Friday, April 4, 2014

Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Hike in Kamakura

**Directions and notes about this hike can be found at the bottom of this post.

On Wednesday, the girls and I were excited to head out on another tour with Fusako san, a wonderful Japanese woman who knows the ancient city of Kamakura like the back of her hand. She has an incredible knowledge of the many 1,000-year-old samurai trails that snake through the hills of Kamakura, and we have gone on some great hikes with her. All I have to do is tell my girls that we're going on one of Fusako san's hikes and they are thrilled.

This tour had its focus on the sakura - the cherry blossoms - that are covering most of Japan this
week. They are in full bloom, and only last maybe a full week (if you're lucky, and have no wind or rain) before all the petals start falling to the ground like snow. We started off the tour by taking the train to Kamakura and walking up the sakura-lined path that leads to the prominent Hachimangu shrine.

My oldest walking with Fusako san (in the green jacket).

Instead of going all the way up to the shrine, we turned left and walked over to Jufuku-ji temple. This temple is number 3 of Kamakura's five great Zen temples, and is not open to the public. Ever.

We had so many people on this tour that we had to create a makeshift flag for everyone to follow!
We walked to the left of the temple and followed a path towards the back where the cemetery is located. This is where we found the trailhead towards Genjiyama park.

Photo by my youngest daughter. 

One of the first things we saw upon entering Genjiyama park was this statue of Minamoto Yoritomo, who in 1192 was appointed the first shogun (highest military officer) of the Kamakura shogunate.

The section of the park where we were to have lunch was breathtaking. We could see the sakura long before we got there. It was like snow covering the trees. Simply stunning.

Just as we got into the picnic area, we spotted some newlyweds taking pictures under the sakura. They seemed a tad bit embarrassed as we circled them to take pictures, and clapped in celebration.

See that pink flower in her hand? My youngest ran up to her and presented it to her as a gift.
All the Japanese ladies let out a collective, "Awwwwww!"
Photo credit: Miho Yoshikawa

Kuzuharoka shrine

Photo credit: PA Tran Le

The girls jumped at the chance to purchase a small plate (100yen) that they could smash against a rock.

Photo credit: PA Tran Le

Kirei, desu ne?

We had a wonderful picnic lunch, sitting under the sakura ("ohanami"), before heading back down through the hills and ending up near the Great Buddha.

We had a great day, and I'm so glad we were able to take advantage of the amazing weather to have lunch under the sakura. The week or two of sakura is my favorite time of year in Japan. I think I'm going to have to plant a sakura tree whenever we settle down, buy a house, and have a yard. And a gingko tree... and some bamboo....

If you'd like to go on this hike, I've provided a link to Google maps with directions from Kamakura station to the trailhead at Jufuku-ji temple. Once you are on the trail, there are signs leading toward Genjiyama park, as well as signs leading from Genjiyama park towards the Great Daibutsu (Buddha) trail that ends near the Big Buddha, and is close to Hase station.  Parts of this trail are not stroller friendly, but there are long sections where the path is large enough for a car. Enjoy!

Kuzukaraoka-Daibutsu Hiking Course (click to enlarge)
Click here to see directions to Jufuki-ji temple.

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