One of the perks of not having a regular 9-5 while being here in Japan is that I have lots of time to scope out new hiking trails, places to eat, and do extensive research for upcoming travel or events.When my husband is off on the weekends, I am able to share my new discoveries with him and play tour guide… kinda.
This weekend I wanted to share the Daibutsu Hiking Course with him, so Saturday morning we hopped on the train and headed to Kamakura. (You can see a map of the trail and get detailed directions from the Kita Kamakura Station to the trail head here.)
There were a few shrines and temples in the area that I had not yet visited, or didn’t get a chance to explore the other day on our hike.
Off of the East exit of the Kita Kamakura Station is Engakuji (円覚寺), one of the leading Zen temples in eastern Japan. This beautiful temple was founded in 1282. One of the main purposes that this temples was built was to pay respect for the Japanese and Mongolian soldiers who lost their lives during the second invasion attempt by the Mongols in 1281.
Engakuji is a popular temple to see the vibrant maples that change colors in early December. When we visited, there were beautiful white and pink ume blossoms in bloom.
One of my favorite parts of the day was getting the chance to see archers practicing kyūdō, the Japanese martial art of archery. I have seen Yabusame (mounted horseback archery) at the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū in Kamakura, but there was something very intimate about seeing the archers practicing in silence on a cold, quiet Saturday morning on temple grounds.
Oh, and another highlight of my day was petting this super kawaii neko (that’s kitty cat in Japanese) at the temple. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
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Once we got back onto the main street we continued onward and stopped at Tōkei-ji. This shrine operated as a nunnery and helped women divorce their husbands in a time where it was difficult for women to initiate divorce. This temple’s beautiful garden was surprisingly scenic even at this time of year, but offers many beautiful flowers that bloom in the warmer seasons.
We finally made it to Jōchi-ji, used the restroom and visited Hotei, the god of happiness.
After completeing the hiking course, naturally we were hungry. We took the bus from just out front of The Great Buddha to Kamakura Station and took a walk down Komachi. The weather had dropped to around freezing at this point and it looked like a storm was blowing in.
We bought 2 cups of amazake (sweet hot sake made from fermented rice) from a vendor then continued our search for food. I happened to notice a very small, modest establishment on the left side of Komachi street. I have been down that street dozens of times, and it seems like there is something new to discover every time. It’s hard to notice every single business when your senses are overwhelmed by multiple story buildings, crowded streets, delicious street food and shiny objects. I wandered over to the inconspicuous black door and slid it open. The man behind the counter waved us inside to inhabit the last 2 seats in the tiny ramen joint. Second tiniest in Japan as a matter of fact. We both ordered the regular miso ramen, which was just a little spicy and a whole lot satisfying. Sandwiched between my husband and a very friendly Japanese man, I slurped my ramen and reflected on how simplicity sometimes transcends in such a complex word. Hirano offers only 2 types of broth, soy sauce and miso, but offers an assortment of toppings to go along with your soup if you please. Here is the TripAdvisor page for Hirano
In other news, We’re on the final one month countdown to our Teipei trip. I can’t wait!
More photos below!