Kanagawa is a coastal prefecture in Japan, located within a short distance of Tokyo. The capital of the prefecture is Yokohama.
Kanagawa Prefecture is also home to Kamakura and Hakone, two other highly popular day trip destinations that you can easily reach from Tokyo.
Kanagawa has a lot to offer for visitors to the region, such as rich cultural heritage, tasty cuisine and entertaining nightlife. It's worth spending some time here and exploring this unique area of Japan.
Within this helpful travel guide I will unearth the hidden gems that are worth discovering around the Kanagawa Prefecture.
Here are the Hidden Gems of the Kanagawa Prefecture
Yokohama, the Capital of Kanagawa
Start your journey to Kanagawa Prefecture by visiting the city of Yokohama.
Yokohama is one of the largest cities in Japan. At the end of the Edo period in 1859, the city port opened to foreign trade, and Yokohama grew quickly from a small fishing community into one of Japan's major port cities.
Yokohama remains popular among expats and international communities as it is seen to be the first city in Japan that opened to the outside world.
This is one of the reasons why international sports is popular in Yokohama, and you can find big stadiums with local teams, such as baseball, soccer and rugby there.
Additionally, international cuisine and nightlife are popular in Yokohama, making this an exciting city to visit on a trip to Japan.
Getting to Yokohama
The quickest way to Yokohama is by the Tokaido Shinkansen, a high-speed rail line which stops at Shin-Yokohama Station.
The rail line connects the city of Yokohama to many major cities around Japan, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya and Osaka. Journey time from Tokyo to Shin-Yokohama Station is around 18 minutes.
Another alternative is Yokohama Station which is the most popular and affordable option for reaching Yokohama from Tokyo with a journey time of around 45 minutes.
It's a popular commuter route and over two million passengers take this journey daily so bear in mind the busy commuter times as it can get crowded.
If you fly into Tokyo Haneda International Airport, you can easily take the Keikyu Line to Yokohama Station, and the journey time is around 23 minutes.
Whilst in Yokohama, it's easy and affordable to get around using the public metro service called the Yokohama Municipal Subway. Both the Minatomirai Line and Kanazawa Seaside Line will help you to access many of the main sites, areas and attractions in the city.
As you can see from the suggestions above, Yokohama is easily accessible from Tokyo by using a number of different options, so you have no excuse not to visit.
Accommodation: Y's Cabin hotel – Kannai, Yokohama
If you're looking for something different and a unique Japanese place to stay in Yokohama, why not try a capsule hotel?
Y's Cabin hotel can be found in the Kannai district of Yokohama, and it makes a great base location for your visit to Kanagawa Prefecture with easy access to public transport.
In the late 1970s, capsule hotels became popular options for Japanese salarymen who happened to miss trains home or were away on business looking for affordable sleeping arrangements. In recent years, capsule hotels have also become popular amongst international travellers looking for affordable budget options.
Capsule hotels work in a similar way to hostels where you share a large common room space (male and female sleeping areas and bathroom sections are separated), and each guest is assigned a personal private space called a pod. Within each pod you will find your bed, sheets, PJ's, towel, locker storage, TV and privacy shade – everything you would need to make your stay comfortable. It's your own private pod that you have to yourself to get a good night’s sleep.
I would class Y's Cabin hotel as a more upscale luxury version of the capsule hotel concept as the cabin space is modern and clean and makes for a wonderful first capsule hotel experience.
You also have access to private hot bath called onsen where you can relax after a long day of traveling around Kanagawa Prefecture.
If it's your first stay at a capsule hotel, be sure to observe the rules and customs and follow the instructions given to you by the staff members at check in. Enjoy your stay in this unique Japanese environment.
Rugby World Cup 2019 in Yokohama, Japan
Japan will host the Rugby World Cup in 2019, and Yokohama will be a host city for some of the biggest games of the tournament. The games will be held at the International Stadium, Yokohama.
- New Zealand vs South Africa - 21/09/2019 @ 18:45
- Ireland vs Scotland - 22/09/2019 @ 16:45
- England vs France - 12/10/2019 @ 17:15
- Japan vs Scotland - 13/10/2019 @ 19:45
Additionally, there will be Quarter Final and Semi Final games held in Yokohama. Yokohama is known for being a popular city for hosting sports events so be sure to stick around in the city after the game and enjoy the atmosphere of the fan zone area.
The Cupnoodles Museum, Yokohama
Yes, you read the title correctly. You can visit a museum in Yokohama to learn about the history of the popular Japanese snack, the cup noodles.
Momofuku Ando is the creator and founder of the instant ramen noodles and cup noodles. At the museum you can learn about his creative process that started in his work shed and lead to these great food inventions. The first instant ramen noodles (chicken flavour) were sold in 1958, and the convenient snack grew in popularity in both Japan and around the world ever since.
After a trip to California, Momofuku Ando decided to create instant ramen noodles served in a cup to make the snack easier to consume and attract an international audience. Launched in 1971, the cup noodles were a big success, and the instant ramen cup noodles concept has been popular ever since.
The fun doesn't stop there. Once you've learned about the history of the cup noodles, you can make your very own cup noodles to take home with you. Be sure to visit My Cupnoodles Factory and create cup noodles from scratch. You can choose your own ingredients and packaging design. It’s a super fun experience for ramen noodle fans of all ages!
Momofuku Ando travelled the world to find new flavours and concepts for his instant ramen noodles. Be sure to visit the Noodles Bazaar to follow his ramen journey. The menu features eight varieties of noodles that he encountered during his travels in search of the origins of noodles.
Enjoy the noodle culture from every corner of the world in an ambient night market setting. From Italian pasta to Malaysian Laksa you can sample all the different flavours and noodle tastes from around the world.
For those brave enough, you can even try curry or miso flavoured cup noodle ice cream. It’s an acquired taste but worth trying for the unique flavours.
Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
Don't end your Yokohama ramen adventure yet but head on over to Shin-Yokohama to visit the Ramen Museum. If you happen to be a fan of the ramen noodles, this place will blow your mind.
The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is best described as a food court themed around Tokyo, Japan in the 1950s when the ramen dish was first created. The entrance of the food court will walk you through a train station to give you the impression that you have gone back in time.
Walk around the area and enjoy the displays which give you a nostalgic feeling. It's well designed and put together, and they even have street performers and police officers from the era walking around. You will find a selection of around 12 vendors selling a wide variety of ramen noodles. Each shop represents a ramen shop front. This means, you can try all the different ramen flavours from across Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu in one location, such as Fukuchan, Ide Shoten, Shinasobaya, Keyaki, Ryushanhai and Hachiya ramen.
Simply grab a map, select the ramen you wish to try and then purchase a ticket from the vending machine outside the shop. For those wanting to try all the different ramen bowls during one visit – you can! Each location has a small sample ramen bowl for you to enjoy the local flavours as you can. A word of advice before visiting: make sure that you arrive at the Ramen Museum with an empty stomach as you will be tempted to try multiple bowls of ramen during your visit. Enjoy!
Enjoy Nightlife in the Noge district
If you're looking for a good time and fancy some nightlife, look no further than the Noge district in Yokohama. I would recommend some spots for you to visit but I personally think it's best to arrive in the Noge district and simply get lost and let the night take over and guide your plans.
First off, arrive at Yokocho street which is located along the Ookawagawa River. This street is especially popular for its old-fashioned Japanese atmosphere. Here you will find a large selection of bars lined up against each other in old wooden buildings that bend around the river. Each bar has a cosy space and can only fit around eight people at a time including the bar staff. The bars serve a selection of beer, drinks, cocktails or Izakaya snacks for customers to enjoy.
It's a fun experience with a small group of friends and you never know where you might end up so choose wisely and have a wonderful evening. What I loved about the Noge district the most was how the bars were different from each other and each location had a local and welcoming atmosphere. It's fun to hop around visiting multiple locations in one night to get the feel of the place.
I also had a great experience asking the bar staff for recommendations for a place to visit and often the owner would walk us personally to the recommended spot. You get a real sense of community and fun with the locals in the Noge district.
Explore China Town
When visiting Japan, it must feel rather odd to seek out Chinese culture, but the China Town area of Yokohama is the biggest in the country and a vibrant part of the city to explore. With its bright lights, colourful decorations and tasty dishes, it's worth spending some time here exploring the back streets for a bite to eat.
Keep a good look out for a long line and this should lead you to a wide selection of tasty steamed buns called Manju that are worth trying.
Take a Walk Along the Harbour Front
Start your walk by visiting Yamashita Park, which is closely located to China town. Here you will find a stretch of park land located close to the water. This space is frequently used by the locals to relax and exercise – it is a popular running route. Along this path, you can get a great skyline view of the city. In this area you can also find Osanbashi Pier, Hikawa Maru ship and Yokohama Marine Tower which offers a nice viewing platform.
Enjoy a Peaceful Journey Around Hakone
Hakone is located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park just west of Yokohama and Tokyo. Here you will find Lake Ashi, the Owakudani geothermal valley with hot springs as well as the Hakone shrine.
The mountainous town is best known for its endless amount of nature. The trees offer a beautiful autumn time foliage and stunning views of the vast lake. On a clear day you can even see the striking Mount Fuji in the background.
In Hakone you can find hot spring resorts (onsen) created from the sulphur springs of the Owakudani valley. Another stunning place to check out is the Hakone Shrine, a Shinto shrine with a red “torii” gate overlooking Lake Ashi. The shrine can also be enjoyed from the boat cruise at a distance.
Purchase a Hakone Free Pass – Hakone Transport Pass
For those visiting Hakone, be sure to check out the Hakone Free Pass which is a great way for travelers on a budget to explore the region. The Hakone Free Pass is valid for 2 days and you can purchase the pass at Odawara railway station. You can reach the station from Yokohama or Tokyo.
The Hakone Free Pass gives you unlimited transportation on the Hakone Tozan railway, Hakone Tozan buses, the Hakone Tozan cable car, Hakone ropeway, Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, Odakyu Hakone Expressway buses and Numazu Tozan Tokai buses. The pass pretty much covers your whole journey around Hakone and will take you to all the top attractions making navigation nice and easy.
Be sure to pick up a map with the timetables and work out your best route – you can travel around in a loop formation trying all the transportation options with the pass. My recommendation is to arrive early at Odawara railway station to collect your pass and take the Hakone Tozan railway to access the Hakone ropeway. The ropeway then brings you to a Sightseeing Cruise and onwards to Odawara by bus creating a nice loop route that covers all the main sights.
As the Hakone Free Pass covers 2 days you can also stay overnight at one of the onsen resorts and enjoy the area longer – the option is yours.
Hakone Tozan Railway
Being the only mountain railway in Japan, Hakone Tozan railway is a special experience for Japanese railway lovers and enthusiasts. The journey will take you from Hakone-Yumoto station (96 meters above sea level) to the final station, Gora (541 meters above sea level). The journey time to the top of the mountain is around 40 minutes. During the journey the trains will perform a track manoeuvre called a switchback.
What is a switchback? Great question. I'll do my best to explain this unique train ritual. A switchback allows other trains to pass by on a single track as they go up and down the mountain.
This is done by the drivers reserving the train into a parking bay to allow other trains to pass and switch the direction of the trains. Each time this happens, the driver and conductor switch compartments, and this occurs several times throughout the journey.
It's rather interesting to watch the driver and conductor perform this unique routine that has been done this way for many years whilst enjoying the journey up to the mountain. It's for sure a unique train journey to enjoy in Japan.
Owakudani – Geothermal Valley
From Gora to Sounzan you can take a transporter up the hill to reach the cable car. From Sounzan to Owakudani you can take the Tozan cable car to reach this point. Once you've finally reached Owakudani, be sure to spend some time here as you can find a selection of viewing platforms and take a good look of the surrounding valley and the geothermal activity that is taking place in the area.
You can clearly see all the steam created from the hot active lava of the volcano. This is why one of the most popular attractions in the area is a selection of naturally heated hot springs called onsen.
Another popular attraction to enjoy here is the black egg called Kuro Tamago. The egg is cooked in a geothermal spring until the egg goes black. You can purchase the eggs in the visitor centre in a bag of five. Locals believe that if you eat a black egg, you can add seven years of longevity to your life. Don't eat too many!
The Hakone ropeway offers stunning views over the valley and of the autumn foliage. The ropeway will take you from Owakudan to Togendai where you can access the cruise boats that will furthermore take you across Lake Ashi.
Hakone Sightseeing Cruise
Before you get on the cruise boat, why not take a lunch break in the small town of Togendai? It’s located around the dock and looks over Lake Ashi. I would recommend enjoying a Japanese curry at the restaurant Ran located a short walk away from the dock. The best way to enjoy Lake Ashi is to enjoy a peaceful cruise across the waters. A selection of boats run this route which is included within the Hakone Free Pass.
I'd recommend waiting for the iconic pirate ship if you can so you can feel like a captain of the sea throughout your voyage. This also happens to be the best viewpoint to see Mount Fuji, so fingers crossed for you that you end up with a clear day and can enjoy a good sighting.
Hakone Shrine and the Floating Gate
Hakone Shrine is a Shinto shrine nestled peacefully in the woods on top of a hill.
The steps start from Lake Ashi and lead up the hill to the Hakone Shrine. At the foot of the steps you will also find a picturesque floating gate which looks over the lake and makes for a perfect Instagram spot.
A word of warning if you wish to take a photo of the floating gate: you won't be alone as many photographers line up to capture the moment. You might have to wait for your turn for some time. During our visit in the autumn 2018, Hakone Shrine was under construction but still open for visitors. The renovation should be completed in 2019.
Hakone Shrine is a peaceful place to walk around for a while so do spend some time here exploring the grounds. You can also purchase a fortune telling slip at the entrance and see if it brings you good fortune.
The Hakone Sightseeing Cruise stops close by to the shrine and you can stop off in a small town called MotoHakone-Ko for a relaxing coffee break at popular spots, such as Bakery and Table where you can look over Lake Ashi.
You can also get the bus from MotoHakone-Ko back to the train station Yumoto. From there you can take a train back to Odawara and then onwards to Yokohama/Tokyo, which will complete your loop around Hakone.
Hope you have fun exploring Hakone.
Spend Some Time Exploring Kamakura
Kamakura is a Japanese seaside city in Kanagawa Prefecture just south of Tokyo and Yokohama. In medieval times, Kamakura was an important political capital of Japan, which is one of the main reasons you will find many historical and important landmarks here, such as Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. Today, the city is a popular resort town. Sometimes called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura offers numerous temples, shrines and other historical monuments to visit.
Taiizan Kotokuin Shojosenji is a Buddhist temple that is known for its giant Great Buddha, a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which is one of the most famous iconic landmarks in Japan.
At Sagami Bay you will find the popular visitor spot, Yuigahama Beach which is a great for surfing and catching the waves or just relaxing on the beach. In addition, Kamakura's sandy beaches attract large crowds during the summer months.
Here is what else you can find in Kamakura city.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is Kamakura's most important shrine. It was founded in 1063 and enlarged and moved to its current site in 1180. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the samurai.
During the New Year holidays, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is visited by over two million visitors. It is one of the country's most popular shrines for hatsumode (the year’s first visit to a shrine).The shrine is located along a wide stretch that starts from the water front and leads you through the city passing many bridges and gateways. Finally, you will reach a flight of steps that take you to the top of the main hall that overlooks Kamakura from above. A great way to walk around and explore the city.
The hall also includes a museum which displays a selection of masks, swords, ancient documents and other treasures. Be sure to check out the large and impressive display of donated sake barrels that can be found on display next to the steps. During my visit I was lucky enough to witness a wedding ceremony taking place at the shrine. It's a popular attraction in the city to explore for sure.
Houkokuji - Bamboo Forest and Tea Ceremony
For a less crowded bamboo forest than the one in Kyoto, be sure to visit the more relaxing Houkokuji bamboo forest in Kamakura.
Often referred to by visitors as the bamboo temple, this location can at first be hard to find as it's nestled within a residential area off the beaten path. However, you will be beating the crowds that can often found at other bamboo forests.
Walk around and enjoy the ambiance and relaxing atmosphere of the bamboo forest. Be sure to take a seat and take in your surroundings at the tea house and enjoy a casual tea ceremony. The tea is bitter but tasty with home-made sweet treats.
Sit back, relax and take it all in. Perfect spot for those wanting some inner peace.
Cooking Knives at Sword Masamune
You will find a lot of historical heritage in the city of Kamakura but for a unique experience be sure to visit the cooking knives shop called Masamune Sword and Blade Workshop.
In ancient times this shop used to make swords for the samurai, and the skill of sword making has been passed on through the family.
The current owner is an 8th generation swordsmith but as the samurai are no longer around today, the swordsmith skill has moved on to making everyday kitchen knives.
Be sure to visit the shop, meet the owner, and check out this unique workshop and swords on display. Why not take a part of Japanese skill home with you and purchase an authentic Japanese kitchen knife? From fish knives to vegetable knives, they have a large selection to choose from.
These knives are top quality and extremely sharp, just like the samurai swords. Perfect way to remember your time in Kamakura, Japan.
Okonomiyaki Kamakura Tsukui for Lunch
Making Okonomiyaki is a fun cooking experience with a group of friends when traveling around Japan. Made popular in Osaka, you can still find this food being prepared in other parts of Japan like in Kamakura at a restaurant called Okonomiyaki Kamakura Tsukui.
The idea is to mix eggs with vegetables, such as bean sprouts, and a seafood, such as squid and shrimps.
Then you cook the mixture in front of you on a hot plate grill until the food turns crispy golden brown. Once cooked, you can add fish flakes and sauce in the mix for additional flavour.
This is an interactive Japanese cooking experience which is fun to try with friends. Most importantly, the food is extremely delicious, something you must try on a trip to Japan.
Kamakura Shopping Along Komachi-dori Street
Before you leave Kamakura, be sure to make the most out of all the exciting shopping that can be found along Komachi-dori Street.
Starting from Kamakura JR station you will find the entrance marked by a red torii gate. Along this popular street you can find a large selection of boutique fashion outlets, Japanese souvenir gift shops and countless cafes, restaurants and bakeries to choose from.
Komachi-dori Street is also a good spot to find Kimono rental shops. Walking around in this traditional piece of clothing can be a fun way to explore ancient Kamakura.
Thank you for reading about Kanagawa Prefecture.
I hope you've found this in-depth travel guide about Kanagawa Prefecture useful and full of information for your next visit to the region.
Have fun exploring the areas of Yokohama, Hakone and Kamakura on your next trip to Japan.
Travel tip shared by Dave for Travel Dudes.