Friday, August 5, 2016

Civil Engineering of Soldiers, now and then: Asahina Kiridoshi 朝夷奈切通

From Asahina-kita Citizen Forest 朝比奈北市民の森, we have returned to the busy Circular Road 4. Let’s cross it at a traffic light without name, next to Asahina Bus Stop of Keikyu Bus from Keikyu Kanazawa Hakkei Station by Route Kama-24 -24 (; this service is to JR Kamakura Station. Time table, here). When we look the direction of Asahina IC at the traffic light, there is a small road sign saying “Asahina Kiridoshi 奈切通” in about 2m high. Actually, that (comparatively) wide road at #28 of Asahina-kita Forest was connected to this point when samurais were governing the country. It is an entrance of the old arterial road to Kamakura, and from here within the mountain we can witness a larger version of Asahina-Kita Forest’s curved roads.

We cross here.
Oh, by the way, to the left from the traffic light
along Circular Road 4 there is a 7/11 Convenience Store
which is your last chance for toilet until
you reach to the residential area of Kamakura.

Look for this sign. Let’s turn to the left!

Simply proceeding forward after turning to the left at the sign post, soon we find Yoko-Yoko Road above. Below the bridge of Yoko-Yoko, there is a gold-plated noticeboard on the right. It tells us it is the beginning of Asahina Kiridoshi, one of the 7 ancient entryways to Kamakura, designated as a national historic site in 1969. Hm. It was a year before the construction of Asahina IC began. Next to the gold-plate, there is a large board explaining the historic significance of the road in Japanese, English, Korean, and Chinese. In summary, the route was an important route for the economy of Kamakura government as Mutsu’ura 六浦, now a town next to Asahina to the east, was an international port where goods from all over Japan and beyond arrived during 12-14th century. Now, Mutsu’ura is a sleepy residential town on a completely reclaimed land. Further in the east Nissan Oppama Factory in Yokosuka uses artificial ports for their business. It might be difficult to imagine the area 900 years ago … That’s that, anyway. We pass under the huge bridge of Yoko-Yoko Road. The road from here to Kamakura is wide. A horse, if not two of them in a line, could pass easily, but I’m not sure if off-roads can make it. The width is too small for a Jeep or a Landcruiser. (And no mechanized vehicle is allowed without permit.) We can enjoy hiking safely. J

A glod-plated sign
Entrance to Asahina Kiridoshi
Just below the Yoko-Yoko,
there is this site for Koshin-to
There are 10 of them at least, meaning,
people are building these monuments for 600 years.
Yoko-Yoko won’t collapse, will it?

The City of Yokohama is showing several warnings for rockfalls along the route. Surely. Kiridoshi means “It was cut to go through (the stone walls).” As Kamakura was established by warriors in the 12th century, the first thing they thought was wars. They intentionally chose Kamakura that was surrounded in 3 directions by small but steep mountains and a shoal in the south, i.e. difficult to attack by a large number of medieval enemies. They built artificial entry ways all of which were cut-through ways of hard-pan wide enough for a horse, but not for ranks of armies. They could position their soldiers above the high “walls” of Kiridoshi roads to ambush the enemies. Among the 7 trunkroads, Asahina Kiridoshi is the largest in the difference of elevation. We can feel it certainly. The strangely wide road runs through the “walls” that preserve the traces of the chisels of workers whose latest work was done in 1250. I recalled the fact it was Mongolian army who brought gunpowder to Japan in 1274. This medieval civil engineering was done solely by hands. Woooow. The road alternates Kiridoshi and semi-stoned pavement in the forest of cryptomeria japonica. About 500m or so from the entrance, we reach to a Y-crossing. To the left brings us to Kumano Shrine 熊野神社 which was situated in the northeast of Kamakura. In I-Ching, northeast is the direction considered to be a gate for demons. The legend says in the 12th century when the first large construction work was done for Kiridoshi the founder of Kamakura government, Minamotono Yoritomo 源頼朝, established this shrine to protect his city. Though the road is somewhat narrower to Kumano Shrine, the route to the shrine has still a feel of “officially sacred” within a deep forest of cedars.  Kumano Shrine’s HDQ (UNESCO World Heritage) is in Wakayama Prefecture where forestry of large coniferous trees is one of the main industries for millennia. Wakayama people also provide “sacred timbers” for Ise Grand Shrine 伊勢神宮 at Shikinen-Sengu Festival 式年遷宮 for every 20 years. This old Kumano Shrine in Yokohama also carries such ominous atmosphere, standing quietly in the deep forest surrounded by formidable cedars and cypresses. The air is seriously meditative ... There are several seemingly passable trekking roads from the Shrine, but the locals say it is tricky to navigate the place as people these days seldom use these mountain roads. One elder STRONGLY recommended me not to wonder into them. The forest is deep here ... So, we return to the Y-crossing via the same road we took.

The road is going up.
Their achievement remains.
The medieval highway
To the left is to Kumano Shrine.
To the right is the main road to Kamakura.
The road to Asahina Kumano Shirne
Asahina Kumano Shrine

To the right from the Y-crossing is the ancient “highway” to Kamakura. We climb for a while between the old artificial cliffs on the both sides, then the road starts to go down. Around the pass, we are greeted by several “memorials” the travelers of ages ago left in the walls, including a Buddha figure. The smooth surface of the road looks like a river bed. Actually the area is one of the sources of Namekawa River 滑川 going to Yuigahama Beach 由比ガ浜 in Sagami Bay. Locals don’t like from here to further down that is almost a small stream. I guess when it rains the water gushes down over the road. Is it an intentional design to ward off the enemies, or the nature’s revenge against the military civil engineering? I personally enjoyed the walk as it was like a mini-gorge walking. The curved stone figures continue to appear here and there along the road-river. In the middle, I found mulberry trees high above. If a traveler was riding a horse, s/he could taste them ... Eventually the stream takes a shape of small river, and the road becomes dry. From some point around here, the noise of busy invisible cars begins from the right. It is a sound of Prefectural Road 204 coming from Asahina IC. When we drive to Kamakura using Metropolitan Express Way Bay Shore Route, this is the route we breeze down without thinking. I found it funny as we did not notice in cars such a rich forest just next to us.

The stones are worn out
thanks to the usage of millennia.
A Buddha figure curved on the hardpan ages ago.
Could you see the numerous traces of works in the wall?
Going down now.
And the road becomes a stream.
Mulberries … I cannot reach!
Now the stream becomes in definite.

Not before long, the road becomes flat and wider. The Kamakura exit of Asahina Kiridoshi is over there. At the exit, there are a small water fall, and the same explanation display in 4 languages for this historic road. Beyond the “gate” a graveled and then paved road goes into the residential area of Junisho town 十二所, the City of Kamakura. The small river continues on our right till it joins with the main stream of Namekawa. Before it reaches to the main river, there is a point with a board saying “Tachiarai Water 太刀洗水.” The legend says at this point an assassin named Kajiwara Kagetoki 梶原景時 washed his bloody sword after killing Chiba Hirotsune 千葉上総介広常 who was suspected of treason against Minamotono Yoritomo. This is a well-known episode in Japanese history as a part of Genpei War 源平合戦 depicted in Azuma Kagami 吾妻鏡, a (sort of) companion book of the Tale of Heike 平家物語. … Nowadays, Tachiarai is the name of a bus stop as Kamakura Reien Seimon-Mae Tachiarai (鎌倉霊園正門前太刀洗, Kamakura Cemetery Main Entrance at Tachiarai) for Route Kama-24 -24 … Impermanence of worldly things 諸行無常 … Oh, by the way, the water here and along Asahina Kiridoshi is NOT potable. Simply going forward, we bump into Route 204 with incessant stream of cars from Asahina IC. You can catch Kama-24 -24 bus coming from Kanazawa Hakkei Station, or walk to JR Kamakura Station from here via Myo-o-in Temple 明王院, Jomyoji Temple 浄妙寺, and Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine 鶴岡八幡宮.

The entrance of Asahina Kiridoshi, Kamakura side
The waterfall
It’s the same board as the Yokohama side.
Tachiarai Water 太刀洗水
The way to Route 204 …
eventually enters into a residential side,
… and let us walk along a promenade
along Namekawa River.
Route 204, near the Jesuit Convent.
Over there on the left, there is
a Mini-Stop Convenience Store
which has the first public toilet since the 7/11 Store.

All the way from the exit of Asahina Kiridoshi to Route 204, the direction to the southeast is a deep forest. It is actually the Forest of Ikego 池子の森 spreading between Yokohama and the City of Zushi 逗子市. The place was seizured by the US Navy in 1945, and till the early 1980s used as the munitions depot for the US Seventh Fleet stationing in Yokosuka, currently the homeport for USS Ronald Reagan. That would be the reason why Asahina locals told me the ancient local roads around Kiridoshi has not been used for decades … you lose your way in the forest, and could be shot by the US navy as trespassers. In 1983, the US government announced they were going to bulldoze the forest to make houses for US navy people. A huge uproar occurred not only in Zushi, but all over Japan. “Protect our ancient Forest!” Well, it is ironic (at best) as the place was off-limit due to the US Navy the Forest conserves its nature without becoming the sea of houses like neighboring Mutsu’ura town … The Navy’s plan was shrunk dramatically, and in February 2015, the Seventh Fleet and the City of Zushi opened jointly the Nature Park of Ikego Forest 池子の森自然公園 for weekends and holidays. At least in Google Map, there is no road shown from Tachiarai in Kamakura reaching to Ikego Forest Park. The place contains the area of US Navy’s facilities that is practically “beyond the international border.” Er … so, depending on who would be the next US President, the things about the forests around Asahina Kiridoshi may change dramatically. In the end, Asahina Kiridoshi has been a military installation from the very beginning.

If you find a problem in around Asahina Kiridoshi Forest, 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 …)

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