Kamakura, capital of Japan's first shogunate (1185-1333), once angled for a UNESCO-shaped stamp of approval. Under the title "Kamakura, Home of the Samurai" there were a number of landmarks included in the proposal. It was roundly rejected by UNESCO in 2013, who concluded that "tangible testimonies of the places of shogunal power, other than the temples, are few in number and are often rather inexplicit.

"The Medieval city of the plain is absent ... and today has been overlain by 20th century urban development."

And, after seeing the Daibutsu — the city's famed 13-meter tall bronze statue of Amida Buddha — it's easy to feel that Kamakura falls flat. Souvenir shops, food, entrance fees, tour groups: At first glance this seems to be it.