the daibutsu hiking course: a love shrine and a money-washing shrine   9 comments

Saturday, June 17: After leaving Meigetsu-in at 10:40 a.m., I go in search of the Daibutsu Hiking Course, a 3km trail which begins at the steps just up the lane from the pretty temple, Jochi-ji.  The trail connects Kita-Kamakura with the Daibutsu, or Great Buddha, in Hase.  I begin the hike at 11:00, thinking the trail can’t possibly be that difficult, or that far.  I am quickly disavowed of this idea.

the beginning of the Daibutsu Hiking Course

The dirt trail climbs up and down over hilly terrain and through dense forest, over exposed serpentine tree roots and rocks.  Most of the time the trail is clearly marked, but at one point, several small groups are standing at a trail juncture not knowing where to go.  Luckily we’re directed by a passer-by to take the path to the left.  It’s hot and humid in the forest and with all the climbing, it’s not long before I’m covered in a layer of sweat.

through the woods

After a while, I come upon a clearing with picnic tables and, off to the side, Kuzuharaoka Shrine, a love shrine lined with rows of blooming hydrangeas.

hydrangeas at Kuzuharaoka Shrine

hydrangeas at Kuzuharaoka Shrine

There are stacks of heart-shaped ema, wooden plaques on which people write their wishes or prayers.

heart ema at Kuzuharaoka Shrine

Kuzuharaoka Shrine has a miniature version of Meoto Iwa, or Married Couple Rocks.  Meoto Iwa, a couple of small rocky stacks found in the sea off Futami, Mie, Japan, are joined by a shimenawa (a heavy rope of rice straw); they are considered sacred by worshippers at the neighboring Futami Okitama Shrine. According to legend, the rocks celebrate the union in marriage of man and woman (Wikipedia: Meoto Iwa).

Kuzuharaoka Shrine

Kuzuharaoka Shrine

In front of the shrine is a small pond with pretty irises.

irises at Kuzuharaoka Shrine

irises at Kuzuharaoka Shrine

iris bud at Kuzuharaoka Shrine

Kuzuharaoka Shrine

There are some beautiful hydrangeas here, and it is quite deserted compared to the crowded Meigetsu-in!

I love how the path to Kuzuharaoka Shrine is lined with colorful hydrangeas.

pathway to Kuzuharaoka Shrine

Kuzuharaoka Shrine

pathway to Kuzuharaoka Shrine

Kuzuharaoka Shrine

dragon at Kuzuharaoka Shrine

marker at Kuzuharaoka Shrine

hydrangea at Kuzuharaoka Shrine

Kuzuharaoka Shrine

Kuzuharaoka Shrine

Kuzuharaoka Shrine

After spending quite some time admiring the hydrangeas at this quiet little shrine, I sit at one of the picnic tables in the adjoining park and eat a sandwich I bought at a Kita-Kamakura Family Mart before starting the hike.

After walking quite a while up and over hills and stumbling over more exposed rocks and boulders, I find a fork in the path.  One sign indicates that if I go left, I can visit Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Jinja Shrine, better known as the “money washing temple.”  To the right is the path to Daibutsu.  It’s a long downhill detour to the shrine, but it is well worth going despite knowing I’ll have to climb back up that hill to get back on the Daibutsu Trail.

The shrine was founded around 1185 by Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-99), although the present buildings date from some time after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. He built the shrine after a god appeared to him in a dream and advised him to build a shrine to bring peace to the country.  The dream occurred on the day of the snake, in the month of the snake, in the year of the snake.  Because of the timing, the shrine was later dedicated to the Benten, a Buddhist goddess associated with snakes ( Zeniarai Benten Shrine).

The shrine was originally dedicated to the kami Ugafukujin, whose symbol is a snake with a human head.  Kami are spirits worshipped in the Shinto religion and can be elements of the landscape or forces of nature, as well as beings and the qualities that these beings express; they can include the spirits of venerated dead persons (Wikipedia: Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine).

The entrance is through a tunnel carved out of a natural stone cliff topped with moss, foliage and trees.

entrance to Zeniarai Benzaiten

The tunnel continues through a line of torii gates on the other side of the cave entrance.

torii gates at Zeniarai Benzaiten

Sadly I can’t find the significance of the rooster ema at Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Jinja Shrine.

ema at Zeniari Benzaiten

Zeniarai Benten Shrine fuses elements of Buddhism and Shinto.  Many other shrines were stripped of their Buddhist connections when the Meiji government attempted to separate Shinto from Buddhism.

Worshippers are advised to get a set of three candles and incense sticks from the shrine office, and to borrow a basket. At the main shrine, they should light the first candle with the big candle there and put it on the candleholder, and place incense sticks in the incense burner. They should bow twice, clap their hands twice and bow once again to pray (jntoJapan: the official guide: Zeniarai Benten Shrine).

Zeniarai Benzaiten

incense at Zeniarai Benzaiten

Next, visitors are advised to go into the cave, put the second candle on the candleholder, and wash money in the basket by pouring the holy water on it with a ladle (jntoJapan: the official guide: Zeniarai Benten Shrine). It is variously said that money will double or multiply if washed in this stream, and by the number of people who are here washing their money, it seems many hope this will actually happen.

inside the cave at Zeniarai Benzaiten

money-washing at Zeniarai Benzaiten

shrine inside the cave at Zeniarai Benzaiten

origami cranes in the cave

origami cranes

activity in the money-washing cave

ema at Zeniarai Benzaiten

waterfall at Zeniarai Benzaiten

Visitors should then offer prayers at Shichifuku-jinja Shrine, which is said to have power to bring prosperity in business, and put the last candle there.

shrine at Zeniarai Benzaiten

creature in the garden

Next, worshippers should climb the stairs and visit Kaminomizu-jingu Shrine and Shimonomizu-jingu Shrine to pray.

shrine at Zeniarai Benzaiten

shrine at Zeniarai Benzaiten

torii at Zeniarai Benzaiten

ema at Zeniarai Benzaiten

Finally I leave the money-washing temple and climb the steep hill back to the Daibutsu hiking trail, where I continue my walk over undulating terrain.  Strangely, I find this rather Western-looking house right along the trail.

a house along the Daibutsu Hiking Course

I find a nice view of Sagami Bay from the mountain trail.

view of Sagami Bay and Hase from the Daibutsu Hiking Course

About an hour and a half after beginning the hike, I make my descent from the mountains and by 12:30, I’m on the road leading to Daibutsu, the Great Buddha.




9 responses to “the daibutsu hiking course: a love shrine and a money-washing shrine

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  1. You have found some lovely places whilst in Japan. How long now before you return home? And have you finished teaching? I have missed several posts because my middle son was taken seriously ill a couple of weeks ago and had an emergency operation which was touch and go. Thankfully he is on the mend, but it will be a long and slow recovery and his life has changed upside down. Now things are a little more hopeful I will be able to visit blogs again, but it has been hard to concentrate on very much recently. I’m away from home staying in his house so that I can visit him daily, once he has been discharged I shall take him to Cornwall to recuperate for a few months. Just goes to show never to take anything for granted!
    Jude xx

    • Oh Jude, I’m sorry to hear about your son. I’m so glad he made it through his operation and is now on the mend. I’m sorry for him that his recovery will be slow, but I’m happy at least he is recovering. That is a tough situation. Hugs to you and your family through this difficult time. xxx

      Please don’t worry about not visiting my blogs; stuff like that is totally unimportant in the face of trying circumstances. Even I haven’t been good about visiting anyone while I’ve been in Japan. It’s not because of dire circumstances at all; it’s mainly because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Working 9 hours a day, plus trying to see as much as possible and then blogging about it before I forget the details, has really been a challenge. Other than the work, it’s been a fun challenge. Today is my last teaching day, and, as is usual, not much of any importance will happen. All the grades just need to be finalized but they’re pretty much finished. Today will just be pizza parties and games, and I’m sure lots of picture-taking.

      Tomorrow, Tuesday, we go into the office to clean up, and on Thursday, I have to go into Tokyo for a meeting to discuss my students. I actually booked a trip to Nikko, north of Tokyo, for Fri-Sun. On Monday, a baggage service will pick up my bags to store at the airport until August 8, when I fly out. On Tuesday, August 1, I have the apartment inspection, at which time I’ll leave with the inspector and jump on the train and then the Shinkansen to Hiroshima. I have one week for a whirlwind tour: Hiroshima and Miyajima, Nara and Koyasan, then back to Narita to fly home. I’m already exhausted.

      Again, I wish the best to your son, and to you. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you, as his mother. Hugs again, Jude. xxx

      • Thanks Cathy, your thoughts and hugs are appreciated. I’m sure we’ll get there in the end, though he might like Cornwall so much he never leaves!! Have a fabulous end of term trip – I’m sure you will find enough energy to complete the tour and then you can sleep on the plane all the way home!!
        Take care xx

      • How’s your son doing now, Jude? I can’t wait to get my trip done and be on my way home. 🙂

      • I never thought I would hear you say you wanted to be home! You seem to have enjoyed your time in Japan far better than China. At least the food appears to have suited you better. I am sure your itchy feet will take you to other places 🙂

        Son home yesterday, still a long way to go, but at least for the moment things are looking good. He is one very lucky lad.

  2. Don’t forget we’ll be looking over your shoulder every step of the way, Cathy! You have to enjoy it for all of us. 🙂 🙂 It sounds like it will be amazing. I bet Mike will be glad to have you back though.
    This walk looks hard work but the flowers are beautiful.

    • The walk was hard work, especially as it was so hot. But I felt proud of myself for doing it in the end. And i enjoyed the two temples I saw along the way. I’m looking forward to my trip, but mostly I’m excited about going home! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Yorkshire Lavender | restlessjo

  4. Really fascinating! There are some great photos here – and I love the forest, too (of course!). The whole idea of washing money is so interesting, isn’t it?

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