Today is the first day of Japanese Golden Week (April 29). So, for some of you planning a casual hiking this week near downtown Tokyo or Yokohama, I tell you my experience of walking Rokkoku Pass hiking course, aka, Miura Alps 三浦アルプス. The half of the route goes through 3 Citizen Forests of Yokohama’s South Forest area. I thought my original ambition would be complete if I conquer Rokkoku Pass route … Wrong. On April 15, the former off-limit area of Kanazawa Forest, which is accessible from Rokkoku Pass route, became open. I’ll report you when I visit there … the map of the Kanazawa Citizen Forest 金沢市民の森 says there is a large pond in the Kanazawa Forest. I must see it!
way to a newly opened part|
for the Kanazawa Citizen Forest
|NEXCO showed this map at the mouth of the route.|
Anyway, especially Kamakura side of the Rokkoku Pass course, about 3 hours of walk, is a kind of introductory course for novice hikers. It is also popular among foreign tourists as it goes through Kenchoji Temple 建長寺, Zuisenji Temple 瑞泉寺, and Kamakura-gu 鎌倉宮. On the other hand, for the people in Kamakura, there is no reason to climb steep hills to visit these places. Ancient flat roads connect the temples for millennia, with public transportation (Enoden Bus 江ノ電バス) coming and going nowadays. Rather, Rokkoku Pass hiking route is an ancient arterial road connecting Edo (Tokyo) and Kamakura / Shonan area 湘南. By the 17th century Shonan became a major tourist destination. For centuries many people have used Rokkoku Pass route for fun of tourist attractions, i.e. ancient temples and shrines in Kamakura + Shonan Beach. I have added my share on this well-trodden path! Japanese love to call anything for continuous popular trekking route ‘Alps,’ and hence the name, Miura Alps. (Ha ha) The original entrance of Rokkoku Pass route started from Kanazawa Bunko 金沢文庫 (yes, aka Shomyoji Temple Citizen Forest 称名寺市民の森). But these days Shomyoji Temple surrounded by detached houses, supermarkets, and busy National Route 16. So, when we begin our hiking these days, we normally start from Keikyu Kanazawa Bunko Station 京急金沢文庫駅. From Kanazawa Bunko Station to Kenchoji Temple, Kamakura-gu, or Zuisenji Temple, it is about 7 hours (leisurely visiting historical temple edifices inclusive) of walk. The route would be perfect for a sunny weekend hike very near from the downtown Tokyo.
|Map of Kamakura side for Rokkoku Pass at Kamakura-gu|
First, we leave from the West Exit of Kanazawa Bunko Station. At the foot of steps turning our eyes to the direction of Yokohama Station, we can see a pedestrian road going along the fence running on the side of the railroad track. It is already a part of the hiking course. Just walk along this way for about 5 minutes, and at the end of the pedestrian way there is a blue direction plate saying “Rokkokutoge Hiking Trail, This Way.” “Toge” (pronounced tow-gue) means pass. Keep on going until you find a small railroad crossing on the right, and another blue direction plate of “The Trail, This Way” on the left. 30m or so from the crossing there is an old signpost Shomyoji Temple built in 1839, practically hidden behind a notice board for neighborhood association of the area. The original sign post says “To the right for Hodogaya-juku 保土谷宿 and Edo 江戸. To the left is for Kamakura.” The post was for tourists from Tokyo at that time. Nowadays, the road to the left ends up with private houses. Thus, to Kamakura we take the road to the right. Walk 5 minutes or so, on the right there are 3 Koshinzuka 庚申塚, called “Koshin-toh of Tanitsu Village 谷津村の庚申塔.” Tanitsu is older name of the area whose villagers built these structures in the 18-19th centuries to ward off “evil spirits” entering in their community. As Koshin structures are constructed once in every 60 years, they are a proof the community here is existing for quite some time … Proceeding further, we are greeted by another blue signpost showing the entrance to the trekking road. Behind the blue plate, there is a wooden plate with beautiful Chinese characters showing us “Rokkokutoge Iriguchi” (六国峠入口 “Entrance to Rokkoku Pass Hiking Trail”). Next to it is the beginning of a steep slope. Let’s just dive in.
|This way from the West Exit of the station|
|Blue plate at the end of pedestrian road|
|The signpost at railway crossing|
|er … supposed to be an ancient signpost|
|“Rokkokutoge Hiking Trail, This Way.”|
|Wooden version of signpost at the mouth of the slope|
|The beginning is like this.|
Unless you know this area of Yokohama is a part of Miura Peninsula where its geology is with very shallow top soil and hard-pan below, you may think the trekking road here is paved. Of course not. The busy tourist route of wide width was used for centuries which blew up the thin soil long ago. Now the area is heavily developed for housing, and we can hear the sound in this seemingly mountainous road of busy car noises, cheering voices of kids in nearby schools, and anything from the ordinary residential life in Japan. From the course, we can see houses, condos and supermarkets between the trees either side of the road. The route hosts several educational posters for local kids to learn ecology of the forest. After about 500m of climbing, we reach to the ruins of Nokendo 能見堂. This place once had a small temple, Tekihitsuzan Jizohin Temple 擲筆山地蔵院. In the 1660s, Kuze Hirotsugu 久世大和守広之, a local bureaucrat for the Edo government built a small strucutre which was a branch of Shiba ZojojiTemple 芝増上寺 in Tokyo (one of the family temples of Tokugawa Shogunate). In 1694 an exiled (from Qing Dynasty) Chinese Buddhist monk, Tohkoh Shin’etsu 東皐心越, aka Shinetsu Zenji 心越禅師, visited the temple and looked from here the scenery of Tokyo Bay. He was impressed, and wrote aChinese poem to praise the beauty of 8 phases of the vista. It became the origin of the name Kanazawa Hakkei (金沢八景 “8 Sceneries of Kanazawa Seaside”) town, next to Kanazawa Bunko. The place became famous thanks to the poetry, and lots of literati visited, leaving poems, haikus, etc. Although the sea was reclaimed a lot already by the 19th century, some seaside spots were beautiful enough still in 1836 for Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川広重 to publish one of his masterpiece ukiyoe series, Kanazawa Hakkei. His ukiyoe became wildly popular in Edo, and many tourists visited Nokendai to remember the original scene loved by the master Shin’etsu. Lots of visitors meant business chance. Until the late 19th century, the place had a café in addition to the temple. But after Tokugawa Shogunate period till the end of WWII, Japanese government kept destroying the structures here and deforested the place for fuel … Now the ruin is a kind of open space of several mounds with educational posters and stone memorials erected by the City and local historical societies, commemorating the heritage. Formerly artistic panorama is now the sea of residential houses and supermarkets.
|But very near to the housing area|
|Let’s learn bugs’ life!|
|Nokendai with memorials|
open space is accessible|
in less than 10 minutes from the nearby housing complex.
there is this Fudoh-ike Pond 不動池.
|Public Toilet near Fudoh-ike Pond|
From Nokendo Ruins, follow the ridge way narrowly separated by the forest from the residential area. Several signposts appear here and there saying “Kanazawa Park, This Way.” Eventually, the trekking road bumps in to the Yokohama-Yokosuka Toll Road with thunderous noise of cars. Keep on walking to Kamariya Citizen Forest 釜利谷市民の森. From Nokendo Ruins to Kamariya Forest, it is about 2k walk. Along the road in April, I found many Disporum sessile and Arisaema urashima. When I first saw Arisaema urashima, I thought it should have been brought in by somebody from his/her garden. Wrong. People say forests of hard-pan from Miura Peninsula have lots of Arisaema urashima, native in the area, but not in the North Forests of Yokohama … North and South Forests are not so far away, even though … Caution! The seeds of Arisaema urashima is poisonous!
|Please excuse us to pass by your backyard …|
near Nokendo Ruins
to Kamariya Citizen Forest|
and Kanazawa Zoological Gardens / Botanical Park
|I think this is still a continuation of ancient tourist route.|
|Kogane-dai Plaza こがね台広場 of Kamariya Forest|
|Toilet for Kanazawa Park entrance. Fully equipped!|
with a tiny library-museum and café
When we reach to Kanazawa Park, simply cross the Valley of Ferns シダの谷 and reach to G11 point that is at the side of Yoko-Yoko Road. The hiking route goes for a while between the Yoko-Yoko road and the back of the Kanazawa Zoo. I’m not sure if this part is the remnant of the ancient way … quite possibly the route to Kamakura was disrupted by the construction of the giant tool road, and here would be a new road, or a sub-route for the old tourists’ main road. Soon we arrive at G12: to the right is the recently opened way to the center of the Kanazawa Citizen Forest. To the left the road goes through the western edge of the Kanazawa Park which is the south trekking route of Kanazawa Forest. The standard Rokkoku Pass Hiking Route is to the left at G12. So, this time we leave the occasion to visit the pond in Kanazawa Forest later, and we first climb up, then slightly down to the pedestrian overpass 釜利谷陸橋 for Yoko-Yoko Road at G13. The bridge is very large for a mountainous trekking road. It must be a work of NEXCO. If you like, you can watch the stream of speeding cars for both directions below here.
|I had a feeling the Valley of Ferns in April is dry.|
|G11, "Toilet at Nonohana-kan, this way 300m"|
|Along the Yoko-Yoko Road|
|To the left at G12|
|This part of Kanazawa Park is hilly.|
|The view from G13|
|Very wide bridge,|
rare white wisteria at the foot of the bridge.|
I think it is wild.
The road from G13 to G16 has 2 crossings going down to the left for the residential area, but the map says they are rarely used and not advisable to divert your way. Let’s keep it safe and straight. Soon we are greeted with a signpost showing a route to the right for Sekiya-oku View Point 関谷奥見晴台 within the NatureSanctuary, i.e. we have completed the road within the Kanazawa Citizen Forest and entered the Yokohama Nature Sanctuary. Sekiya-oku View Point is a small open space with picnic benches where we can see Tokyo Bay over there … If you cross the View Point, you reach to the main ridge way of the Nature Sanctuary that goes to the Visitor Center. From the Visitor Center, it’s a kind of semi-paved way to return to the hiking course. We return to the original road from the View Point and proceed to the south, to the direction of Kamakura Ten’en 鎌倉天園. Till G17 we are in the territory of Nature Sanctuary, but from G17 to the south, the road becomes narrower and more mountainous. The Yoko-Yoko Road is behind us and the sound of the forest is far calmer. Phew. From G17, the border between Yokohama and Kamakura is very near. The hiking route has a small open space on the border for the visitors to say farewell to Yokohama. J
|To Sekiya-oku View Point|
|Sekiya-oku View Point|
|… and its view|
trekking road within the Nature Sanctuary is wider.|
We meet lots of trail runners.
The scenery is very different from the shots in The Revenant.
Japan is definitely warmer than Alberta.
|G17 signpost shows the direction to Ten’en.|
|You see? The road is now narrower.|
|The open space sits on the border.|
|Lots of wild hydrangea!|
start to encounter boulders in the course.|
It’s a very Kamakura-thing.
|And the other side is a huge cemetery.|
Red Bean Soup with Mochi rice cake|
and cucumber pickle (in plum juice).
|The view from the Café|
Roughly speaking, from the Café to the north is to Kenchoji Temple建長寺, and to the south is to Zuisenji Temple 瑞泉寺, and Kamakura-gu 鎌倉宮. (A map of Kamakura hiking courses is here.) All the destinations are rapidly descending to about 20m above sea level. Unless you plan to train yourself for trail running with the cliffs after coming so far from Kanazawa Bunko Station, it would be wiser to choose a point of the final destination out of 3 now. To Kamakura-gu, there are 2 routes: one is shown in Google Map, another not. Google Map course first follows the same southern route to Zuisenji. We “fall down” a wall of huge rock and the bottom to the right is the road shown in Google, and straight to Zuisenji. There is another café on the left here who have a fulfilling menu for tapas. (Though, they do not have a view.) This way to Kamakura-gu is quicker to reach to the town, and the half the way is a paved road in a residential area. So, if you are exhausted by now, this route would be the safest. The route not shown in Google Map to Kamakura-gu first follows the same northward direction to Kenchoji. From Ten’entoge-no-chaya to the north, take for about 5 minutes a graveled wide path which actually enters the gate of Yokohama Country Club GolfCourse. Before the gate, there is a toilet so if you need to do the thing, this is the place before reaching to the temples. By the way, the water here is not potable, only to wash your hands. From the toilet, a narrower trekking road on the left is separating from the graveled road for the golf course. It leads us to the peak of Ohira-yama Mt. 大平山, the highest point (159.4m) for the city of Kamakura. … er, the peak is in Kamakura, but 10cm from the peak is Yokohama, so the place can be thought the highest point of the City of Yokohama as well. Peak is at the top of another gigantic slippery rock, and before you try mini-rock climbing there is a very wide sunny open space with a view to Shonan Beach. A flaw: the west of the space is the back of the club house + parking of the golf course separated by a meshed wall. I guess from the top of the club house, those moneyed golfers could see Tokyo Bay and Sagami Bay at once. Heck. Never mind, we can do (a sort of) this at the top of Mt. Ohira, and this is the reason why this hiking course is called Rokkoku Pass Hiking Route.
the Café within 3 minutes,|
the first chokepoint to the south.
About 5m high slippery rock to drop down.
this wall or a rock, there is another view point,|
often occupied by hikers having lunch.
“To the right, Kamakura-gu,
to the left, Zuisenji Temple”
|Toilet near the Yokohama Country Club|
right is only for club members.|
To the left is for us.
|Well, the top of this golf club has certainly a view.|
|You can have a lunch here, too.|
|The peak, Ohira-yama Mt.|
At the moment, the side of the golf course needs mowing of Pleiboblastus chino Makino for us to see clearly … even though, from the top of Ohira Mt., we can see Tokyo Bay and (if you are lucky) Boso Peninsula beyond on the left, and Sagami Bay + Hakone Mt, and Izu Peninsula on the right. Until 1871, the view from Ohira Mt. contained the regions of Musashi 武蔵 (Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama), Awa 安房 + Kamiusa 上総 + Shimousa 下総 (Boso Peninsula), Sagami 相模 (around the Sagami Bay), and Izu 伊豆 (Izu Peninsula); 6 regions. Ancient Japanese for “region” or “prefecture” is “Kuni” or “Koku,” so Rokkoku means “6 regions” in old Japanese. The peak of Ohira Mt. is the pass for tourist from Edo (Tokyo) to go by to Kamakura, and people appreciated the vista to see 6 “Kuni” at once here. Hence the name of “Rokkokutoge Hiking Course.” Soon after the point, the road tumbls down another rocky cliff. We’ll be greeted by a series of huge boulders, and probably artificially excavated petit valleys that would have been used for centuries by the travelers. It is very-Kamakura scenery. Kamakura was the capital of the national government reined by the worriers’ class for the first time in Japanese history. Their fighting mentality chose this place surrounded by extremely steep hills that are practically impossible for a large number of enemies to mob the city at once. Rokkokutoge Hiking Route was a popular tourist course, but the way in Kamakura side is almost always very narrow and difficult to pass by one another. Very good defense.
well, Tokyo Bay, a sort of,|
beyond the Club House of the golf course.
|Vista for Sagami Bay|
rock to go down …|
at least the place does not roll,
so we trust Led Zeppelin here …ah??
definitely dug by somebody|
to make a way.
After walking about 1.5k from the Café to the north, we meet a signpost showing the way to Kenchoji Temple and Kakuonji Temple 覚園寺. To Kamakura-gu, choosing the direction of Kakuonji, the road goes down rapidly to Kakuonji which is about 500m north of Kamakura-gu. On the way, there are coves some of which contains crumbling statues of Buddha. I guess monks commuted this place ages ago for their training of meditation … Kakuonji Temple is one of the oldest temple in Kamakura, established in 1218, so that the route to Kakuonji from Ten’en must be well-trodden for centuries. When we finally reach to the paved road within a small residential area, on the right is Kakuonji. Kakuonji does not allow unscheduled visitors to enter the premise. If you want to see the inside, you have to join the organized tour by the monks. A tour starts at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00 (weekends only), 13:00, 14:00, and 15:00 from the entrance. Admission is 500 yen for an adult (200 yen for under 15, cash only). Passing Kakuonji, there will be another Koshinzuka place, this time at least 5 of them, i.e. 300 years of community existence. From here just follow the paved road to Kamakura-gu. Kamakura-gu was once a temple called Tokoji 東光寺 that served as a prison for Prince Morinaga (Moriyoshi) 護良親王 who was one of the protagonists of political struggle during 1320-1330. In 1869 Emperor Meiji 明治天皇 ordered to change the ruins of Tokoji Temple into a shrine to commemorate the Prince, which is now Kamakura-gu Shrine. Hm. Everything sounds a bit of high blow, but actually, the festivals in Kamakura-gu are always very cozy neighborhood affairs compared with those of the major tourist attractions like by Tsurugaoka-Hachiman-gu 鶴岡八幡宮, or Hasedera Temple 長谷寺. When there is no festival, the place is calm space surrounded by the forest we’ve just come from. From here to JR/Enoden Kamakura Station, it is the most comfortable to walk a narrow alley way for about 20-30 minutes via Egara Tenjin Shrine 荏柄天神, Seisen Elementary School 清泉小学校, Kamakura Elementary of Yokohama National University 横浜国大付属鎌倉小学校, and Tsurugaoka-Hachiman-gu.
signpost at the crossing to Kenchoji, Zuisenji,|
and Kakuonji / Kamakura-gu
|The place of meditation|
|Don’t come this place if it rains …|
|I found this formidable Arisaema urashima near the exit of the hiking course.|
|The exit from the Hiking Course to Kamakura-gu|
|The toilet in Kamakura-gu|
entrance: inside is no-photo zone.|
We can visit the museum and the prison where
the Prince was held.
(Admission 300 yen, 150 yen for under 12, cash only)
To Zuisenji Temple, we take the route on the left after sloping down the steep rock south of Ten’en Café. Comparing with the route to Kamakura-gu and Kenchoji Temple, this route is relatively easy to walk. Sure, there still are large boulders and slippery road of rocks, but they are fewer. The course first goes through the forest of Hinoki cypress, then to the forest of evergreen broad-leaved trees. As this is Kamakura, the road is really compacted due to the usage of millennia, and there are several caves that must have been places for Buddhism training. There are lots of signposts along the way to assure us this road goes to Zuisenji, so don’t worry. From the Café to Zuisenji, it is another 2k. When we actually arrive at Zuisenji Temple, we realize the place we have been was the ridge way surrounding the site of Zuisenji. Zuisenji is a Zen temple that was established in 1327 by the famous Zen master Musokokushi 夢窓国師 (夢窓疎石), whose disciples included the Emperor and the Shogun of his time. Since then, many men of letters who contributed to Japanese literature, including Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata 川端康成, loved the meditative atmosphere of the premise enclosed by the forest. In 1970, they excavated and restored a Zen garden at the back of the temple which is said to be designed by Musokokushi … The garden gave me a deja-vu … the place looked very similar to one of those sceneries I’ve met in India. Maybe Musokokushi dreamed of visiting the places where Buddha originally meditated … By the way, at the bottom of the valley, Kamakura-gu and the entrance of Zuisenji is about 5 minutes’ walk, whose route shares the final 200m of the shortcut to Kamakura-gu from Ten’en. From Zuisenji to Kamakura Station, going to Kamakura-gu first would be the easiest.
|Art, isn’t it?|
|Going down to Zuisenji Temple|
|The course exits near Zuisenji.|
(Admission 200 yen, 100 yen for under 15, cash only)
the sanctuary … well,|
not much different from where we came from, yeah.
The course descending to Kenchoji from Ten’en certainly has the best vista among the 3 destinations, but there is a catch. To reach to Kenchoji exit of the hiking course, we have to pay the admission (300 yen for adults, 100 for under 12, cash only) to the temple. The final part of the course goes through the entire campus of Kenchoji Temple so that it would be reasonable … Anyway, choose the direction of Kenchoji when we reach to the signpost for Kakuonji and Kenchoji. The course is still going up for a while, including a petit rock-climbing. We meet giant boulders here and there. The caves with crumbling statues of Buddha appear. Then on the right, it is supposed to appear a stone monument saying “The 50 best vista in Kanagawa Prefecture: The view from the rock of Kamakura 10 Kings 鎌倉十王岩の展望.” I could not find it this April. That should be a point directly above the main shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, and we must have been able to see the straight Wakamiya Oji Street 若宮大路 from Tsurugaoka Hachiman to Yuigahama Beach 由ヶ浜. (The scenery photo, here). Hmmmm, next time, maybe. From this point to the entrance of Kenchoji, it’s only about 5 minutes’ walk. We are greeted by the signpost saying “ Kenchoji This Way, Meigetsuin Temple 明月院 This Way. Soon the Hanzobo 半僧坊 Entrance of Kenchoji Temple appears, with the notice “You must pay admission to enter the premise.” OK, OK.
|Blue flowers are Lithospermum zollingeri.|
|The place for meditation …|
think the view point should have been|
somewhere around here …
|Kenchoji this way|
|Pay the admission!|
|Hanzobo Entrance to Kenchoji Temple|
Kenchoji Temple is HDQ of Kenchoji School of Rinzai Sect for Zen Buddhism 臨済宗建長寺派, established in 1253 by Chinese monk, Lanxi Daolong . The Hanzobo place we entered from Rokkoku Pass Hiking Course is a kind of shrine built in 1890 to be dedicated to the guardian of Kenchoji Temple. Next to the entrance there is a view point where we can appreciate the panoramic view of Sagami Bay, Mt.Fuji (if you are lucky) and the entire ground for Kenchoji Temple below. From there, we go down the steep stairs, pay the admission at Hanzobo, and proceed further down to the series of buildings of the temple campus. Immediately after the Hanzobo, there are a series of statue of Tengu goblins 天狗 along the stairs. Cute. At the bottom of the valley, if you turn left, there is another temple building called Kaishun’in 回春院. In a small cemetery attached to Kaishun’in, there is a grave of a film director Nagisa Oshima 大島渚 who died 3 years ago. Very interestingly, Kenchoji’s building to meditate called Hojo 方丈, is bigger than the Butsuden 仏殿 where the main statue of Buddha is situated. i.e. This is the temple of Zen meditation, more than the house of worship. We can have a mini meditation inside the Hojo where a cushion of meditation is provided always. In the back of the admission ticket, it says “Tenkazenrin 天下禅林,” i.e. “It is a place of education for anybody to Zen.” Ah-ha. They have meditation lessons every Saturday from 17:00-18:00. You’ll notice next to the main entrance of the temple there is a school. It is Kamakura-gakuen Jr-Sr High 鎌倉学園 for boys, one of the best prep-schools in Kanagawa Prefecture. In the afternoon, the boys in baseball and soccer uniforms run in the campus of Kenchoji. Well, the tradition is going strong. From Kenchoji Temple, we can just the follow the stream of people to the nearby JR Kita-Kamakura Station 北鎌倉駅 whose entrance cut through the campus of another HDQ Rinzai Zen Temple, Enkakuji 円覚寺.
|View from the Hanzobo Entrance of Kenchoji Temple|
|A cute boy|
grave of Nagisa Oshima.|
When I’ve been there, there was a can of Taiwan Beer
dedicated to the site.
An international admirer may have come here recently.
|The cushions are rectangle in Hojo.|
folded in this way,|
and we sit on the folded part in order to
avoid making our foot numb after the meditation.
|Inside of Hojo|
Bell of Kenchoji,|
a national treasure,
casted in 1255 with the inscription
chosen by Lanxi Daolong
|April is the month of peonies in Kenchoji.|
|San’mon (三門, the third Gate) of Kenchoji|
found this notice board of neighborhood associations|
in front of Kita-Kamakura Station.
The beautiful signature in Chinese character is done
by none other than the Head of Enkakuji Temple. Wow.
If you find a problem in Rokkokutoge Forests, please make a contact with
Office for the Park Greeneries in the South 南部公園緑地事務所
Yokohama Municipal Government Creative Environment Policy Bureau 横浜市環境創造局
Phone: 045-831-8484 (I guess in Japanese only)
FAX: 045-831-9389 (I hope there is somebody who can read English …)
Kanagawa Prefecture Government Yokosuka-Miura Region Center 神奈川県横須賀三浦地域県政総合センターPhone: 046-823-0120 (I guess in Japanese only)