An Easy Hike with Sights Along the Way
For hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers, life in Tokyo (as in any big city) can easily get you down. But only an hour away is the quiet town of Kamakura which has a short hiking trail – easy access and an abundance of tourist information online make this a popular spot for walkers.
If you want to get out and about and enjoy some fresh air, this is the place for you!
Also known as the Daibutsu Hiking Course (Great Buddha hiking course) the Kamakura Hiking Trail is a gentle 2km walk which winds up hills, through forests and swings by several spots for sightseeing. (Note that the length of the trail is sometimes quoted as being anything up to 6km long – it depends what you include but the basic walk is not nearly so lengthy!)
It’s not a difficult climb but quite steep in places.
Through the forest, there are spots where the path disappears under a tangle of tree roots, and you find yourself scrambling more so than climbing. If you just set out to do the walk without stopping off anywhere it won’t take you very long at all, but in the Kamakura area there are around sixty temples and twenty shrines to see, so there’s plenty to keep you busy if you want to spend the day there.
Is it Worth Going to?
If you love stomping about in fresh, open air and getting away from it all, the Kamakura Hiking Trail is made for you.
Things to See and Do
The trail starts a short distance away from the JR Kita-Kamakura Station, or near the Hase Station on the Enoden, and in between the two is the Shokozan Tokeiji Temple.
Founded in 1285, Tokei-ji Temple is known as the “divorce temple” and has a fascinating history. If you want to get to know the area before setting off on the walk, this is a great place to see some local history and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
You have a fairly uninterrupted walk up the hill from this point until you reach a clearing at the top which is used as a picnic area. There are a few little stalls selling snacks, and of course, there are vending machines nearby too, but it’s best to take a packed lunch with you in case the stalls aren’t open.
If the stomp to the top hasn’t helped to rid you of your stress and anxieties, have a go at “魔去ル石 (ma saru ishi).” You purchase a little clay plate for 100 Yen and smash it on a rock. It is supposed to symbolize letting go of negative things in your life and moving on, and at the very least is an entertaining way to spend a hundred yen.
Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine
A little way down the other side of the hill is the Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine – quite a mouthful! Perhaps not the most stunning temple/shrine in the area but worth a visit if you’re planning on spending the whole day along the hike. Set down in a hollow in the steep rock face, this is a colorful shrine that billows with smoke.
Close by is the Minamoto no Yoritomo statue – not really of any particular interest but a nice little spot to sit if the picnic area is crowded.
From this point, there is one more peak to climb before descending from the forest. However, just because the walk has ended doesn’t mean it’s time to go home!
A short walk away from the end of the trail is the most popular and well-known attraction of Kamakura, the Daibutsu (big Buddha).
Daibutsu: The Great Buddha in Kamakura
Built in 1252, it has yet to succumb to earthquake, typhoon or storm. This formidable statue weighs more than ninety tons and is thirteen meters tall. It even makes a cameo appearance in the 1956 version of Around the World in 80 Days.
Hase-dera Temple: Home to Countless Jizo Statues
Just a stone’s throw away from the Buddha is another temple well worth seeing called Hase-dera (Hase Temple). It is home to hundreds of Jizō statues as well as a striking wooden statue of the Goddess of Mercy (Kannon), an underground cave and stunning little gardens.
This is a great place to end your hike, and you could even finish up with a walk on the beach – it’s a bit grungy with litter left in the sand, but it doesn’t mar the view of the sunset.
How to Get There
The trail starts a short distance away from the JR Kita-Kamakura Station.
- It can get busy on weekends and public holidays, but even then it tends to be the attractions that are bustling rather than the trail itself.
- I recommend taking a packed lunch and making a day of it – the temples and shrines only cost a few hundred yen each to visit, and with the Hase Station (near the Great Buddha statue) at one end and the Kita-Kamakura Station at the other, it is convenient for those using public transportation.
- Free maps of the city and general outlines of the hiking trails are sometimes available at the station.