket and tickets to Enoshima attractions.
I have mentioned a few spots in Engaku-ji, Mitama Shrine, Gokuraku-ji, and Joju-in; hydrangeas are mainly scattered on the roadside or train lines among these spots. For first-timers, like me, I would recommend the following route that lines up some of the Kamakura classics and popular spots. Some of these places could get crowded in peak time, so start your day early or you may not have enough time to complete them all!
Spot 1 – Engaku-ji 円覚寺
The journey begins once I left Kita-Kamakura JR Station and the first spot that I visited is Engaku-ji. It’s close to Meigetsuin – while the hydrangea is not as intensive – the temple has a spacious environment for visitors to view and enjoy the blooming calmly. The tranquil atmosphere is the perfect setting to sit down, sip a cup of tea, and view the colorful flowers. both locals and foreign visitors may join the zazen meditation sessions and other Zen training. To end your visits, sit down at the old-house style cafe and taste a wagashi.
Spot 2 – Meigetsuin 明月院
Kamakura is a historic city, like Kyoto and Nara, filled with ancient sites and buildings. Founded in 1160, Meigetsuin has more than 40 kinds of 2,500 stocks of hydrangea. The temple is also named the “Ajisai Temple” – and I am sure it’s listed on every “best spot to view hydrangea” list in the Tokyo area. There was already a great amount of hydrangea planted at the entrance even before entering the temple.
The best photo-taking spot in the temple is the approach up the staircase to the front gate (this is my cover photos of this post), where different kinds of hydrangea lined up on both sides, and they look absolutely beautiful in full bloom. The color of the flowers is even more vibrant after the rain. Note that, I have mentioned a few times, the temple can get very crowded that they need to implement traffic control entering the site. If you wish to take a visitor-free photo of the staircase, you will have to be there very early in the morning, when the temple just opens.
Spot 3 – Kuzuharaoka Shrine 葛原岡神社
The Meigetsuin – Kuzuharaoka – Kōtoku-in hiking trail is the best route in Kamakura because it covers quite a lot of attractions in a 3 km walk. Passing the Jōchi-ji, I followed the signs, entered the hiking trail, and headed to my next spot – Kuzuharaoka Shrine. Honestly, it ended up to be my favorite viewing spots because to my surprise it’s much quieter as compared to Meigetsuin. I guess this is one of the big disadvantages on the road alone… you don’t have a friendly photographer to take good pictures of you, and sometimes a selfie-stick or a tripod can’t do the job in a crowded place like Meigetsuin. The flower in Meigetsuin was spectacular but it was just too crowded for a visitor to take pictures or enjoy the natural environment.
The Shrine is only a short hike in the Kamakura western wooded hills, yet the slightly “off-track” location makes a world of difference from the crowd. The shrine has a good variety of flowers and I could finally enjoy and take pictures of the flowers (in the June rain).
Zeniarai Benzaiten Shrine 銭洗弁財天宇賀福神社
After a short rest I continued my walk to another shrine on the route, it should not be difficult to find as there will be road signs along the trail. This is not exactly a hydrangea viewing spot, but it’s an interesting pitstop on your way to the next one. There are a cave and legend has it, wash your money with the shrine’s spring and they will double.
I didn’t go wild and bring all my money there for a good washing, the shrine has bamboo baskets prepared in case you want to experience the divine power of the spring water in the shrine.
Spot 4 – Itsuki Garden Cafe terrace樹ガーデン
Itsuki, means “tree” in Japanese, is my recommendation for lunch. It was a sweet detour as I look for the cafe in the woods. The cafe has two entrances – while the main entrance is located on the roadside, I entered the cafe at the back from the hill; and I recommend entering the cafe that way because the view of the entire cafe was breathtaking from the top.
The cafe is a real estate property of the Itsuki Garden and was initially acquired by the late founders of Hinoki Corporation; finally, it turned into a tourist attraction. While the entire site looks buried deep in the woods, the structure has a nice contrast with red bricks and umbrellas popping out from the lushes. All tables are outdoors, a perfect setting to enjoy nature and some food. The cafe offers simple set lunch, snacks, sandwiches, and the most popular dish would be their summer fruit pancakes.
Spot 5 – Kōtoku-in 鎌倉大仏殿高徳院
Moving on after a satisfying lunch, I finally arrived at the Kōtoku-in, not arguably the best-known spot in Kamakura. The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha, and it is the largest outdoor bronze Buddha in Japan. The Buddha is not famous for its size, but also its originality. It was not largely renovated since the 13th century that means it has preserved what it looked like since it was made 700 years ago. The site has a great historic value to the art and culture of the Kamakura period (1185-1333).
The backyard of the temple is also planted with many types of hydrangea. Although they are not showcased in an intensive cluster, the coverage of its genre was interesting to see.
Spot 6 – Hasedera 長谷寺
Finally, I headed to another hotspot – Hasedera. The street connecting Kōtoku-in and Hasedera is a busy tourist street with cafes, coffee shops, souvenir shops and museums lined up on both sides of the road. Hase JR Station is located at the end of the street, this is where I took the train back to Tokyo after my day.
I spent some time exploring the shops, had Warabi Mochi, and some snacks before arriving at the temple. Hasedera is another hotspot in Kamakura for hydrangea and both locals and visitors know it. Nicknamed “the Flower Temple”, The temple was built 1,200 years ago and you could see different kinds of flowers in the temple through the year. The main hall has a giant wooden carved statute, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, towers at a height of 9.8 meters and is the largest of its kind in Japan. In addition to the significant cultural properties, the gazebo at the top of the temple offers a stunning view of the temple, Kamakura city, to the ocean of Kamakura and beyond.
There could be a long line during peak season and visitors will need to obtain a time ticket upon arrival in order to enter the “Hydrangea Path”. Sometimes it could be about an hour wait to be there the latest at around 4 pm so you won’t miss the chance!
Magokoroマゴコロ / Hase Station 長谷駅
Lastly, before taking off and return to Tokyo. You are welcome to enjoy a cup of coffee at the Magokoro cafe. The cafe is located at the seaside and I enjoyed an unobstructed view of the ocean through the giant window. The owner designed the cafe using organic linen as the main theme. You will find a lot of elements evolve around linen, from walls, chairs, and table setting; their menu uses vegetable and seafood ingredients from local farms.
For a list of best places to view hydrangea in the Tokyo area, other places are listed in the following and check out the map to see which spot is closer to you. More, here is Tokyo hotel guide for you to look for a place to stay when you are in Tokyo.
- Asukayama Park
- Fuchushi Kyodonomori Museum
- Hamarikyu Gardens
- Hakusan-jinja Shrine
- Jindai Botanical Gardens
- Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens
- Kyu Shiba Rikyu Onshi Garden
- Showa Kinen Park
- Sumida Park
- The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace (Koukyo Higashi Gyoen)
- Tokyo Summer Land
- Toneri Park
- Ueno Onshi Park
- Ukima Park
- Yakushiike Park
- Hakone Tozan railway (Hydrangea Train “Yoru no Ajisai Gou”)
- Hase Temple
- Kita Kamakura Kominka Museum
- Engaku-ji Temple
Any thoughts, tips or questions?