Walking the 800-Year-Old Asaina Pass into Japan’s Ancient Capital, Kamakura

We’re back in Japan! The weather has been absolutely glorious the last few days.  So instead of hiding from the heat in the air-conditioned indoors, I cajoled the family into a hike along Asaina Kiridoshi, one of the mountain pass entrances into the city of Kamakura. Loyal martayaki readers may recall previous visits to Kamakura for temples and hiking.

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Kamakura was the most populated area of Japan in the 12th and 13th centuries, making it Japan’s de facto capital from 1192 to 1333 CE. It’s an oceanfront town surrounded on the other three sides by mountains. “Natural fortress” seems a bit of an understatement.

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As the sign at the Asaina Pass entrance so helpfully explains:

Asaina Kiridoshi is one of seven opening passes of Kamakura. This pass leads to Mutsuura, an important port supporting the logistics of the capital Kamakura during the Kamakura period. 

Under the direction of Yasutoki Hojo, the regent of the Kamakura Shogunate Government, the construction work took place in 1241. It underwent numerous repairs since then.

Wear good shoes, I told everyone. The trail is wet and muddy in spots.

Not at the height of summer, Mark replied. It hasn’t rained in ages.

This bold proclamation in our forested setting reminds of a joke: If a trees falls in the forest, and there’s no one there to hear it, is the husband still wrong?

Mark was definitely wrong.

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Thankfully the mud and shallow spring waters washing over the path proved quite manageable. We hiked up and down the gentle slopes, admiring the carved cliffsides and marveling at the stones that paved the road in places. A side trail led us to the lovely Kumano Shrine.

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Many descriptions call this trail a sunken road, so I expected something rather flat and, you know, road-like. It was in some places, but I was surprised to find some sections requiring actual scrambling up rocks. We managed just fine in running shoes, hiking boots, and overall 21st century attire. But I couldn’t even imagine crossing the steep sections with animals or a wagon, as ancient visitors likely did–never mind attempting said journey wearing the attire and especially footwear of the 13th century.

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The trail is a straight out-and-back, so we could have started at either end. I decided to start on the Yokohama end so we would end our hike at the entrance to Kamakura itself. Given the increasingly beautiful scenery along the route and waterfall finale, I’d say that we chose well.

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After reaching the actual end of the road, we turned around and headed back to the car, ready to enjoy another Japanese tradition: lunch from Seven Eleven.

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Access:

For the ultimate Entering Kamakura Experience, start your hike at the Asaina Pass Kanazawa Entrance (〒236-0034 Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Kanazawa-ku, Asahinachō, 朝比奈町545) and finish at the Asaina Pass Juniso Entrance ().

By public transit, to Kanazawa (Yokohama) entrance:

Take the Keikyu Line south to Kanazawa Hakkei station. Catch the 08 bus bound for Ofuna and get off the bus at Asahina bus stop. Continue walking in the same direction as the bus and turn left at the first road, where you’ll see a sign for Asaina Pass.

By car, to Kanazawa (Yokohama) entrance:

Definitely, definitely start at the Kanazawa (Yokohama) entrance instead of the Juniso (Kamakura) entrance; that way you’ll avoid the typical heavy traffic heading from the Yokohama-Yokosuka Road toward Kamakura proper.

Set your navigation system for the Seven Eleven at 459-1 Asahinachō, Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa-ken 236-0034. You will find a tiny paid parking lot called Time Parking (not the better known Times Parking) directly across the street from Seven Eleven; it’s not on Google maps.

After parking, cross to the Seven Eleven side of the road and backtrack along the main road that you drove in on. Continue for a few hundred meters until you see a sign on the left pointing you to Asaina Pass.

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