Fully Enjoy the Waterfront Scene and Greenery of Meoto-ike Park
Kamakura’s Hidden Park
Meoto-ike Park is a wide scenic park inside the ravine of Mt Kamakura located in the western area of Kamakura City. Inside the park where the rich natural environment has been preserved and the precious flora and fauna are growing naturally, visitors can observe wild birds, plants, and animals from the any of the park’s pathways. With this article, I present to you Kamakura’s hidden park: Meoto-ike Park.
Meoto-ike Roots: Edo Period’s Irrigation
Meoto-ike Park is located in Mt Kamakura in Kamakura City’s western area. The flagship store famous for its roast beef, Kamakurayama, is directly next to the park. As a Kamakura sightseeing area, this is an area where you can experience an atmosphere that is different from most other sightseeing areas.
Meoto-ike was originally two ponds that were made for irrigation purposes. About 330 years ago during the Edo period, the local governor, Shigeharu Naruse Gozaemon, excavated Shimo-ikeon the right-hand side to be used as irrigation for the farmlands in Fueda Village. Kami-ikewas then completed on the left side in the Meiji period. With the ponds different sizes, they later became affectionately known as Meoto-ike (lit. Husband and Wife Pond).
It opened as a park in April 2009. With the establishment of walking areas, visitors can wander around while enjoying the surrounding wetland and quiet forest.
Quiet and Peaceful Park Surroundings
Visitors using public transportation to reach Meoto-ike from the back entrance can take the bus from Kamakura Station or Ofuna Station.
Another option is to walk about 20 minutes from Shonan-Fukasawa Station if taking the Shonan Monorail.
For this trip, I decided to go from Kamakura Station.
I boarded the bus heading towards Enoshima from Kamakura Station East Exit No. 6 bus terminal. In the beginning, the bus drove through a lively tourist area. After passing Hase Daibutsu (Great Buddha), it began steadily climbing up towards Mt. Kamakura where the surroundings changed to a tranquil residential area with lush greenery.
Heading to Meoto-ike, I got off at the Wakamatsu bus stop.
Stepping off the bus, the hustle and bustle of Kamakura Station seemed like a far-off world and a quiet and tranquil atmosphere spread out before me. Walking down the gently sloping path, I was brought closer to the park where more than half of my field of vision was enveloped in greenery.
After walking about 5 minutes from the bus top, I finally arrive at the park entrance. There is a log-cabin styled Park Center (Kouen Kanri Jimusho) at the entrance. Here, visitors can receive a pamphlet regarding the park as well as use a vending machine and a restroom.
Remains of a Bomb Shelter
The ponds can be seen by walking down the path from the Park Center. These are the Kami-ike and Shimo-ike that, when put together, make up Myoutoike Pond, Meoto-ike Park’s namesake.
In front of the pond is a walking path called Waterfront Trail (Mizube no Sanpomichi) where visitors can walk while looking out over both Kami-ike and Shimo-ike. Around the time of Golden Week, the beautiful fuji flowers are in full bloom and can be enjoyed along the ponds’ opposite shores.
Once I cross to the opposite shore by taking the small path laid out between Kami-ike and Shimo-ike, the surroundings are all at once wrapped in greenery.
A boardwalk is laid across the trail and when following this path, a forest extends out on the left-hand side.
Ferns and Houttuynia cordata grow densely here and there along with the sound of trickling water. The chilly air is filled with moisture and the earth is a green rug of moss. Here is a space where a valley’s environment can be felt with all five senses.
Continuing across the wooden boardwalk is a sign that says Meoto-ike Park and Bomb Shelter Remains (Meoto-ike Kouen to Boukuugou Ato). It seems that within Meoto-ike Park exists a bomb shelter that is presumed to have been built during the Pacific War.
The entrance to the bomb shelter, which is currently under maintenance, can only be viewed through a chain link fence. In the middle of the forest is a discreet hole that feels as if it could be a secret entrance to another world.
Resting in a Grassland with Benches
When heading back to the boardwalk, there is an open grassland across from the forest.
Benches and chairs are provided here and there so that visitors can take a rest while looking out at the forest and ponds. People eating lunch from lunchboxes can also be seen.
Visitors can view the various types of wild grasses that are spread in the grassland, do birdwatching, and observe insects.
Continuing along the boardwalk that was laid over the wetland, visitors will come to a terrace. Some things to enjoy are observing kingfishers and appreciating the reflection of sakura on the water’s surface during the blooming season. It is a nice location even if only to meditate while looking out at the ponds from the terrace.
Forest Trail and the Beautiful Asian Lizard’s Tail
By returning to the boardwalk and taking the path between the ponds once again, visitors can head toward the Park Center on the right side of Kami-ike to enter Forest Walk (Mori no Sanpomichi), a path filled with plant life.
Close to the pond is a wooden path that has been laid and in the early summer visitors can enjoy a plant called Hangesho (Asian lizard’s tail).
Hangesho is a plant that grows along bodies of water and in marshes. This plant flowers during half of summer (beginning of July, called hange) and stands out for its white leaves. In Japanese, that’s why this plant is called hange-sho (lit. half summer life).
Additionally, the lower half of the leaf becomes white, giving it another name for this plant in Japanese, which uses different Chinese characters, is hangesho (lit. half-applied makeup).
Hangesho, like a sea of clouds on both sides of the boardwalk, has a fantastical beauty. On the other side of the Hangesho, a deep greenery continues into the forest.
When visitors cross the boardwalk among the marsh, stairs which continue to other side are visible.
The ground is completely covered in moss and ferns grow en masse due to the moist valley’s geographical quality.
The air is filled with the smell of leaves and moist earth; the sounds of birds chirping and the wind rustling through the leaves.
While being bathed in a pleasant atmosphere with the five senses, once the visitor reaches the top of the stairs, a view of a road and the residential area of Mt Kamakura reveals itself.
The Forest Remaining Near the Town
Meoto-ike Park is a park where visitors can enjoy the waterfront landscape and a valley’s distinctive calm atmosphere while observing wild birds and precious plant life. Whether it is to avoid the summer heat or to go out with children, I recommend going during this season.
There are paths within the park being maintained but there are also places that are a bit muddy so please wear shoes that are easy to walk in when going out.
For people who want more than simple tourist spots to experience Kamakura’s atmosphere or for those who want to go to a nearby place with children and enjoy nature, Meoto-ike Park is a great place to visit and stretch your legs.
|Park Name||Meoto-ike Park|
|Address||248-0031 2-2-2 Mt Kamakura, Kamakura City|
|Hours of Operation||8:30〜17:15|
|Closed On||Dec. 29〜 Jan. 3|