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Monday, April 15, 2013

Tenen Hiking Course of Kamakura, Japan

The other week Christopher had a three day weekend after quite a bit of working. We love visiting the big city and walking the malls but there comes a time where looking at a bunch of stuff we want but can't afford just isn't healthy anymore. Rather than fighting our materialism we decided to get away from it all and go hiking.

Growing up in the North West and now living near the Olympic National Forest, being in the woods has always centered me- it's the quickest way for me to remember how small I am and how magnificent and majestic the Lord is. It was quite a bummer not getting to enjoy hikes in the Olympics last summer due to being super pregnant. Chris and I have a hike book for the Olympic Peninsula and have a goal of hiking all listed hikes! It will probably take quite awhile since some of the hikes we have hiked several times because we love them so much!

When I thought of hiking in Japan I honestly pictured a paved stroll through the hills, ha! In our Olympic hikes hiking book they rate the difficulty of trails 1-5 stars- this hike would have been at least a 5 star if not 6! Many parts of the 'course' was covered in deep roots and boulders with parts of the path eroding away and even had a rope at one point to use for assistance! The crazy part of it all was that most people who we met passed us on the course were elderly and those around our age were running! I was completely baffled because back home I'm used to being the way passing people up on trails!

We started the Tenen Hiking Course near the Zuisenji Temple. Up until the trail head the signs were in English but once we started the trial we had to rely on following and observing the directions of other and matching up characters between the map on Chris' i-phone and signs on the trial. We only had a couple of little detours where we had to backtrack.

Halfway through the trail in the middle of the woods they had a little eat-out with picnic tables and drink vending machines! Only the Japanese... As we approached it actually made me a little nervous. I thought we had taken a wrong turn- we heard people before we completely saw them and my mind of course immediately began to wander to scary movies of people living in the middle of the woods. Though I haven't seen the movie I think I mention something about, 'The Hills Have Eyes.' There were three off shoot trails at this point and it took us about 10 minutes and walking the same set of stairs four times before we finally get going in the right direction again.
Shortly after the picnicky area we learned we weren't that far from civilization because out of nowhere we were right next to a huge golf course! There was a nice set of bathrooms too! For the trail as rugged as it was I would never have imagine a nice set of bathrooms located for hiker's convenience half way through.

There was also a great view of Yokohama from the top of the ridge near the golf course.

Once we got to the halfway mark we had been hiking for about and hour and a half. Ironically that was what all the travel sites said as to how long it would take to hike the trail. Guess that is the time it takes if you are an old Japanese person...

This man lapped us... No joke. 
Along trail there were several Yaguras (artificial caves used as tombs) as well as mini shrines with offerings. It is said to be anywhere between 1,500 to 5,000 tombs in the hills of Kamakura. This is a fact I didn't know until after our hike... which sort of now gives me the chills. Not all caves however were actual tombs, some are/were just Cenotaphs which are "empty tombs" or monuments erected in honor of someone or a group of people. They do not think they will ever know exactly how many tombs were or are in the hills because many have been destroyed and they imagine there are also quite a few that haven't been discovered.

The hike finished at Kenchoji Temple, more specifically Hansobo Shrine. This was one of the more fascinating Shrines we have visited. It was nestled so carefully into the mountain side and hardly visible immediately after taking the stairs down from it. The shrine had many Tengu statues which are protective spirits of the mountains and forests in the Buddhism religion. The history of the Tengu is rather interesting. Though considered protective spirits, they are also considered dangerous but nevertheless a Shinto god or supernatural being. The idea of them being protective spirits is a newer imagine of the Tengu, they were originally considered disruptive demons.

I didn't take any photos of Kenchoji Temple because I honestly got caught up in how grand it was! Kenchoji is the oldest Zen temple in Kamakura, founded in 1253.

After traveling over a hour and hiking for about three hours you would think we start the over an hour trip back home but we were so energized from the hike we instead made our way down to Yokosuka waterfront and relaxed on the Starbucks balcony.

It was so nice to be back in our element again. We're planning on hiking the other trails in Kamakura before we had home in a couple months.

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