An ancient former feudal capital of Japan, Kamakura is a short train ride from Tokyo and even closer to Yokohama. If you’re visiting Japan on a tight holiday schedule it can give you just about everything you can get in Kyoto: temples, shrines, kaiseki (Japanese fine dining), shotengai (shopping streets), ryokan (Japanese Inns), tradition … perhaps just minus the glitz and the scale.
Anyway, Kamakura has something that Kyoto doesn’t have - a huge, sandy beach!
The water is pretty shallow and actually fun to swim in. It stays warm until late in the year, but can be nippy later on and into spring: be prepared to be the only swimmer there in a sea of surfboards.
Where is Kamakura?
The beach at Kamakura is called Yuigihama (由比ヶ浜海岸). It’s south of the old town, which itself is located in South Kanagawa. The sea here is in the north-east part of Sagami Bay (相模湾) which takes in the Shonan coast all the way down to Shimoda in Izu and Oshima Island.
How do I get to Kamakura?
If you time it right Shinjuku Station is just over an hour away, and under 1000 yen. Take the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku Station and change at Ofuna to the JR Yokosuka Line to Kamakura Station, then walk around 20 minutes to the beach.
To get there, it’s a bit of a trek south, but it’s a nice road, taking in the straight path to Kamakura’s largest and most important shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū (鶴岡八幡宮). You can get some nice photos as you go. After that you start to feel the sea breeze and pass by a Freshness Burger branch with special Shonan-themed fare. It’s hard not to start skipping faster down towards the beach, passing surf shops and beach shacks.
After you see the Lawson on your right you’re nearly there. Just cross the main road and voila.
It’s a fair walk down to the beach from the station, so bring a sun hat, you’ll be near the Lawson convenience store so don’t worry about essentials.
There’s a good bike rental spot with friendly staff (some basic English spoken too) by Kamakura Station but it closes early - around 1700.
The sand is the standard, dark gray/off-white of the Shonan Coast in Mount Fuji’s shadow. On the upside that means it gets nice and hot in the moderate seasons, and of course burns your feet in August so watch out.
The views are nice, with Enoshima in the distance, some sheer cliffs with dark green overgrowth transporting you to an exotic tropical paradise if you just go with it and don’t get too cynical. To be honest, the water is cloudy and full of debris, mostly natural in the form of dead seaweed but there is some man-made detritus too.
There is a convenient toilet block on the beach year-round, and in the summer months when the beach ‘opens’, the hordes of surfers enjoying the Shonan waves are banished and the noisy beach bars arrive. It’s very quiet with swimmers outside of those times.
Along the main road there are a couple of bars and restaurants with panoramic beach views for those post-swim drinks.