Situated on a rural stretch of coastline only an hour from central Tokyo, Kamakura could not be more different to the neon lights, glass skyscrapers and packed streets of the nation’s capital. Forest hiking through seas of cedars, serene ocean views and a deep connection to Japanese culinary culture call out to visitors, beckoning them to this seaside retreat. None more so than local, Sayuri, who as CEO of a successful gastronomic consulting company with a big mission; to create life-changing experiences through food, and owner of two sophisticated Japanese restaurants, spends a disproportionately large amount of time traveling, yet is always drawn back to living with nature in Kamakura.
On a whirlwind trip to Kyoto, catching up over an evening cocktail and breakfast the next morning (at the second branch of Kishin Kitchen located in Gion), Sayuri shares what makes Kamakura so special.
What is the best time of year to visit Kamakura?
Spring. The weather is fine, the sakura (cherry blossom) are blooming and the sea beckons.
Where should we stay?
Kishi-ke is an effortlessly stylish ryokan in a former samurai house. It’s had a stunning modern facelift by a former associate of Kengo Kuma and the garden is a vision of tranquility.
Where should we explore out of town?
The Hayama area, it’s further around the coast, past Zushi, and is a little more remote and so less busy than Kamakura can sometimes be. Volcanic rocks break up beautiful sandy beaches, views of Enoshima and Mt. Fuji (on a clear day), and a laid-back, bohemian vibe make this a worthwhile detour.
Your favourite place to hang out with friends?
I love going to the beach, drinking and chatting until the sun goes down. It’s special.
Which restaurants shouldn’t we miss?
My restaurant, Kishin Kamakura! Our mission is to deliver a hearty culinary experience with Japanese spirit. We carefully consider every constituent piece of the meals we prepare, from local freshly-caught fish, organic vegetables and rice, and hand-crafted ceramics for serving, we really do create a wholesome atmosphere and our food speaks for itself.
Where’s your favourite part of the coastline?
The best beach for swimming is Yuigahama, the best point to look out over the power of the waves is Inamuragasaki Park. I feel so connected to the earth here, so small against the vastness of the ocean. It’s very humbling. You can really sense a spiritual connection.
Are there any good hiking spots?
The Tenen Hiking Trail goes past some of the town’s famous sites, Kotoku-in temple and the giant Buddha, but further into the trek you get to see the real natural beauty of Kamakura.
What about wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets)? Any recommendations?
My favourite is Kosuzu Warabimichikura, a warabi mochi specialist. Warabi mochi differs from mochi as it’s made from bracken starch as opposed to pounded rice, and so has a lovely, gooey, jelly-like consistency. These ones come with a sweet and nutty soybean powder to shake over the top.
Your favourite place for tea?
Kamakura Club Tea House. It’s very traditional in the sense that they carefully think about each aspect of serving tea, from choosing the leaves to the preparation process to the ceramic and sweet with which it is served, but it’s also a beautiful space created from natural Japanese materials.
Are there any good Japanese homewares stores?
You can find some great antique and vintage gems at Artique Kamakura
What souvenir would you take from Kamakura?
OKASHI 0467 sable - nothing beats it.
The one place only locals know about?
Don’t leave before hiking the hidden path of Kinubariyama. This is a place that tourists rarely visit, but the views are breathtaking and the connection to nature is one that has inspired me for years.