By Rey Waters
Just south of Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture offers an array of attractions for nature lovers, history and cultural enthusiasts, food connoisseurs and those that just want to kick back and relax in a hot spring.
Travelling around Kanagawa is stress free as the transportation is reliable, quick and relatively easy on the wallet. Trains and buses run frequently and will take you straight to the doorstep of most of the top attractions. As this prefecture played an important role in the opening up of Japan to the outside world, you can see plenty of Western influence in the architecture, food, and historic sights. To get a taste of Kanagawa, check out the short two-day tour below for the top places you need to visit.
For this trip it's best to get up early and begin your adventure! To start, go to Tokyo station and take the Tokaido Line to Fujisawa. The first destination will be Enoshima, but if you would like to see some beautiful block prints on your way, go to the next station Tsujido and visit the Fujisawa Ukiyo-e Museum.
Once at Fujisawa, take the Odakyu Line to Enoshima. From the station there is a nice walk through a shopping area which leads onto the Enoshima Benten-bashi Bridge. On clear days look to your right for a great view of Mount Fuji. There is so much to see at Enoshima, but I recommend starting at the Yacht Harbor building where you can learn all about the Yachting World Cup and the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics yacht competition will also be held here. Stroll along Benzaiten Nakamise Street up to Enoshima Shrine (Hetsunomiya), which is the first of three shrines on the island. Take the escalator up to the Sea Candle and the observation deck for a panoramic view of Mt. Fuji.
The next stop on your journey will be Hakone, take the Odakyu Line back to Fujisawa and change to the JR Tokaido Line and head to Odawara. If you feel like taking a short break, take a stroll over to Odawara Castle before boarding the Hakone Tozan Line. The castle has a great atmosphere and makes for some great sightseeing, especially during the cherry blossom season.
If you arrive in Hakone by lunchtime you’ll be ready to enjoy the tasty tofu cutlets at the famous Tamura Ginkatsutei restaurant. As you enter the restaurant take a number, the staff will call you when a table is available. There may be some wait time, but it is well worth it.
Once you've replenished your energy and stomach, take the Tozan line to the cable car and Hakone Ropeway. As you come over the Owakundani valley be prepared for a stunning view of the sulfur fields and, if a clear day, Mt. Fuji will appear standing proud. While at the sulfur area, try the famous Kuro Tamago (Black egg). Cooked in a hot spring, the eggs are said to add seven years to your life.
Finish your ropeway ride and head to Togendai Station where you can board a bus back to Hakone or take a sightseeing cruise on a pirate ship (yes, really). Once at the other side of the lake, you can visit the Hakone Shrine (currently under reconstruction) and learn about the legendary nine-headed dragon. Walk down the stairs to the waterfront to see the Archway of Peace. From here head over to the Hakone Sekisho (checkpoint), this was part of the Edo period road from Tokyo to Kyoto. This checkpoint was used to see if travellers were runaways or men dressed as women, trying to spy on one of the other cities.
Just a short distance from the checkpoint is the charming Amazake-chaya Tea House. (http://www.amasake-chaya.jp/) The amazake (sweet sake drink) recipe has been in the family for over 400 years, with the teahouse still being run by the family's 12th and 13th generations. The build has a thatched roof and upon entering you will feel like you stepped back into the Edo period. The room has a sunken hearth with beautifully carved wooded tables. Be sure to ask the staff here about the history of the tea house, it is really interesting and definitely something to be appreciated.
As the night starts to creep in, it’s time to start relaxing in the hot springs at Hotel Okada, which features 13 different baths. Be sure your reservations include meal service, as both the dinner and breakfast here are excellent.
In the morning, head back to Odawara, board the Tokaido train to Ofuna and change to the Yokosuka line for Kamakura - the first Samurai government in Japan. There are many ways to see this beautiful city, however the Samurai Project will give you a hands-on experience.
You start by dressing up in a kimono, including the wooden sandals, and then a walk along Wakamiya Oji Street stopping at Beniya Yukinoshita, a sweet shop and cafe. If you only eat one sweet during your trip to Kamakura, then it has to be the Kurumicco, which is a delicious walnut and caramel cake. Continue your walk until lunchtime and stop at the Kondo restaurant for a traditional Japanese set meal. Since Kondo uses local ingredients, all the dishes are fresh and tasty.
The following part of the Samurai Project is Zazen meditation and sword practice, which take place at the Engakuji Temple in Kita Kamakura. For those who cannot sit cross-legged for long periods you are allowed to use a small chair during the meditation. Once you finish the meditation sessions, you then proceed outside for sword training. These two activities are linked as the principles of meditation are woven into the use of the Samurai sword.
After some instruction and practice, you are free to swing the sword, cutting through matting wrapped into a post. This is a great activity and a memorable experience that is unique to Kamakura – definitely something you will want to do again.
Finally it's time to head the last destination Sakuragicho where you can spend the evening in Yokohama. To get here take the Yokosuka Line to Ofuna and change to the Negishi line. After checking in at The Washington Hotel, just across from the station, explore the Noge area which is full of great, reasonably priced food and drink with a great evening atmosphere.
This short two day itinerary in Kanagawa is just a small portion of what the prefecture has to offer. Once you arrive you will find so many other things that you will want to explore, so be sure to do your research to catch all you can while you're there.
Bus schedules within Yokohama.
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Born in the U.S.A. - Worked 30 years in executive management high tech Industry, owned a management consulting firm and a wildlife art publishing company. In 2012 completed the Ultimate Travel Writer’s course and published my first article Tower Hopping in Japan with Travel Post Monthly. Since then I have published travel related articles and books in the U.S., Japan, and Costa Rica. As of 2018 I have traveled all 8 regions in Japan. My objective in writing articles is to expose prospective tourists to areas of Japan outside the Tokyo - Kyoto corridor. I enjoy writing about the outdoors, festivals, crafts, museums, local food, history, and the wonderful people I have met along the way. Residing in Yokohama for over five years, I have explored the entire city by foot and have written about my experiences. There is so much to see in Japan.