Buddha statue and rock art of Takatori Yama
There are many places in Japan seeped in history, heritage, and lore. Wherever you travel there is no shortage of places that you absolutely have to visit. If you were to visit every one of them though, it would take you a lifetime to travel through one city. So how do you decide on which places to visit and which ones to skip? Personally I prefer to visit areas, or attractions, that are not crowded but still rich in history. The city of Tokyo may be the most populated city in the world but it is still possible to find solitude and peace within sight of the city, you just have to know where to look. Takatori Yama is one of those places - it is practically oozing with history and you can often find solitude and peace even on a holiday weekend! But like I said you have to know where to look.
The best place to start when exploring this area is the Jinmu-ji Temple (神 武 寺) which is 724 years old! Loosely translated 神 武 寺 means God Warrior Temple. It’s a unique and powerful name for such a beautiful place. This temple is where the Samurai fled to during the siege of Odawara Castle by Hikeyoshi in 1590. The temple is open to the public but has very limited hours. If it is closed you can still get some great pictures of it from the trail, just wander around a bit to find the best angle. The upper area is open year around and was built in 1761. The bell tower you pass on the trail between these two areas was built in 1859.
As you continue along the main trail you’ll reach the quarry that was in operation until about 100 years ago and is now a popular rock climbing area. If you poke around in this area though you will find a 65-year-old 8-meter tall Buddha statue carved into a massive monolith of stone.
There are also numerous rock paintings, carvings, and statues framed by tall cedar and beech trees swaying in the wind in this area too.
If I told you exactly where everything was then they would be quickly overrun, not to mention it would take all the fun out of going here and exploring on your own.
Getting to Takatori Yama
The most direct route is to take the JR Line to Jinmuji Station in Zushi and walk to the Zushi Junior High School. Follow the road behind the school and eventually it will turn into a dirt trail. Follow the trail for about 10 minutes up a small valley past a bonsai tree farm. Note: There are a few parking spots on the side of the road behind the school if you decide to drive.
Lastly, this area is crisscrossed by hundreds of trails. Giving walking directions would be nearly impossible. A lot of the more unique and less frequented areas are down trails that are hard to see or that are overgrown. Look out for snakes, exercise patience, carry lots of water, be prepared to backtrack, and of course ‘have fun’!