Isabelle Despert-Okumura


Isabelle has been living in Kamakura for more than 20 years now. The city’s temples, its long beach and its holiday feeling first attracted her. Then, she became passionate by the history of this ancient capital, its aura among artists and intellectuals at the beginning of the 20th century and finally by the numerous matsuri (traditional festivals, often from Shinto origins). She shares this passion with everyone: locals, friends or visitors.

His/Her background

Born in France, she studied Chinese language and civilization at INALCO, in Paris. After graduation, she discovered South-East-Asia and settled in Singapore for three years. She taught French and was a licensed tour-guide, enjoying showing the ‘Lion City” to travellers. Destiny brought her further in Orient and once in Japan, she decided to live in Kamakura. Since then, she is teaching French, writing articles and helping travellers to discover her beautiful adopted town. She is a new Travel Angel. 

His/Her advice for you

Must-see :

Zen temples, the small temples and shrines hidden in the greenery. The local festivals, matsuri, dedicated to Shinto deities.

To bring back with you :

Kamakura-bori: objects made by carving patterns in wood, then lacquering it with several layers and polished. It dates back to the Kamakura period (1192-1333).

Things to do :

If you like walking, there are several hiking courses in the hills around the town. Some of them lead to touristic places such as the Great Buddha or Kenchoji temple. The beach, to see the Pacific Ocean, and why not take a dip? The water is warm from the end of June to the beginning of October. Go to Inamuragasaki park to see the sunset above the sea with Enoshima island and Mount Fuji in the background.

Words to Know :

"Sugoi" which means "great, amazing". The gigantesque size of the Great Buddha, the serenity and beauty of the temples : "sugoi"!

Dishes to Try :

“Shirasu”, meaning “whitebait”, is the generic name for juvenile sardines or anchovies. It’s a famous local specialty. They are eaten in a variety of ways, such as boiled, dried, and raw on a bowl of rice (called shirasu don). Dried, they go well with salads, omelets or even pizza!

Traps to avoid :

Kamakura is a very popular destination. Try to avoid going on week-ends and National Holidays, specially during New Year and the Golden week (from April 29 to May 5). It can be awfully crowded.