Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sakura on the Daibutsu Hiking Course

The next edition of our Sakura Explorations takes us to Kamakura!  

We hit up the Daibutsu Hiking Trail, passing through Kuzuharaoka Jinja and then ending at Jochiji Temple.

Once Daddy made it back home from a quick trip to work this morning, we headed out to Yokosuka Station and ending at Hase Station.  From here, we walked to visit our friend Big Buddha!  There were tons of people visiting this area.  We had to walk in a long line to get down the street to Big Buddha.  I was excited to see what this place looked like with the sakura in bloom, but there were only a handful of trees in the whole temple.  It's definitely a better visit when the ajisai are in bloom around mid June.

I hiked part of this course last year and wanted to take Kris to see it this year.  Last year we entered somewhere over by Hachimangu.  But, I KNEW with my sense of direction and ability to remember what hiking course entrances look like, it was a super long shot that I would ever find that end of the trail.  So, I took the easier route...If you are standing on the road, looking at the walkway leading to the entrance to Kotoku-in Temple, take the sidewalk that runs along the left side of the temple grounds.  This will lead you along the road and eventually you will come to a tunnel with this stairway.  There are a few signs that also direct you to the trail.

We ran into a few dozen people on the trail, but not enough to make it crazy.  It was nice and peaceful the whole way around.  The wind was blowing a bit, so we alternated between jackets and no jackets.  The sun was shining bright, so I'm glad we were in the trees, since I forgot all about sunblock for our wintry-pale faces, necks and arms.

The red dots show where we hiked today.

We used our hiking sticks for the first time today (thanks Aunt Tisha and Uncle Clayton!).  Garytt kept saying, "This is so easy."  I would ask, "What's easy?"  He would reply, "Walking up these hard stairs with this hiking stick."  :)

We saw a few other flowers besides the sakura.

This dark pink tree was beautiful!

There it is!  There's the sakura spot!  Mackenzie said, "Uummm...this place looks kind of familiar."  Uh, yeah, from last year silly!  It looked to me like not all the trees had bloomed yet.  The tops of several were still buds.  We got a much better show last year.

They were still amazing though!  A handful of trees right on the path were in full bloom, with millions of flowers....stunning!

At the back of this little park is Kuzuharaoka Jinja.  Founded in 1887, the spirit of Toshimoto Hino is worshipped here.  It looks like he was involved in a plot to overthrow the Kamakura government in the 1330's.  Word of the plan got out, he was caught, then tried for the crime, then was pardoned and sent back to Kyoto.  Then, over the next seven years he trained with a group of priests, kind of like samurai, and he returned to over throw the government again.  The plan was leaked again, he was caught again, tried again, but this time, he was beheaded.  The beheading took place at Kuzuharaoka because this is where the Kamakura period's execution grounds were.

Admission is free.  There wasn't much to see back here.  The kids thought the turtles were amazing!

I read somewhere that these are like love stones...?  Not sure about that.  The two rocks have red string all over them with little 5 yen coins tied to them.  Then, if you look behind the rocks you will see the heart shaped ema.  Again...not sure what that's about.

Just past the two rocks is a smaller torii and building.  

These two guys are standing guard next to the shrine.  I think they are kitsune statues.  Foxes, maybe?  One seems to be standing on a key or maybe a hatchet.  The other has a round object.  Garytt said it's a ball.

A little farther up the path is another little building.  It was hard to get a picture of this place because of all the people praying.  As I was standing there waiting for an opening, I noticed the ema to the side were waving in the wind and making a beautiful sound.  I actually pictured all the wishes people wrote on those boards being carried off by the wind.  It was quite a peaceful moment.

I'm not sure of the significance of the snake statue inside the main hall.  ??

A view of the main hall from a small picnic table.

Once walked back down the path to the torii, we found this little dish breaking spot.  I gave each kid 100 Yen to purchase a plate (well, Mackenzie got two because her first dish didn't break).  

Masaruishi:  the kanji for Ma is negative factors in life.  The kanji for Saru is leave/depart.  The kanji for Ishi is rock.  So, we paid our 100 Yen, the kids picked up the dishes and tossed them at the rock.  The thought being that the plate represents all the negative energy in your life.  Throwing the plate symbolizes overcoming obstacles in life.

Just to the right of this area is the path we took that ends at Jochiji.  This path was nearly deserted the whole way.

Found at the top of a small hill.

The hike took us about four hours.  We stopped for lunch before we reached Genjiyama park (the area around Kuzuharaoka Jinja).  We then took time to walk through the shrine and eat a small snack.  So, it wasn't too terribly long of a walk.  5.6  miles for the day!