Even if you’ve never been to Kanagawa, you’d certainly recognize it. This prefecture is home to several of the locales immortalized in the series of paintings, “Thirty Six Views of Mt. Fuji,” by legendary Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai.
Kanagawa, like much of Japan, has undergone a rapid pace of urbanization, but the cultural heart of the prefecture south of Tokyo — its beaches, temples, shrines, castles, and views of Mount Fuji — remain untouched. Here’s a look at the highlights of Kanagawa Prefecture that make it much more than Tokyo’s neighbor.
Japan’s second biggest city, Yokohama, is only 30 minutes away from Tokyo by train, making it an attractive day trip excursion. This port town was eastern Japan’s gateway to the west in the 19th century and is home to Japan’s largest Chinatown.
Along the Yokohama waterfront is Minato Mirai 21, a commercial complex of high rise buildings, shopping malls, hotels, and amusement park complete with a giant ferris wheel. But there’s more to Yokohama than urban sprawl: visit the sprawling Japanese garden at Sankeien, and you’ll feel as if you’ve been magically transported to Kyoto.
AddressYokohama Red Brick Warehouse 2 1F, 1-1 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0001
The meditating Daibutsu, or giant Buddha, of Kamakura, remains its most popular attraction, but venture beyond this towering figure, and you’ll see why Kamakura is often dubbed the “Kyoto of east Japan.” From Kotoku-in Temple, it’s an easy trek to Sasuke Inari Shrine and its vermillion red torii-gate path.
For uninterrupted serene views of the ocean and mountains, head to the temple of Gokuraku-ji. Not to be missed is Inamuragasaki Park. Go just before sunset and be rewarded with an incredible view of Mount Fuji and the nearby island of Enoshima.
Connected to the Shonan coast by a quaint wooden bridge, the scenic island of Enoshima is a popular summer spot for water sport enthusiasts and sunbathers. But, if summer isn’t your thing, plan your trip to Enoshima and take a ride on the retro chic Enoden railway. Bold violet hydrangeas are sure to brighten up an otherwise gloomy gray sky.
You can find Enoshima and its iconic views of Mount Fuji in another woodblock painting by Hokusai. While centuries have passed since “Enoshima in Sagami Province,” you still can observe the island’s natural beauty from the top of Enoshima Sea Candle or from the relaxing confines of an outdoor bath at Enoshima Island Spa.
Address2-1-6 Enoshima, Fujisawa, Kanagawa 251-0036
You don’t have to go beyond the Kanto region to take in the architectural beauty of a Japanese castle. Right in Tokyo’s backyard is Odawara Castle, just over an hour away by train. First built in the 15th century, the castle is perhaps one of the best remnants of Japan’s Warring States period. History buffs will enjoy the castle’s museum while nature lovers will delight in the springtime bloom of cherry blossoms on the castle grounds. Head straight to the castle keep and take in the vast views of the ocean — you can even spot the one of Tokyo’s islands, Izu Oshima.
If it’s nature you’re after, you’ve come to the right spot. Hakone lies in in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, a sprawling natural retreat that encompasses parts of Yamanashi, Shizuoka, and Kanagawa Prefectures, and western Tokyo Metropolis. The home of Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes, Hakone is one of Japan’s most popular hot spring towns. Whether you chose to explore by ropeway, rickshaw, boat, hike one of the numerous trails, or take a dip in a hot spring, you are sure to encounter the spectacular sight of Mount Fuji.