What To Do In Kanagawa, Japan | CoolJapan

It’s a no-brainer why Kanagawa is as popular as it is. Wedged between Tokyo and Mount Fuji, it is also home to Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city and offers two exceptional side trips to boot. The Great Buddha of Kamakura and hot springs resorts with views of Mount Fuji in Hakone are both excellent ways to bookend your Kanagawa visit.

One of Japan’s most famous icons, The Great Buddha of Kamakura must not be missed.

A stunning view of Mount Fuji from Hakone, famous for its sumptuous onsens.

One way to truly experience Kanagawa is through its endless streams of shotengai, a Japanese shopping street usually easily accessible to a subway station. Local shotengai are packed with a diverse mix of small speciality shops and large retailers.  Here, locals can get their daily groceries while tourists can hunt for treasures in the form of unique souvenirs and tasty bites.

Lose yourself in the seemingly infinite number of shops in shogentai.

In older neighbourhoods, the shogentai also serves as a cultural gathering space for holding seasonal festivals and other local events. Instead of modern shopping centres, how about shopping in a bona fide time capsule? Some of these shogentai are even a few hundred years old, except now they are dotted with niche boutiques, vintage shops, restaurants and bars.

A sterling example is the Yokohamabashi Shopping District. A local shopping street that has been selling daily commodities since before World War II, it has since been transformed into a vibrant shopping street with its nostalgic aura intact.

A mere three-minute walk from the Municipal Subway Bandobashi station, the 350-meter long arcade boasts a lineup of 135 stores. Especially popular are hand-made cutlets and croquettes. The airy arcade keeps the shopping street sheltered and it is traffic-free from 1PM to 10PM every day.

Other notable shogentai in diverse Yokohama are the futuristic seafront of Minatomirai full of international shops and restaurants and Motomachi-Chukagai. The latter, just a short distance away, is Japan’s largest Chinatown.

Another famous shopping area in Yokohama you shouldn’t miss is Isezakicho.  Affectionately nicknamed “Zaki” by Yokohama residents, it was named after “Isezakicho Blues” a popular song by Mina Aoe some decades ago. Just a few minutes' walk from JR Kannai Station, this shopping street is more than one kilometre-long and bound to banish any kind of blues!

Picture-perfect Isezakicho is at once hip and retro, a playground and a necessity all in one location.

Keep an eye out for Isebilu (Ise-building), a survivor of the 1945 bombing in Yokohama. Almost a century old, this elegant and regal building sits near the entrance of the street and was a pioneer of its time, offering on sale only luxurious items like upscale Western umbrellas and ties. Now, it is home to Coffee Nanbanya, a coffee bean shop in a narrow alley on its first floor, where you can agonise over choosing which coffee to bring home.

For something a little different, head over to Chigasaki where you can find a shogentai in a beach town. Zazan-dori shopping street stretches from the Twin Wave underpass of the Chigasaki Station South Exit to the Southern Beach Chigasaki area. In summer, both locals and tourists can be spotted in their beachwear traipsing through the shopping street to the shore. Imagine getting on the train from Shinjuku and being transported to the beach in just an hour. From Yokohama, it’s just 25 minutes away.  Come on a whim and you can be equipped with everything you need on the beach with rental shops that offer everything from beach mats to surfboards.

A fantastic respite from the bustling metropolis is only a 15-minute walk from Chigasaki Station.

After a relaxing soak in one of the superb onsens in Hakone, head over to Hakone Yumoto station square shopping district where over 70 shops including restaurants and cafes await you. Snack on onsen manju (buns filled with red bean paste) and kamaboko, a processed seafood product or pore over the endless choices of Yosegi zaiku (wooden mosaic work), a local handcraft.

Hakone is famous for Yosegi zaiku, an art form where intricately patterned wood in different grains, colours and textures are handcrafted perfectly together into puzzle boxes, trays and coasters.

Coffee aficionados will be led to ”Hakone Roasted Coffee” by the aroma of coffee beans freshly roasted in-store. Besides purchasing coffee beans, get your hands on the highly sought-after coffee milk soft-serve too.

Next time you’re in Japan, delve into this veritable melting pot of Japanese culture.  It’s the local shopping experience you never knew you needed.

Kanagawa, a blend of city and nature, has something for everyone.

You can also find Kanagawa in the series “Japan In A Box”, which will be made available starting end April. Besides delicious Yokohama Beer and Chosiya’s Matcha milk Zenzai, it will also feature Tako senbei and Loco senbei from Chigasaki and a beautiful Yosegi haiku coaster from Hakone. A perfect sampling of all that Kanagawa has to offer.

With an innate curiosity for the world, Poppy is an intrepid traveller who believes the next big adventure is always just around the corner.
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