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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).

Sanmon Gate

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's influence began to spring forth from.   This is also around the time of Dante and Shakespeare, so a lot was happening in the world at the end of the 12th Century.   Japan was undergoing spiritual cultivation while Europe was expanding its power throughout the world.

There are about 8 points of interest here at Engakuji.   The Butsuden ( main hall ) The Kaikibiyo, (Hojo's Mausoleum) The huge Sanmon ( main gates), the Shozokuin ( hermitage ), the Kojirin ( zen meditation hall) the Hojo ( Abbot's quarters), Ogane ( national treasure ) Bentendo ( ceremony hall )

I always recommend brushing up a little on Buddhist philosophical thought and dogma.  Before visiting this temple you may want to study a little about Rinzai school, one of the most popular schools of thought in Japan since Engaku-ji is the head temple of Rinzai.   When walking around these temples take notice of how naturally wooded these edifices are.  No flashy paint, just simple wood.

Engakuji could easily eat up 2 hours of your day with all the walking if you take your time.  Any season is a good time to visit this place and I highly recommend it, and take from it whatever inspires you to live to your fullest potential.

When you leave, remember to bow at the gate again with hands together.


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