Kamakura on a Samurai View: Kuzuharagaoka-Daibatsu Hiking Course
After reading an article by japantourist.jp at last month issue of Metropolis Japan, I realized that hiking is the only thing that I never experience at the ancient town of Kamakura. What added to my curiosity to explore the recommended trail is the phrase mentioned “to feel like a medieval samurai—without the encumbering clothing”. So I tore the pages of the magazine (sorry about that), hurried to the train station and set to see Kamakura on a different view- the Samurai view.
Said to be same path used by the Samurai some 650 years ago, hiking the Kuzuharagaoka –Daibatsu course is relatively easy, with few tiring stairs and steep slopes, the rest are comparable to a walk in the park. The greatest reward that will make you feel thankful for taking the hike is primarily the peace away from the tourist, followed by the fresh air and the surrounding nature.
Since the article already highlighted the main points and attraction, I see no reason to divert from the recommended course. So, let me back track here a bit, retrace the hiking steps and maybe add a suggestion or two.
From Kamakura station, I waited patiently for bus no.1 to take me to Daibatsu-mae, though alternately, you can go directly to Hase Station and walk towards the Giant Buddha. Since, I have visited the Daibatsu plenty of time, I head straight towards the road tunnel ahead in search for the beginning of the trail. If you see an abandoned brick building on the right side (used to be Kamakura City Gymnasium), then you officially reach the starting point.
Climb the stairs and in few seconds, there is guide map post of the hiking course. Follow the markers along the way, which gladly has English translations and get lost on the fallen leaves, branches of trees and chirping birds and as per usual, be ready with your warmest “Konichawa” greeting.
After 40 minutes, I emerged from the trees to a pave road with few houses which I can only imagine how nice it must be to live there particularly during weekends. The recommended trail says that I should be reaching Genjiyama Park by then. After few minutes of debating in my head if I am on the right track, I reached Genjiyama Park.
Handfuls of people on a spacious park, just a lovely day to sit on the bench, relax for a while and go for the needed toilet break.
Located at Genjiyama Park is the remains of Hokkedo Buddha Hall Site, which now contains the tombstones of the Samurai Minamoto no Yoritomo and his second regent Hojo Yoshitoki.
After a few minutes and a recommended diversion from the trail, I went to visit the statue of Minamoto no Yoritimo, the Samurai Founder of the Kamakura Shogunate. The statue is appropriately located at the historical landmark of Kewaizaka Pass. Consider as one of Kamakura Seven Entrances, Kewaizaka Pass used to be a highly valuable road for the city’s defense and has witnessed several ancient combats.
Obviously, there is no way I can extract any Samurai secrets from Yoritomo-san, so I just move along and in few minutes reached Kuzuharagaoka Shrine. What set this shrine apart from the others I have mentioned so far is that this one said to guarantee that if a couple throw coins into the box located in front of the two big stones tied with red strings and utter some prayers- Voila! You are assured to be hitched within a week.
The usual, rectangular Ema (wooden block where visitors can write their prayers or wishes) are now replaced by a heart–shaped one. Love, you are an elusive thing.
After watching couples after couples performed the coin ceremony, I had enough of love hopefuls and went ahead hiking. The succeeding trail is almost the same minus the markers, so just trust your instinct and follow the unmistakable sound of the train crossing along Kita-Kamakura station.
Not convince that you are on a right path? Look down, there are surprising trail markers along the way, like this arrow written in chalk. Bless who ever drew this arrow.
You will know that you completed the hike once you see several bamboo-gated houses along the slopes towards Jochi-ji Temple. From here, you should consider this as a perfect opportunity to explore the Kita-Kamakura area. Though, I can call it a day and head straight home, I took the opportunity to visit one temple at Kita-Kamakura area that I never been to- Kenchoji Temple.
Consider as the oldest Zen temple in Kamakura, Kenchoji temple ground is huge and requires an hour to explore. One of the most amazing spot in the temple is the Hatto (Dharma Hall), which houses the statue of Kannon and a dragon-decorated ceiling.
What makes my visit to Kenchoji even more satisfying was seeing two lovely, kimono-clad Japanese ladies, in picture-perfect harmony with everything about the temple. I was busy photographing the temple, when I was asked by them to take their souvenir photo.
Another satisfying trip to the beautiful town of Kamakura. Now time to head home.
Thank you japantourist.jp for this recommended hiking course!