Hidden Kamakura: The Daibutsu Hiking Course

Hidden Kamakura: The Daibutsu Hiking Course

by Steve Morton
JapanTravel

For anyone who has visited Kamakura you will most probably already have been dazzled by its rich cultural heritage and natural beauty. On the downside however, its bustling crowds and numerous tourist shops threaten to destroy those very things which you have come see.

Fortunately, the Diabutsu Hiking Course located in Kamakura`s western hills offers a great respite, providing a more natural and authentic way to enjoy this exceptional city.

This pleasant walk takes about 90 minutes, running from Kita-Kamakura Station to the Great Buddha at Kotoku-in Temple, passing through several sections of picturesque forest. Some of its highlights include the impressive Zeniarai Benten and Sasuke Inari Shrine, both of which are free! In addition, the spacious Genjiyama Park is perfect for taking a pit-stop.

The starting point

From Kita Kamakura Station, turn right where you will see a main road with some traffic lights. From here, turn left where after several minutes you will pass Tokei-ji Temple to your right. Interestingly, from outside the main entrance you can see a small Buddha which is a miniature version of the giant Buddha found at the end of this hike at Kotoku-in Temple.

Several meters along the main road you’ll reach a turning on your right with a bright red post box and many large signs pointing you towards Jochi-ji Temple located a couple of meters away.

Set within a beautiful forest interior, it is best approaching this temple through its impressive front gardens which contain a beautiful little pond, and a long stone staircase leading up to the main entrance.

Jochi-ji is one of the five main Zen temples in Kamakura, famous for containing a statue of Hoetei; the God of Happiness. The entrance fee is 200 yen although for the budget conscious amongst us, the beautiful outer garden can be viewed for free!

The start of the Daibutsu Hiking Course is situated to the left of this temple along a road leading up to a path which runs into the ascending forest.

At first you will see many bamboo trees before passing through some small boulders where at the top of a small hill are several miniature religious monuments.

To Genjiyama Park

After about 20 minutes, you’ll reach Genjiyama Park. On weekdays this is a great place to have lunch and weather permitting, great views of Mount Fuji.

Opposite this park is Kuzuharagaoka Shrine. Built in 1887 under the orders of the Meiji Emperor, this site commemorates the execution of Toshimo Hino who tried to lead an unsuccessful revolt against the Kamakura Shogunate during the thirteenth century.

To re-join the hiking course, head towards the center of the park and follow the signs which should take you down a steep road leading to Zenirai Benton Shrine.

Zeniarai Benten and Sauke Inari Shrine

Towards the bottom of this hill is a large torii, (gate) with a pathway leading through a rock tunnel to Zeniarai Benten. When entering this shrine you will notice its most interesting feature lays in the fact that it is surrounded by a high rock wall making it almost invisible from the outside. Legend has it that you can double your money by washing it in this shrine`s spring water, making it a popular place for anyone who likes money.

After enthusiastically washing your money, head out of the tunnel and continue down this road for several minutes until you reach a Y-section within a residential area where you`ll see a sign pointing you towards your next destination, Sasuke Inari Shrine.

At first glance you will probably be overwhelmed by an endless flight of stairs leading up a steep hill through a thick sea of red torii with several Inari, (white foxes) peering out at you. To re-join the trail, take the zigzag path on your left that ascends up a small hill.

Nearing the end

The path at the top of this hill re-connects to the hiking course. From here it`s about another 20 minute descent through more forest until you reach a main road where there is a large tunnel on the right. Turn left and follow this road for several hundred meters where you`ll finally arrive at Kotoku-in, (the Great Buddha). Although there is a 200 yen entrance fee, this is quite reasonable considering it's one of Kamakura`s star attractions.

If your still feeling energetic, it`s a 1.4 kilometer walk back to Kamakura Station, otherwise you can catch any bus running from the stop outside the entrance of this temple.

When approaching the station, the endless rows of souvenir shops will make you thankful for the few hours of relative peace and tranquility that this great hiking course has given you; something which is too easily lost amongst the swarms of camera flashing tourists.

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