Daibutsu Hiking Trail: Kamakura (鎌倉市)

As always I woke up early. Way too early. I had my alarm clock for 7am, but I was awake at 5:30 and couldn’t keep still in bed. I was itching to get the day started since I was really looking forward to going to Kamakura so off I went on my two-day trip out of the city. Kamakura is a beach town about an hour south of Tokyo, so of course that meant I arrived  at around 7am at Kita-kamakura Station.
I did stick pretty well to my schedule to day one walking to Daibutsu along the Daibutsu Trail before doing some anime screenshot searching at Gokurakuji Station. My plans of day two for Hokokuji and Enoshima were ruined, but I’ll talk about that some other time. In case you want to follow the places I’ll be talking about, here’s the itinerary I did:

Kita-kamakura Station ——> Tokei-ji Temple ——> Jochi-ji Temple ——> Daibutsu Hiking Trail ——> Kuzuharagaoka Jinja ——> Tomb of Hino Toshimoto ——> Genjiyama Park ——> Zeniarai Benten ——> Sasuke Inari Shrine ——> Daibutsu ——> Hase-dera ——> Hase Station ——> Gokurakuji Station ——> Gokurakuji Temple ——> Jojuin ——> Kamakura Graveyard ——> Yuigahama Beach

For those of you wanting to do the Daibutsu hiking course, note that the bathroom at Kita-kamakura Station is right next to the information booth, but on the inside of the station. I realised this once I was already outside and cursed silently to myself once I realised I’d have to wait until the afternoon when I reached my hostel. Tokei-ji is right next to the road heading towards the start of the trail, and it opens at 9am. I could only take a photo from the outside but stopped there all the same to eat my breakfast.

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Click!
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View from the top of the steps leading to Tokei-ji
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This is the street you’re looking for as the start of the trail

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One thing that surprised me during my trip were the little papers stuck on surfaces around temple grounds or their entrance ways. They are called senjafuda and have the name of the worshipper of the temple on them. Apparently the higher you manage to stick it the better.

Not even having started my walk I realised I had no idea where the trail actually started, but a man ran up to me, excited to see a tourist so early in the morning (apparently I look French and he spoke French so he was keen to help me out). He dissappeared into a restaurant and came out a few minutes later with a map and pointed the way to the start of the trail.
The trail officially starts at Jochi-ji. It was a pity it was also closed at this time since it looks like it would’ve been beautiful from closer up. On the good side, I had the trail all to myself and could stop and appreciate the nature without interruptions. The only people I crossed before reaching Kuzuharagaoka Jinja were a schoolgirl and a foreigner who’s been living in Kamakura for the past twenty years doing her morning exercise before work.

Kuzuharagaoka Jinja doesn’t usually appear on the maps I’ve seen, or at least I had trouble finding out its name later on, but you cross through the middle of it along the Daibutsu trail anyway. Here I spotted a priest wearing a green kariginu. He was the first person I’d seen wearing traditional clothing and I was extremely honoured and nervous when he walked by me.

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You throw one of these small plates against a rock and it washes away the bad luck you’re carrying. I’m not really a cat person and never take photos of cats, but this one must’ve been rolling around on the broken plates for a while because it was full of dust.

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Continuing my way, I found a Hanako toilet I was grateful for as well as a quick detour to Genjiyama Park. There’s a fork in the path after Kuzuharagaoka Jinja; if you head right you continue the trail to Zeniarai Benten, but if you head left you can take a quick stop in Genjiyama Park and see the statue of Minamoto Yoritomo before turning around and heading back to the main path. It will only take a couple of minutes extra walking there and back and I’m sure the park would be beautiful in autumn.

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The statue in question

Just a few minutes later I arrived to Zeniarai Benten and took the standard photo of the tunnel entrance. Zeniarai Benten Shrine is one of the most popular spots in Kamakura, but if we’re being honest I don’t think it was worth all the noise. The tunnel at the start is interesting, but other than that there isn’t much to see. Anyhow, if you’re in the area a stop here won’t hurt. They have a nice koi pond and a small cave with lots of origami cranes put together in the senbazuru waterfall style which is quite impressive.

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Zeniarai Benten entrance

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According to the instructions I’d found on the internet, Sasuke Inari Shrine was along the Daibutsu trail, but all the signs in the area pointed towards the town. I asked a local-looking man for help and he told me to just follow the trail. After a while I did find a smaller trail with a sign pointing to the shrine. It turns out the shrine is on the edge of the town and the trail, and you can either come in from the bottom of the line of torii gates from the town or from above the shrine through the millions of fox statues. It was lucky I was looking for this place specifically (it comes out in the anime Elfen Lied) or I might’ve walked right past it. It was definitely one of my favourites.

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Reaching the shrine from the trail after pushing my way through some bushes

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A good alternative for those of us who couldn’t go to Fushimi Inari in Kyoto!
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These fox statues were everywhere on the ground around the shrine.
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View from the trail

From this point on the trail was shared by many school kids starting from the other side of the trail and just fifteen minutes or so later I reached the famous Daibutsu, aka the Great Buddha.

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Ta-daa

Obligatory Daibutsu photo with many women wearing kimono. The highlight of Daibutsu was being able to go inside the statue, so don’t forget to do that if you’re here! I had no idea it was hollow inside.

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On my way to Kamakura Station. I ate some rice and curry around here. I was trying to eat something that I wouldn’t try back home, but I should’ve known I wouldn’t like it.

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Here’s part two, from Hasedera to the beach through Gokurakuji Station.

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