Over a year ago I splashed out 5000 yen on some second hand hiking boots in anticipation of climbing Mount Fuji from base to summit but injury meant I had to pull out of that adventure a few days before we planned to do it. Those boots were still yet to be worn till last month and keen to do some actual hiking in them, I took a trip recently to Kamakura in Kanagawa prefecture.
This was my fourth trip to the city and my first since 2010 when my mate Hugo was over from Sweden for a couple of weeks. I’ve had it in my mind for a while to re-visit the area and see a few different parts but still decided to start my journey at Kita-Kamakura station as I’ve always done. From there I headed up the road to Jochi-ji temple where the Kuzuharagaoka hiking course begins adjacent to it.
Despite being a weekday the trail wasn’t quite as sparse as I’d hoped with groups of schoolgirls and oji-san clogging up the path where the first stop was Kuzuharagaoka-jinja which possesses two big stones tied to each other with fancy red string. They represent the gods of matchmaking and if you throw some coins in the box you’ll supposedly be married within a week! I kept my change in my pocket as I’m already married although by coincidence I did have my wedding ceremony two days later!
Not too much further along the trail was a pleasant open space (full of school kids on a school outing) possessing the statue of Minamoto no Yoritomo, the samurai founder of the Kamakura Shogunate (1185).
Autumn leaves in full red colour were very apparent in this area as well as at a small park not too far away.
I’d never even heard of Zeni-arai Benten when my student recommended this shrine a while back so I took a slight detour from the hiking trail to seek it out as it did sound like an interesting place. It was packed with yet more school kids and towards the far end of the shrine is a cave where it is considered good luck to wash your coins in the clear sacred water. I quickly performed this ritual in a very half-hearted manner and then made my way onto the next place.
I somehow managed to miss Sasuke Inari jinja shrine and didn’t turn back to find it and return to the hiking trail which I kind of regretted as the rest of the day was spent walking along boring roads. Eventually I got to Kōtoku-in temple (200 yen entry) which plays host to the 13.4 metre Daibutsu (Great Buddha) and even after so many visits, it’s still an awe-inspiring sight. Quite easy to see why it’s a national treasure and with clear blue skies and a hint of Autumn foliage it made for an even more beautiful natural backdrop.
My original plan was to do a few other sights (such as the beach at Yurigahama) before journeying on to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu complex but I didn’t wanna use too much energy up ahead of a busy wedding weekend so just went as direct as I could between what are probably the two biggest sights in Kamakura. This inevitably meant another dull walk rather than the hiking trails I craved.
The highlight of this place for me was the 60 steps that lead up to Hongu (Main Shrine) from Maiden and Wakamiya Shrine. As it was all free to enter I decided to visit the shrine museum (200 yen) which features some time-honoured treasures including weapons and objects of craftwork. It’s a very small museum and not really worth it unless you have some deep found interest in such things.
Within the precinct of the shrine, there are many historical buildings and places including the park which is an oasis of lotus ponds, lush greenery, a scenic bridge and a mountain view. It is the symbolic centre of the samurai government and stages religious, political and ceremonial activities.
There was a hiking course quite near to this shrine but enough was enough and so I ended up just walking the short distance to Kamakura station to take the train home. Three days later I would go hiking again but this time with my wife, her parents and the family dog. We went hiking in Sandankyo in Hiroshima prefecture and our wedding was sandwiched somewhere in the middle of these two hiking trips!