I had been to Kamakura before, but this was the first time I rented a bicycle and it turned out to be a fantastic idea! In comparison to the many times that I had explored the city on foot, I experienced Kamakura in a completely different way. Being able to easily cover greater distances, I discovered beautiful temples a bit off the beaten track, and enjoyed the lovely residential side streets with a great variety of architectural highlights.
I rented the bicycle at a shop at Kamakura station. Leave the station taking the East Exit, turn right, and about 50m in front of you, there's a sign on the wall "Rent a bike/coin locker". Walk up the stairs and there, in front of you, is a garage full of bicycles. They offer the standard Japanese bicycle with the basket in the front, and they also have the battery-assisted version. I just went for the normal one, which was absolutely fine. Don't expect any English skills from the staff; however, as there are no major details to discuss—the prices are clearly stated on a sign at the entrance—it's all very straightforward. I had to complete a short form with my contact details and show them a photo ID. The staff also provided me with a free but excellent map, much better than the one I was given at the tourist information at the station.
Finally, I was ready to go! I decided to go to the Hokoku-ji Temple first, also known as the bamboo temple because of its stunning bamboo garden, with over 2,000 large bamboo trees. Usually this is at least a 30-minute walk from Kamakura station, but it did not even take 10 minutes by bicycle. Of course I could have taken the bus, but then I would have missed all those lovely residential side streets in between. So the convenience of renting a bicycle became obvious right from the first moment.
You can continue to discover other temples in the eastern part of the city, but it's also an easy ride down to Yuigahama Beach, which is what I chose to do. Don't worry if you're not used to driving on the left hand side of the road. Car drivers in Kamakura are quite used to cyclists and it's acceptable to cycle on the sidewalk—just follow the locals. Whenever it gets crowded—like it usually does around the Daibutsu (Great Buddha)—, please be respectful towards pedestrians: Get off the bike and walk.
After a nice lunch at the beach we continued our tour to the Great Buddha and then further on to the famous Zeniarai Benten Shrine. It's said that when you wash your money there, it will double later on. Worth a try I thought! From there it's a short and mostly downhill ride back to the station. You'll arrive at the station from the other side; to get back to the rental shop you have to take the underpass on the left, which takes you back to your starting point.
This is such a great day trip from Tokyo. No booking is needed, either for the train or for the bicycle, so you are ready to go anytime. I recommend leaving early in the morning though, around 9 a.m. at the latest, so that you can really enjoy a full day out there.
Kamakura station, Kamakura
JR Yokosuka Line from Tokyo or Shinagawa Station
JR Shonan Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku and Yokohama
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Kamakura station, Kamakura