Anyone who simply goes to Japan for Tokyo or Kyoto will be missing a lot of distinctly Japanese cultural spots and sites that can only be discovered in the wondrous Kanagawa Prefecture. This place is not just known for the notable Great Wave off Kanagawa ukiyo-e painting, either. Because of the array of things to do in this region, there’s something for everyone—swimming, hiking, shopping, photographing and others.
Yokohama – The capital of Kanagawa Prefecture that is a major port city. There’s a lot to see and do in Yokohama, but some places are clearly more fun than others. Here’s the list of those must-see attractions and spots:
- Kanayama Shrine – Despite being a famous shrine year round, this location becomes all the more energized around April and May during the world renowned Kanamara Matsuri, celebrating male gonads. How can you say no? Website: http://www.e-daishi.net/modules/weblinks/singlelink.php?lid=59
- Motomachi Chuukagai (Yokohama Chinatown) – The ambiance of China’s greatest metropolises has been crammed into this district. Get authentic Chinese souvenirs, orange duck, and other knick-knacks to bring home and confuse everyone who thought you were merely going to Japan. Website: http://www.chinatown.or.jp/feature/enkai2015-20016/
- Yokohama Landmark Tower, Sky Garden and surroundings – The third tallest skyscraper in Japan is also one of the best places to see night-time illuminations. The shopping is also top-notch. Around Yokohama Landmark Tower are spots like the Queen Square Towers department stores, the Yokohama Museum of Art, Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center, and the Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris Wheel.
Kamakura and Enoshima – Separating them won’t do. You need to see both, because they are equally awesome visits, close to one another, and very amusing for everyone who might be in your group. The best experiences include:
- The walk from Enoshima Station to the island.
- Visit Enoshima Esca for some matcha ice cream and freshly made takoyaki.
- Gaze out over the ocean from the Enoshima Observation Lighthouse.
- Pray at Hasedera Temple and peruse the artifacts of Kannon Museum.
- Get inside the Kamakura Daibutsu at Kotokuin Temple.
- Pick up Kamakura Bori for souvenirs or take a trip to Kamakurabori Shiryoukan Musuem.
Bonus: Enoshima is designated as one of Japan’s “cat islands,” where the population of cats rivals that of the human inhabitants.
Hakone – Not only is this area famous for its onsen and European-styled town, there are mountains, shrines, and a mind-blowing national park. But of course, do check out the hot springs. The recommended locations include the Yunessun Spa Resort, K’s House Hakone, and Hakone Yuryo. Other places to go:
- Hakone Ropeway – Rise above Lake Ashi and the rising mists of Owakudani to see Mt. Fuji in the distance. If you prefer exercise, you can hike the trails that run along the same course of the ropeway. Website: http://www.hakoneropeway.co.jp/foreign/en/
- Pola Museum of Art – Though devoted to French art, there’s over 9500 works to view. Since it’s located within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, you might find that there’s more to see than just paintings. Website: http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/
- Kuzuryu Shrine – The calm you find at this shrine is unique to Hakone. Plus, the sunsets are said to be magical. Bring that special someone and pray to the shrine god as the sun dips below the torii gate at edge of Lake Ashi. Website: http://hakonejinja.or.jp/
Other honourable mentions include Zushi for the beaches and Odawara for its cool castle.
Top Places to Eat
Since Kanagawa Prefecture is home to Japan’s largest Chinatown, you will probably be picking up some Chinese if you choose to go there. However, if you seek other options, here are some places to think about going:
Charcoal Grill Green – With three locations in Kanagawa, you know where to go throughout your travels for good beer, great fun, and awesome brick oven pizza. People love the friendly English-speaking staff as well as the pub food.
Address (of Yokohama branch): Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama, Naka-ku, Ishikawa-cho 1-8
Hungry Tiger Steakhouse – A great place to try Japan’s hamburg steak (essentially a hamburger without the bun and smothered in a rich gravy). There’s other meaty options too. Everything sizzles. You’ll leave hearing the fizzle of the plates but won’t regret it.
Address: 220-0005 Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama, Nishi-ku, Minamisaiwai
Satonoudon Kamakura – I don’t know about you, but I love it when shrines have food places. This one is at Hachimangu Shrine. On the menu are things like braised pork belly, tempura, and delicious udon. You can top your bowls with dozens of options. Hearty yet budget-friendly. Worth the stop if you’re hungry after viewing the shrine grounds.
Address: 248-0005 Kamakura, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, 5-18-2
The Fujiya – The elegance of the restaurant is just the beginning of your marvellous dining experience. The menu comes written in Japanese and French, as per the style of the food. Though slightly expensive, the dishes are succulent. Flavors are rich but balanced. And the presentations are picture perfect.
Address: Kanagawa Prefecture, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Miyanoshita 356 The Fujiya Hotel