An hour's train ride south of Tokyo lies the small, relaxed town of KAMAKURA, trapped between the sea and a circle of wooded hills. Kamakura is steeped in history, and many of its 65 temples and 19 shrines date back some eight centuries, when, for a brief and tumultuous period, this was Japan's political and military centre. Its most famous sight is the Daibutsu, a glorious bronze Buddha surrounded by trees, but the town's ancient Zen temples are equally compelling.
Kamakura's prime sights can be covered on a day-trip from Tokyo, starting with the temples of Kita-Kamakura, the town's northern suburb, and then walking south to the sights of central Kamakura, before finishing up at the Great Buddha in Hase on its western outskirts. If you can only spare a day, make sure you get an early start: most sights close early (generally 4pm or 4.30pm in winter and only a little later in summer). However, the town more than justifies a two-day visit, allowing you time to explore the enchanting temples of east Kamakura, to follow one of the gentle "hiking courses" up into the hills, or to ride the Enoden line west a few kilometres to tiny Enoshima island. If at all possible, avoid weekends, national holidays and July and August, when both Kamakura and Enoshima are swamped.