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Kamakura Trip Home > Kamakura Seven –Kiridoshi(Kiritoshi)

The Seven Kiridoshi, or mountain passes, of Kamakura

Kamakura is surrounded by the ocean in the south and by wooded hills in all other directions, making it a natural fortress.  This is the one of the main reasons that the first Minamoto Shogun, Yoritomo Minamoto, chose Kamakura as the headquarters for his military government. As Kamakura developed into a city after the political conditions stabilized, traffic of people and commerce flowing into the city became heavy and the surrounded mountains became obstacles. Good, reliable roads needed to be prepared.  So the regent at the time, Hojo, set about doing construction of mountainous passes, called kiridoshi or kiritoshi, in the early 13th century by cutting into the hillsides, eventually making seven kiridoshi now called “Kamakura Nanakuchi”, or Kamakura seven entrances.

Gokurakuji-saka Kiridoshi

Gokurakuji-saka Kiridoshi

Of the seven entrances, Gokurakuji-saka Kiridoshi is the nearest to the ocean. The road leads to the Tokai-do via Shichirigahama and Koshigoe.  It is said that the monk of Gokurakuji Temple, Ninsho excavated the road.

Joju-in, famous for its hydrangeas flowers and the god of marriage and matchmaking Fudomyo-o, is on the hill through which the path was cut. The road today has been dug down deeper and is well paved for cars, but in medieval times, the road was a much steeper mountain path, which passed right in front of Joju-in's main gate.

Access: Take the enoshima electric railway from Kamakura and get off at Gokurakuji Station. It is a 5-minute walk from the station

Daibutsu-zaka Kirodoshi

Daibutsu-zaka Kirodoshi

This is a road that leads to Fujisawa via Kajiwara and Yamazaki.
To reach this kiridoshi, you must go up the stone steps by the Daibutsu-zaka Tunnel and proceed to the branch path of Daibutsu Hiking Trail, or take a bus and get off at Hinomishita bus stop and go through the alley of houses.

There are not as many records about this kiridoshi as there are for the six, so it is assumed that this one functioned more as a local community road or a short cut in the medieval period. It is a National Historic Site.

Access: Take the enoshima electric railway from Kamakura and get off at Hase Station. It is a 12-minute walk from the station

Kewai-zaka Kiridoshi

Kewai-zaka Kiridoshi

This kiridoshi is connected with Kami-no-Michi of Kamakura Kaido, a road that travelers took when they wanted to go to Musashi (Tokyo, Saitama  and part of Kanagawa area today) or to Joshu (modern-day Gunma). There are many stories about the name of this road.  One story says that there were prostitutes around this area who wore lots of make-up. The word for make-up in Japanese is kesho, but the kanji (Chinese character) for the word can be read as “kewai”, and the word for hill is saka, or zaka. Another story tells that the head of a military commander of the enemy Taira clan, who was defeated in battle, was painted with ceremonial death make-up before being inspected. Yet another story suggests that it comes from the word kihae, meaning lots of trees, which eventually changed to kewai.  It is a National Historic Site.

Access: 20-minute walk from JR Kamakura station, West Exit

Kamegayatsu-zaka Kirodoshi

Kamegayatsu-zaka Kirodoshi

This is also a road to Musashi (modern-day Tokyo, Saitama  and part of the Kanagawa area) and Joshu (modern-day Gunma) via Yamanouchi (Kitakamakura). It is said that a turtle going up this hill tipped over because it was so steep, so the hill is called Kame-kaeri-zaka. Kame means turtle, kaeri means tip over, and zaka means hill. It is a National Historic Site.

Access: 10-minute walk from JR Kitakamakura station

Kobukuro-zaka Kirotoshi

Kobukuro-zaka Kirotoshi

This is a road to Yamanouchi in Kitakamakura from Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. It merges with the Kamegayatsu-zaka kiridoshi just ahead of Kenchoji Temple. It is said that Regent Yasutoki Hojo constructed the road. The original narrow road began just off to the side of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu's main shrine, passing in front of the small Oumeseiten shrine on a hill, but it is blocked off today.  Now there is a new road big enough even for buses. It is a National Historic Site.

Access: 20-minute walk from JR Kitakamakura station

Asahina Kiridoshi

Asahina Kiridoshi

This road leads to the port of Mutsuura in Kanazawa-ward, Yokohama. Regent Yasutoki Hojo ordered that the road be constructed. It is said that Saburo Asahina from the Wada family (vassals to the Shogun) cut out the path in a single night, a legend impressive enough to have a nearby waterfall named after him. The kiridoshi is a National Historic Site.

Access: Take a Keikyu bus bound for "Kamakura Reien Seimon-mae Tachiarai" or "Kanazawa-Hakkei station" from the number 5 bus stop at JR Kamakura station's East Exit. Get off at "Jyuniso-Jinja", and walk 25 minutes.

Nagoe Kiridoshi

Nagoe Kiridoshi

This road leads to Miura Peninsula.  The road was very important in Regent Hojo's defense against his greatest rival, the Miura clan, who ruled over the Miura Peninsula. According to recent investigation, it has become clear that this landscape as it is seen today was established in the Edo era. It is a National Historic Site.

Access: Take a Keikyu bus bound for "Midorigaoka-iriguchi" from the number 3 bus stop at JR Kamakura station's East Exit. Get off at "Midorigaoka-iriguchi", and walk 8 minutes.

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