By John E. Gibson / Japan News Staff WriterKamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, might be best known for its Great Buddha statue, abundance of historical sites, numerous temples, museums, beach areas and scrumptious eateries.
But the area is also rich in nature, with hiking paths that deliver the kind of green surroundings that shed light on some of Japan’s hidden beauty.
The Tenen Hiking Course provides the kind of one-day outing that soothes the soul and offers an attainable challenge for beginner-to-novice hikers looking for a place to take a deep breath of fresh air with an energetic recharge.
About a one-hour train ride from JR’s Ikebukuro Station to Kita-Kamakura Station, the start of the course is easy to find from the train platform, although it requires a walk of about a kilometer. Follow the signs toward Kenchoji temple.
The hike kicks off on the grounds of Kenchoji, which requires an entrance fee of ¥500 (¥200 for children between elementary and junior high school age) in an area called the Kamakura Alps.
Follow the signs at the temple to the hiking course, which requires no special shoes or gear to cover a four-kilometer path that normally takes about two hours to complete because of the terrain.
A collection of stairs varying in steepness and styles greets hikers, and they conspire to take one’s breath away — in a challenging way. The thighs can end up with a bit of a workout, depending on your pace.
The initial climbs and the natural contours of the course early on cause hikers to work up a bit of a sweat as they move along the path, which features easy-to-follow signage that includes English because of the high volume of foreign visitors to the area.
The middle portion of the course flattens out enough to occasionally allow hikers to open up their strides. It makes sense that a relatively short course takes two hours to get through, but the rolling nature of the design, along with the narrow and sometimes unbeaten path, often require deliberate steps.
However, fast-moving walkers, or even joggers, can cut down on that time with a determined march through these woods.
Just past Mt. Ohirayama, the peak and the midway point at which many hikers stop to have lunch or take a respite, is the Tenen break area.
The area includes a set of picnic tables with benches, and there are vending machines selling drinks to help power hikers over the second half of the course.
Once at Zuisenji temple, the course turns to asphalt until the goal at Kamakura Station. In fact, the area near the temple is smack dab in the middle of civilization — in the form of houses and quiet neighborhoods — and the paved streets zigzag the way to Kamakura Station.
But it’s only about one more kilometer and leads walkers to one of the biggest rewards to hiking in Kamakura — the fact that after completing the course, the quaint city’s many shops and restaurants can entertain couples, families or groups.
It’s a inviting place to spend a day, or even two, with its collection of cozy hotels that add a leisurely touch to a renowned area.