This feature has been written in partnership with the JTB and the Kanagawa Prefectural Government
Japan 2019: See the splendour of Kanagawa between matches
AT THE Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup, Yokohama will host some of the most exhilarating clashes in the competition – including the final. However, if you plan to visit Japan’s second city to take in the action, do yourself a favour and build in time to see some of what else the Kanagawa region has to offer.
Be prepared, because a short trip from Yokohama lie two incredible, but completely different spots: Hakone and Kamakura. If you are heading to these places, make sure you bring your camera, and if you don’t find enlightenment, at the very least you’ll find relaxation.
WHERE IS IT?
If you head south west, following the natural coastal curve of the Honshu island, you will get to Hakone, home of the region’s volcanic hot springs and spas. An hour and a half should see you get there, starting your journey from Shin-Yokohama station (near the International Stadium) or if you want a bit of history, you can take the Romancecar via the Odakyu line – this is a carriage famous for taking honeymooners to the famous resort town.
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For something completely different, though, you can head to Kamakura, a spiritual haven. It is a hotbed of temples, shrines and religious sites and sights. Kamakura was an old Shogun capital, picked because of it’s religious significance. The town can be reached from Yokohama by taking a train form Hodogaya station.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE?
Hakone is all about the onsen – the natural hot baths. At a number of spa hotels, you can find these relaxing getaways where you can soak in relative tranquility.
However, be prepared. You are expected to bathe nude. It is considered rude if you do not wash extensively before taking to the pools, if you wear any clothing and if you take a towel into the baths. There will be separate, closed off pools for men and women so you are not bathing together.
There is plenty else to do in Hakone. If you plan ahead, you can hire the services of geishas for a gathering, thanks to Hakone Yumoto. But there’s a lot outdoors too. You can visit the Open Air Museum, with a plethora of sculptures and a Picasso Exhibition hall (with two stories of art from the legendary Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.) You can also visit nearby Gora Park, where you can take in the views or even visit the Crafthouse and take part in a bit of glassblowing.
A must-see would be the Owakudani, an active volcano which you can see billowing out steam from its vents as you ascent via the Ropeway cable cars. Once you go down the other side you can also soak up spectacular views of Mt Fuji, before heading out for a cruise across the picturesque Lake Ashi.
What about Kamakura, though? Well things here take a more spiritual path. Undoubtedly the highlight is the Great Buddha. This 44ft, 121-ton bronze statue is one of Japan’s national treasures and a breathtaking, must-see sight. As is the Hasedera Temple – another Buddhist wonder. There are a great many Shinto sights to see here, too – the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is a truly impressive vision as you approach its steps. And the ‘bamboo temple’ of Hokoku-ji offers something a little more sedate.
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In fact, if you want to enjoy a winding and informative tour past the many temples and shrines, a rickshaw tour around Kamakura’s back streets can be very informative.
Believe it or not, the Enoshima tram through Kamakura is well-known throughout Japan. Their green carriages have featured in many films and TV shows, and it is a quick and efficient way to get around. And at one stop, for you big kids out there, you can visit the Masamune craft shop and see how Samurai swords have been perfected for 24 generations.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK?
In Hakone you can take in the fine dining tasting menu at the Hakone Kawakien Tenyu (which includes dressing in traditional Japanese garments). If you want to spend less, of course, the town is very tourist friendly, and there are plenty of bars and cafes to drop into.
If you do go up the Owakudani valley, though, be sure to try the traditional kuro-tamago – an egg hard-boiled in a sulphurous volcanic pool until the shell turns black. Not only is it a great snack, it also is said to add seven years to your life.
If you go to Kamakura, again there are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants to swing by, but maybe you want something more fitting for the spiritual suroundings? At Yamonuchi you can combine a high-end dining experience with a Buddhist diet, with several courses of the best vegetarian fare. And for the bakers out there, try the famous dove-shaped hato sabure cookies at the historic Toshimaya bakery.
WHERE TO STAY?
The previously mentioned Hakone Kowakien Ten-yu is a luxurious stop-off in the Hakone area, impressing with its own churning waterfalls and shrine on the hillside garden walk. There are plenty of other destinations that can offer the same onsen experience for less money.
If you are stopping off in Kamakura, the Kamakura Prince hotel has more of a familiar, old-school seaside holiday feel to it, and is on the road out of town. There are many other options along the beach front.
For more information on where to stay, and much more, please visit trip.pref.kanagawa.jp