Would you like to touch nature in Kamakura?
There are several hiking courses in Kamakura, a city surrounded by mountains and the sea. If you are the type of person who doesn’t like to do the same thing as other people do, or if you have visited Kamakura before and you think you’d like to do something new, this course is perfect for you!
Although most guidebooks show this exciting hiking course starting from Kencho-ji Temple in Kita-Kamakura, I prefer to begin the tour starting from Zuisen-ji Temple (it is usually the end). There are three good reasons for this. 1) The first ten minutes is quite easy and you can warm up your legs during that time. 2) After thirty minutes, you can reach a wide-open space that is perfect for a picnic lunch or tea. 3) The last ten minutes of the hike you will be going down a long steep stairs, but it’s easier than going up as many people have to do!
Preparing for the Hike
Please dress lightly (unless it’s a cold day) and wear sneakers. There are not only tough ups and downs in the mountain, but also narrow slippery rocks and cliffs. And remember to bring something to drink and eat with you. This will help you feel refreshed along the route.
Japanese Language Fun
I hope you remember two Japanese words. The kanji character of Tenen (天園) and the pronunciation of “Kon-nichi-wa” (hello). A few times along the way, you will need to change direction at an intersection marked by a wooden sign, so you need to confirm the direction you are going. Always go towards Tenen (天園). And as you walk, many Japanese will be passing by you going in the opposite direction. If you say “Kon-nichiwa” with a friendly smile, you will receive their friendly smile back with their own “Kon-nichiwa” to you. And after repeating “Kon-nichiwa”, hundreds of times, you will be able to pronounce it perfectly!
Take a bus from the No.4 Terminal in front of the East exit at Kamakura station. Your stop is the end of the line, Kamakura-gu (鎌倉宮). It will take around ten minutes if traffic is not heavy. After you get off the bus, walk around the shrine, where you will find a stream. Then walk straight along the stream for about seven minutes. Along the way, you’ll see tennis courts on the left. There used to be many samurai residences along this street, so even now you can see big Japanese houses here. In any case, you should go to Zuisen-ji Temple (瑞泉寺) and once you reach it, walk in through the temple gate. You will see a regular two-story brown house on the right (see photo). Just before you reach the house, turn right. Walk past the house and immediately on the left you will see a tiny path (see photo). This is your starting point! Are you ready?!
Things to Keep a Lookout For
Try to keep your eye open for stone figures in small cave-like cavities in the hillside. These are sometimes grave markers, and sometimes gods watching over the path. This was not very common in other parts of Japan, but was quite common in Kamakura in the days of the samurai. The forest you walk through consists of mainly oak, beech, and maple trees. And during your hike, you will suddenly come upon a bamboo grove and then a scattering of bamboo grass. This will definitely make you feel “Hey! I’m in Japan!” In the middle of the course, you can take a nice rest in a big field of green grass. Be careful, sometimes it is wet.
The last 20 minutes includes a small temple where good luck amulets are offered. They are called Hanzo-bo (半僧坊). On a crisp sunny day, you can see the great Mt. Fuji from a small observation deck. Go down a little bit more and you will reach another deck that faces the sea and mountains around Kamakura. What a wonderful view! I prefer to eat lunch here, not in the grass field.
Toward the goal
You are almost at the end of the course. Just go down the stairs towards Kencho-ji Temple passing through Hanzobo. Whether you decide to go and see this famous temple or not, you will enjoy many kinds of flowers and some small temples along the way. When you reach the main road, turn right and walk straight for 15 minutes. This will bring you to JR Kita-Kamakura Station.
Kamakura samurai traveled along this route 650 years ago. Why don’t you imagine that you too are a samurai and trek this course the same way they did?!
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Japan is a small island nation, but we have a huge number of surprising things to discover here. Many of these delights can be found when you step off the main street onto small side paths. I really enjoy studying about and researching various aspects of traditional Japanese culture, and then sharing this information with visitors to Japan. I hope you will enjoy it, too! ARTICLE INDEX & PHOTOS: An index of most of my Japan Travel articles can be found at the entry page of my blog, and my photos are shown here. 日本はとても小さな国ですが、大通りから一本小道に入ればたくさんの発見があります。日本人が積み重ねてきた歴史を学びながら、古い建物や庭を訪ね、物語の舞台となった景色を眺めて、皆様といっしょに日本文化の奥深さを探求していきたいと思います。