Kamakura is not far from Tokyo, but it seems a world away. The hills are dotted with Shinto shrines and Zen Buddhist temples. Two most popular sights in Kamakura are the Daibutsu, Great Buddha, and the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu, shrine for the god of war, but there innumerable other smaller shrines, temples, bamboo forests and cave tombs. Best of all, Kamakura is a place to stroll down country lanes, past stone walls and rustic houses, or walk through the leafy forests with your kids.
Daibutsu - The Daibutsu, a massive bronze statue of the Buddha, has been a landmark in Kamakura since the 13th century. And a familiar sight, through thick and thin. In the 15th century, the temple around it was washed away in a tidal wave but the Daibutsu didn't budge. You can climb up inside this Great Buddha; the staircase goes up to the shoulders.
Zeniarai Benten Jinja (money washing shrine) - If you get off at the Kita (North) Kamakura train stop, take the Daibutsu Hiking Course to walk to the Daibutsu on a lovely mountain trail. It's only a little over a mile or so. On the way, take a detour to the Zeniarai Benten Jinga, a "money washing shrine." Kids will enjoy first washing their coins and then tossing them in the water before going into the shrine.
Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine - This shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the god of war and is also the guardian deity of the Minamotos. The Minamoto warrior family founded the shogunate at Kamakura in the 12th century. For the best effect, walk down the main street Wakamiya-oji, lined with cherry trees. After you've gone under three torii gates, you'll cross over a half moon bridge over two lotus ponds. From the shrine there is a view of Kamakura and the sea beyond. In addition to the shrine, visit the treasure hall, which has exhibits of armor and kimonos.<
Egara Tenjin Shrine - Near to the Hachiman-gu shrine is the shrine for the god of education, Egara Tenjin. Japanese school kids buy wooden (ema) plaques, write their wishes to pass exams on the back, and hang them up. Your kids can do the same. When they get back to school, they can think of their ema plaques, blowing in the wind, wafting good wishes to the god of education.
Beaches - Kamakura is a seaside town, and after you've been to see the temples, head for the beaches, only a short distance away. These popular swimming beaches, so bring your suits if the weather is nice.