Exploring Kanagawa: A Perfect Blend of Nature and Culture
If you’re looking for a perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural experiences, Kanagawa prefecture in Japan is the ideal destination for you. Located just a short distance from Tokyo, this charming region offers a wide range of day trips and escapes that are sure to captivate any traveler. From picturesque islands and stunning beaches to ancient temples and vibrant art scenes, Kanagawa has something for everyone. In this comprehensive guide, we will take you on a virtual journey through the best spots to explore in Kanagawa, providing you with all the essential information you need to plan an unforgettable trip. So, let’s dive in and discover the wonders of Kanagawa together.
A Glimpse of Kanagawa
Kanagawa prefecture is nestled between Tokyo and Mt. Fuji, with Yamanashi and Shizuoka as its neighboring prefectures. This small but diverse region offers a mix of countryside and urban landscapes, making it a perfect getaway from the bustling city life. The prefecture boasts ample coastlines along Sagami Bay and Tokyo Bay, providing stunning beaches like Enoshima for beach lovers to enjoy. On the other hand, the Tanzawa Mountains offer breathtaking hiking trails and panoramic views for nature enthusiasts.
The capital of Kanagawa is Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city, known for its vibrant atmosphere and modern skyline. Kawasaki, the next largest city in the prefecture, is also worth exploring, with its unique blend of open-air architecture and art museums. Kanagawa is not only a popular commuter city but also an attractive place to live, offering more affordable rent compared to Tokyo while still being well-connected to the capital.
Enoshima: Island Paradise
One of the must-visit destinations in Kanagawa is Enoshima, a beautiful island off the coast of Fujisawa City. Enoshima is a perfect day-trip spot, offering a mix of natural beauty and cultural attractions. You can access the island via a bridge or take a boat for a more exciting journey. Once you arrive, be prepared to be enchanted by the island’s charm.
Enoshima is home to stunning shrines, picturesque caves, and the famous Enoshima Shrine where you can wash your money for good luck. Take a leisurely stroll through the Samuel Cocking Gardens and enjoy panoramic views from the lighthouse. For couples, don’t miss the opportunity to ring a love bell and add a padlock to the collection. The island is also known for its fascinating legend of the Enoshima dragon, which you can explore through the island’s caves.
To make the most of your visit, consider purchasing the 1-day Eno Pass, which offers admission to the main attractions, including the garden, lighthouse, and caves, as well as discounts for other activities such as the spa.
Enoshima Tenno Festival: A Spectacle of Tradition
If you happen to visit Enoshima in July, make sure to catch the Enoshima Tenno Festival. This annual festival is a unique celebration that involves carrying portable shrines, known as mikoshi, not only through the streets but also through the sea. It’s a vibrant and lively event that showcases the rich cultural heritage of the region and is definitely worth experiencing.
To reach Enoshima from Tokyo, you can take the Odakyu-Odawara Line Rapid Express train from Shinjuku, and in just over an hour, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the island’s beauty.
Hakone: A Haven of Natural Wonders
For nature enthusiasts and hot spring lovers, Hakone is a must-visit destination in Kanagawa. Located within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, this charming town offers a wide range of outdoor activities and breathtaking natural landscapes.
Hakone is famous for its hot springs, or onsens, which are scattered throughout the area. One of the unique onsens to visit is Tenzan, which accepts visitors with tattoos, a rarity in Japan. Another popular choice is Kohan-no-yu, offering stunning views of Lake Ashi.
Aside from relaxing in the hot springs, Hakone offers plenty of opportunities for exploration. Visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum to admire a collection of modern art in a beautiful natural setting. Take a stroll through the Pola Museum of Art and immerse yourself in the world of contemporary art. For those seeking adventure, Owakudani, also known as the boiling valley, offers a unique experience with its sulfur-rich hot springs and the chance to try the famous black eggs.
To reach Hakone, you have various transportation options, including regular trains, bullet trains, and highway buses. Plan your journey accordingly to make the most of your time in this natural wonderland.
Kawasaki City: Where Art and Culture Meet
Kawasaki might not be the first place that comes to mind when exploring Kanagawa, but this lesser-visited city has its own hidden gems worth discovering. Start your exploration with a visit to the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art, dedicated to the abstract artist who grew up in Kawasaki. Marvel at the unique and thought-provoking artworks on display.
Next, head to Nihon Minkaen, an open-air folk house museum that showcases 25 preserved Edo-period homes. Immerse yourself in the history and culture of Japan as you explore these well-preserved traditional houses.
No visit to Kawasaki would be complete without a trip to Kawasaki Daishi Temple. This temple is one of the largest temples of the Chisan School of Shingon Buddhism in Japan and boasts a history that dates back a millennium. Take your time to soak in the tranquil atmosphere and learn about the temple’s religious significance.
For fans of the popular manga and anime series Doraemon, a visit to the Fujiko F Fujio Museum is a must. This museum is dedicated to the creators of Doraemon and offers a fascinating glimpse into their creative process.
Festivals to Remember
Kawasaki is known for its vibrant festivals that showcase the city’s unique spirit. One of the most famous festivals is the Kanamara Penis Festival, held in April. This lively and colorful event celebrates fertility and is a sight to behold.
Another festival that shouldn’t be missed is the Halloween Parade in October. Witness the streets of Kawasaki come alive with vibrant costumes and exciting performances during this spectacular event.
To reach Kawasaki, you can take a direct train from Shinagawa Station in just under 10 minutes on the Tokaido Line. From Shibuya or Shinjuku, a single transfer is required, but the journey is still convenient and accessible.
Kamakura: A Glimpse of Ancient Japan
Often referred to as the “Little Kyoto” of eastern Japan, Kamakura is a charming coastal town that offers a glimpse into Japan’s ancient past. Located less than an hour from Tokyo, Kamakura is a popular day trip destination for both locals and tourists alike.
Start your exploration by visiting the iconic Giant Buddha at Kotokuin Temple. This towering bronze statue is a symbol of Kamakura and stands at an impressive 13.35 meters tall. Take a moment to admire its grandeur and learn about its historical significance.
Kamakura is also known for its beautiful hiking trails, offering opportunities to escape into nature and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding hills. Explore the hillsides and discover hidden shrines and temples along the way. Don’t miss the chance to visit the famous Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, which is considered the spiritual heart of Kamakura.
For art enthusiasts, Kamakura offers a wealth of artistic experiences. Explore the local art scene, which is known for its unique and alternative exhibitions. Visit the Kamakura Matsuri in April, a celebration of the area’s rich cultural heritage, featuring food stalls, performances, and even horseback archery. During the summer, be sure to catch the spectacular Kamakura fireworks display, best viewed from the beach.
To reach Kamakura from Tokyo, you can take a train that costs around 500-900 yen, depending on your starting point. Once you arrive, don’t forget to experience the nostalgic charm of the Enoden electric railway, a delightful way to travel around the town.
Yokohama: Where Tradition Meets Modernity
Located just a stone’s throw away from Tokyo, Yokohama is a vibrant city that seamlessly blends tradition and modernity. One of the highlights of Yokohama is its bustling Chinatown, the largest Chinatown in Japan. Take a stroll through its lively streets, filled with an array of shops, restaurants, and temples. Be sure to treat yourself to some delicious Chinese cuisine and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere.
Another must-visit attraction in Yokohama is Minato Mirai, a modern waterfront district that offers stunning night views, trendy bars, and a perfect setting for a romantic date. Explore the area and enjoy the beautiful scenery as you walk along the waterfront.
Yokohama is also home to a unique art scene that is worth exploring. Visit the Yokohama Art Scene, which showcases alternative and contemporary art exhibitions. For a taste of nostalgia, head to the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, a museum dedicated to the history of ramen. Experience the different flavors of this beloved Japanese dish and learn about its cultural significance.
If you’re in Yokohama with your family, a visit to the Cup Noodles Museum is a must. Discover the history of cup noodles and even create your own customized cup of noodles as a unique souvenir.
Round off your Yokohama experience with a visit to the serene Sankeien Garden. This beautiful Japanese garden offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, where you can relax and immerse yourself in nature.
Festivals to Delight
Yokohama is known for its lively festivals that attract visitors from all over the world. One of the highlights is the annual Dancing Pikachu Horde, a dream come true for Pokemon fans. Watch as dozens of Pikachu mascots take to the streets and dance in unison, creating a spectacle that is sure to bring a smile to your face.
During the Chinese New Year, Yokohama’s Chinatown comes alive with vibrant celebrations. Immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere as you witness traditional lion dances, colorful decorations, and indulge in delicious street food.
To reach Yokohama, you can take a short train ride from Tokyo, and within minutes, you’ll find yourself in this vibrant city.
Kanagawa prefecture offers a wealth of experiences that will delight every traveler. From the enchanting island of Enoshima to the natural wonders of Hakone, the cultural treasures of Kamakura, and the vibrant city of Yokohama, Kanagawa has it all. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a taste of Japanese culture, this charming region will leave you with unforgettable memories. So, pack your bags and embark on an incredible journey through Kanagawa, where nature and culture intertwine in perfect harmony.