Take in the sights of the ancient capital Kamakura as you hike
This course neatly packs in 33 temples
Sights also include the Great Buddha of Kamakura, the second tallest in Japan
A wonderful opportunity to appreciate the nature and history of this ancient capital
Kamakura, an area with deep historical significance, is more than a tourist destination; you can experience a different side of Japan
Kamakura can be summed up in three words: sea, mountains, and history. This tour explores key sights of Japan’s former capital, its urban areas and natural beauty via the Kamakura Pilgrimage route that includes a majority of the area’s major landmarks. Founded by Minamoto No Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate who ruled from 1192 until 1199, Kamakura remains a focal point of samurai culture as well as Zen and Japanese culture, and is renowned for its many shrines.
The pride of Kamakura is no doubt the Great Buddha of Kamakura, a bronze statue of Amida Buddha at Kotoku-in Temple. Standing 13 meters tall, it even withstood a powerful tsunami in the 15th century.
Besides the Great Buddha, a highlight of this tour is a pilgrimage of 33 Buddhist temples sacred to Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Thirty-three is a significant number in Buddhism as the goddess Kannon is thought to have 33 different manifestations. It is worth noting that the Kannon pilgrimage circuit in Kamakura is comparatively shorter than the average pilgrimage route in Japan, and can be completed in just one or two days. The route stretches 6 kilometres from east to west and 5 kilometres from north to south. This hike also offers views of the “Kamakura Alps”, a mountain range topping just 150 meters high at its tallest peak. This nature walk is an ideal course for novice hikers and those with young children. If the weather permits, Mt. Fuji and Sagamihara Bay might also be visible.
Not to be missed in Kamakura is the iconic Enoden Line, a train that travels along Sagami Bay, connecting quiet residential backstreets to bustling shopping arcades. Gaze out of its windows to see Yuigahama, a sandy beach and swimming spot popular since the late 19th century, and temples. With modern attractions standing side by side with ancient wonders, it continues to attract a lively mix of explorers.
The Kamakura Pilgrimage Hike begins at Tokyo Station, where all participants meet for a briefing before heading to Kamakura Station (participation from Shinjuku Station is also possible). Upon arriving at Kamakura Station, participants will have time for lunch and to explore Komachi Dori Street, a bustling shopping street lined with restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops.
In the afternoon, all participants will gather at the entrance of the nearly 1,000-year-old Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Kamakura’s most important Shinto shrine. Afterwards, the tour will head to Sugimoto-dera Temple, the first temple on the Kamakura Pilgrimage Hike, one of 70 pilgrimages dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Kannon.
From Sugimoto-dera Temple, the hike continues to Jomo-ji Temple, the ninth circuit site and one of Kamakura’s great Zen temples. The next stop on the tour is the tenth circuit site, Hokoku-ji Temple, a small secluded temple with a beautiful bamboo garden.
The tour continues onto the summit of the 120 meter high Mt. Kinubariyama, via the Heisei Pilgrimage Route. After taking in the sights of Kamakura and Sagami Bay from the lookout point, the intensity of the hike increases as the tour reaches Sarubatake Escarpment, a steep cliff 800 meters high.
A brief stop at the hidden gem on this trail, Houshou-ji Temple, is followed by the sights of the Mandarado Yagura – these more than 160 cave-like tombs that served as burial grounds during Japan’s Middle Ages. After exiting the hiking trail via the strategic military pass of Nagoe Kiridoshi, the tour returns to Kamakura City for check-in. Participants can use this opportunity to explore the Kita Kamakura area or to soak in a Japanese hot spring. After meeting for dinner, participants will return to their accommodations.
On Day 2 of the Kamakura Pilgrimage Hike, participants will gather after breakfast and walk to Kenchou-ji Temple, one of the Rinzai Zen temples and the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan. Several circuit sites are on the grounds of Kenchou-ji Temple: Myoukoin Temple (27th), Kenchou-ji Fudasho (the 28th), and Ryuho-in (the 29th).
From Kenchou-ji Temple, the tour continues to Engaku-ji Temple, one of the leading Zen temples in Eastern Japan. The tour will break for lunch in Kita Kamakura. After lunch, all participants will gather and head to Jufuku-ji Temple, the 24th circuit on the Kamakura Pilgrimage and one of Kamakura’s five great Zen temples.
From Jufuku-ji Temple, the tour will walk to the tranquil “water temple”, Kaizou-ji Temple, the 26th circuit site before continuing onto Genjiyama Park via Kewaizaka Cutting Road. Inside Genjiyama Park is a statute of Minamoto No Yoritomo, the founder and the first ruler of the Kamakura shogunate.
The hike continues towards Koutoku-ji Temple, the 23rd circuit site and home to the Great Buddha of Kamakura. The final stop of the Kamakura Pilgrimage Hike is Hase-dera Temple, the 4th circuit site after which the guide will direct participants to Hase Station and Kamakura Station.
Kamakura, located one hour away from the modern day capital of Japan, was once a seat of power. Aside from its historical significance, temples and shrines, Kamakura is renowned for its abundant natural beauty: lush green mountains and blue seas.