Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Kamakura Cherry Tree Walkabout

The kids and I went on our first group tour today.  I figured this was the last trip we would be able to take before the sakura trees' blooms start falling off.  So, today we headed to Kamakura.  We were dressed and out the door by 9:10.  Kris actually picked us up and drove us to Main Gate because he brought me all the yen he had in his wallet.  We walked to Yokosuka Station and made the 9:42 train to Zushi.  At Zushi we met the second half of our group and headed on toward Kamakura Station.  We left the station and walked over to the main road that leads to Hachimangu Shrine.  The cherry trees down this road are very old and so they do not produce full cherry blooms.  They were still very pretty.  

 There are lanterns up and down the whole road.

Once we were at the end of the road we took a left turn instead of heading up to the shrine.  From here my memory is a bit sketchy. First, the kids kept running around like maniacs, which is not the norm for them and it was making me a little crazy.  Second, the trail was a little tougher to climb than I thought.  The kids managed it, but it took a lot of help and quick reflexes on my part to keep them alive!  So, I didn't keep too close an eye on which way we went.

This is Jufukuji Temple.  It was built by Masako, Minamoto Yoritomo's wife (he was the first shogunate and set up the seat of rule here in Kamakura).  We made a little pit stop here to relax and let the whole group catch up.

We veered off the sidewalks here and got onto a hiking path.  This is the first real hiking trip the kids have done here.  They did great, but I was a bit nervous how they would handle the climbing and pace.  The beginning wasn't too bad.  But, once we got past the little arch here it got crazy!  I tried to take a picture of the tiny path between two huge rocks that wasn't even wide enough for you to stand with your feet together, they had to be one in front of the other.  But, when I took the lens cap off the camera I dropped it and it just rolled on down the hill behind me.  Doh!  Luckily, a quick-eyed teenage boy grabbed it a few feet behind me.  I just put it back on the camera and moved on.  
Once past the itty bitty path we climbed up stairs.  And then more stairs.  And then more stairs.  Finally, the path opened up a bit and the kids could, once again, take off and leave me in the dust.  
Then, we climbed up some more stairs!  At the top of this section of stairs it opened up into a little park.  We rested (the adults) for a few minutes while the kids ran around like crazy people.  

While my kids were occupied with the other running children I decided to walk around and try to get a few pictures.  There are several beautiful sakura trees here and several families having hanami (picnic under sakura trees).  This is Genjiyama park.

Again, I was too busy chasing my heathens around to hear the explanation about the park.  I think there was a big war here, not sure who, but there is a statue of Minamoto here.  I thought I heard Fusako-san (tour guide) explain that one brother tried to kill another brother to take control of this area. explanations aren't all that great this trip.

 We walked up a little further and when we came around the corner, the beautiful sakura trees greeted us gracefully on this lovely Wednesday afternoon!

This is Kuzuharoka-jinja Shrine.  I think Fusako-san said this is where executions were held many years ago.

This couple just got married and came up here to have their picture taken under the sakura.  They very graciously posed so our group could take a few shots of them as well.  Just as we were getting ready to walk away, one of the little girls in our group picked up a beautiful flower off the ground and gave it to the bride.  "Awwww"'s were heard all around.  Sweet!

I wish these two weren't eating when I was here.  That bench was a perfect spot to have a picture taken.  I guess I could have waited and been a little patient to get a good shot.  But, my kids were running around blowing bubbles on people and jumping off fallen trees and logs.  Ugh!

Fusako-san said that you can pay 100 yen to buy a plate then drop it into the pit below.  Just before you drop it you think of all the bad juju you want to be rid of, then drop the plate, and the juju is supposed to go away.  Luckily the kids didn't hear that I could buy plates for them to break on purpose....I could just see Garytt winding up his most awesome pitch and glass flying all over the poor bystanders.

At this point our tour coordinator said she was sorry for not remembering that the beginning of the hiking trail was a lot steeper and rougher than she told us.   (from the invitation:  This is not a hard hike, very light, easy going with wide paths no tree roots.)  She then said it is easy going the rest of the way with wide paths like this one from here on out... we are at more steps and lots of roots and ca-razy drops.  

The kids found wonderful friends.  They held hands and helped each other.  It was great!  When the trip was done, we walked to Hase Station and then we were invited to relax a little at our new friends' apartment at Ikego before walking home.  So, the kids all had popsicles then played for a couple hours while the mom's put our feet up, had some water and a wonderful chat.  Then, we left their place around 1615 and headed toward the train station.  Ikego has a train station right outside their gate!!!!  That would be so awesome to have a station right outside the gate!  Anyway, we left the building and I told the kids, "I'm really not sure how to get back to the gate and train station now.  Hmm.  Let's just walk this way."  After about fifteen feet I turned to Garytt and asked, "Buddy, is this the right way?"  He said, "Yup, there's the playground we walked by."  So, I just followed the five-year-old back to the station.  :)

We made it home just a few minutes after six.  Good thing it was leftover night!  We all got quick showers, ate dinner, and now we just put the kiddos to bed.  I'm guessing we put in close to ten miles today, about three of those were up and down stairs or mountain paths.  We should all sleep well tonight!

This map is a rough estimate.  Google wouldn't get too close to our hiking trails.

And, the group picture...