Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2017

How to properly Enjoy Kamakura: Part 13 Egara Tenjinsha Shrine 荏柄天神社

Why this shrine?

1) You want to see a giant ancient Gingko and a Juniper tree(s). N.B. Juniper symbolizes the marriage between two faiths, Shintoism and Buddhism.
2) You have an interest in the life of Sugawara no Michizane, a real person who is deified as the god of literature.
3) You have an interest in 12th Century mythology

First,  take notice of your surroundings.  Welcome to the Eastside of  Kamakura City which is divided into several towns, kus, and machis.  ( * Ku = ward / Machi = smaller towns or areas)  Each town with its own natural characteristics.  I haven't covered other places with this much inspection, but Nikaido area is affluent and worthy of observation.  Nikaido is a showpiece area with three major temples and shrines:  Zuisenji, Tenjinsha, and Kamakura-gu!

The best season to visit this shrine is in spring, unlike Autumn where places on the Westside of Kamakura are better.   This shrine is famous for plum blossoms, a favorite of the ruling class, and of Michiza…

How to Properly Enjoy Kamakura: Part 12 Kakuonji Temple 覚園寺

If you want to start from part 1 click here
Why visit here:
You like the study of ascetic BuddhismYou want to see very rare artifacts like the Black Jizo ( baby like god).  You have to sign up for the tour which is conducted in Japanese and is 50 minutes long.   You want to see the Yakushi Trinity, and extremely rare artifact and beautiful.  You love nature walks and don't mind a light excursion from Kamakura Station.Roads leading up to Kakuonji have a few soba houses, not restaurant, so it's like you are eating at someones home.

Kakuonji as it is without the historical references is still beautiful.   After leaving Kamakura-gu Shrine just head back towards the bus stop and continue up the main road about a kilometer.  This temple is directly ahead.    The benches just beyond the gate you can sit and take in the fall foliage and the aromatics of nature along with the scents of worships in the form of incense.    

This temple attracts a lot of elderly who are drawn to the ascet…

How to Properly Explore Kamakura Part 11: Kamakura-Gu 鎌倉宮

Why visit this shrine?

1) You like Meiji Era
2) You have an interest in military history.
3) You love fall foliage

This is the easiest shrine to reach from Kamakura Station by bus with a minimum walking distance from the Daito no Miya bus stop to alter.   This is one of the most beautiful medium sized shrines in Japan.

This shrine was not built in honor of a living emperor at that time, but was built in honor of a slain prince who was murdered out of jealous rage by one of the Emperor's top supporters in 1335 at 28 years of age.    The 12th and 13th centuries have always been a great fascination for Emperor Meiji.  This may be due to the shift in power from the samurai to the emperor, a common theme in Japanese history.

Being brave and young have always been strong Japanese virtues from the time of antiquity to the present, and is what sets this shrine apart shrines that glorify the gods of Japan.

There are ten points of interest here:

1) Main Shrine ( Best in autumn)
2) Minaminok…

How to Properly Explore Kamakura Part 10: Engaku-ji 円覚寺 書院

The easiest and the closest station to reach a temple in Kamakura is via the JR. Yokosuka line JR Kita-Kamakura Station.   Just a five-minute walk to Engaku-ji Temple is off to your left and up the stairs.  You should see lots of people clustered near the gates.

As a matter of temple etiquette, you may put your hands together ( do not clap - never clap at a temple) and bow before passing through the gates.  The sense of reverence adds to the allure of the place.   At the window you pay an entrance fee which is about 300 yen ( $3.00 USD).    Free Wifi is available near the vending machines after you pay your entrance fee.   No special login required.  Grab a tea while you are there and explore one of the greatest Chinese style monastic temples in the history of the world (...literally).

The temple was founded in 1282, about around the time Nichiren, the founder of Nichiren Buddhism had died.   In Europe, at around this time,  the House of Habsburg was founded where most of Europe'…

How to Properly Explore Kamakura Part 9: Meigetsu-en 明月院

Why Meigetsu-in 

You love dry rock gardens that are expressive and impressiveYou love the Irisis behind the main hall when they are in seasonGrotto grave ( stone cave graves )"Moon-smiling" teahousesThe paths of weathered Kamakura stonesHydrangea

Founded in 1160 "Meigetsu-an" ( Bright Moon Hermitage) by Tsunetoshi for the repose of the soul of his father.   This is a Rinzai Sect school belonging to Kenchoji Branch.   If you visit this place on weekend be prepared to stand in a long line in order to view the main attraction.   The tatami room with the view of the seasons.   
When I come here the first thing I do is make an offering and pray at the alter.   I think walk around the gardens while admiring the shrubs and the seasonal flowers.   Sometimes just taking a book and heading over to the teahouse is good, too.   The local teas and sweets are very nice as well as the view from the teahouse.   

Typically young couples come here because of the overall cuteness of …

How to Properly Enjoy Kamakura Part 8: Jochi-Ji Temple 金宝山浄智寺

Jochi-Ji Temple ( Rinzai sect) Engakuji School
Why visit here?   Read here first.

You have an interest in Zen Temples.You have an admiration for cypress wood.You are on a personal pilgramage to discover Kamakura's five great Zen Temples.You want to see the famous 3 wooden statues ( Nyorai, past, Amida, present, and Shaka, future) all three are regarded as Designated important Cultural Assets by the government.

This temple is only 8 minutes walk from Kita-Kamakura Station, so easy to visit first.   Jochi-Ji is ranked 4th among the great Zen Temples of Kamakura.   The reason I visited here is the admire the Japanese umbrella-pine tree and the styrax bassia trees.   The beauty of a Zen temple is less is more, but I got so much more.   The continuity of traditions is long here in this part of Japan, and I love how things are so well preserved.  
Through zen you learn about self.  

Jochi-Ji is one of the largest temples after after after the three great temples of Kenchoji, Engakuji, a…

How to Properly Explore Kamakura Part 7: Gokukuji Temple 日蓮正宗 護国寺

Gokokuji Temple
Why visit here?  First, read here. part two, part three, part four, part five, part six

You have an interest in Nichiren Shoshu Risshozan.You like unique architecture.You want to learn more about Hosshaku-KemponYou have an interest in Nichiren Daishonin doctrine of BuddhismYou have an interest in the  exile of one of Japan's most provocative spiritual leaders.

For the serious student of Buddhism, the karmic wheel of causality will play a central theme in the teachings of all Buddhist law.   However, not this particular doctrine of Buddhism.   Here you will learn the new teachings through true identity and how to create your own future.   No longer will you be shackled or bound to the karmic wheel of destiny, but through your own will create a future for yourself through the teachings of Daishonin.    

His teachings were widely rejected by the Shogunate and as a result  he was thrown out of Kamakura!  Living in exile in Izu he became an inspiration to the locals the…

How to Properly Explore Kamakura Part 6: Eishoji Temple 英勝寺

Eishoji Temple
Why visit here? Start with part one here

If you have an interest in the Jodo sect of Buddhism.If you have an interest in beautifully wood carved gates called sammon gates.If you like bamboo forests, like Hokokuji.If your aim is the appreciate the wooded culture of Japan.

Key information about this temple is that it is first and foremost a nunnery / convent the only one of its kind today in Kamakura.   The temple itself was founded by a lady named Okatsu who was a concubine of the late Tokugawa Ieyasu.   After Ieyasu's death, Okatsu was granted land to build Eishoji Temple.    

The reason people visit here is to see the four main NICP ( National Important Cultural Property).   That is, The Main Hall, the Sanmon Gate,  Karamon and Shido gates, and lastly the Belfry bell tower.   This is more of a showpiece temple for tourist to see old structures.   No teahouses to sit and admire the beautiful artifacts.   This is the temple you take friends and visitors who want to g…

How to Properly Explore Kamakura Part 5: Hasadera Temple 長谷寺

Hadera Temple
Why here? Start with part one here.

You are a tourist and love touristy templesYou love beautifully well preserved gold plated kannons.You love legends and stories of antiquityYou want to offer up prayers with candles while facing a Kannon.You want to take in the beauty of Zaimokuza Beach from the observatory.  You want to wash little jizo statues with holy water and pray.  You like Jodo Buddhism.

Touristy temples are not bad, but not the place you go back to once a week.   The only real solid reason  to visit here is for the annual events, and there's an event happening here every month, some events are  on the 18th of every month.     

I place this temple on the same level as an admiration temple.   The flora on the premises here are astounding.  A flower lovers paradise all year round!  Come here for the flowers, flowers, flowers.    Places of interest:   The Amida-do Hall, huge gold kannon, Jizo-do, Daikoku-do, Benten-do, Inari-sha, and the Kyozo a place where Bu…