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How to Properly Enjoy Kamakura Part 14: Kenchoji Temple 建長寺

Why visit here?

1) The largest temple nearest Kita-Kamakura Station, so if you have a little time then visit Kenchoji.
2) You want to visit the First among Kamakura's Five Great Zen Temples and the head temple of the Rinzai Sect of Buddhism.
3) You have an interest in Buddhism and Zen.
4) You love wooded and venerated statuettes.
5) One of the most important training grounds for Zen monks.

Let's first start with a quote from Master Rinzai who said: "If you know fundamentally that there is nothing to seek you have settled your affairs. But because you have little faith you run about agitatedly seeking your head which you think you have lost. You cannot stop yourself".

Being in the right mind set and understanding a little about the teachings of Rinzai and Zen can you have an even greater appreciation for Kenchoji Temple.

When I enter Kenchoji from the tourist perspective I am impressed by massive wooden structures.

This temple is 1 Kilometer south of Kita-Kamakura Station, and you are walking up a mild incline along a narrow road you share with others.  Gets tight.   You'll see this gate off to your left.  Walk through it and proceed to the entrance.

The first founding priest of this temple was a Chinese man named Rankei Doryu.  Rankei and 13 of his disciples were invited to Japan by a Regent of the Kamakura Shogunate to establish Chinese Zen teachings.

These incense sticks cost anywhere from 50 yen to 100 yen.   You light them in this holy fire.

Then stick them in this cauldron.  All temples have them.   The smoke you wave into your face for affect and a blessing.

When you approach the center beyond the cauldron, you'll see an offering box.  You can drop small coins inside.  ( 5 yen or a 10 yen coin).    Whenever you visit a temple never clap your hands when you pray.   You clap at shrines.  Temples you simply put your hands together and bow to the main hall and silently pray.   When you enter and exit the temple gates you do the same thing.

There are about 26 points of interest here at Kenchoji and if you were to see everything could take you up to 90 minutes or more.   This post gives only some basic information.   You take from it what you experience after you visit, but for sure, if you have an interest in the above reasons for visiting this temple you will be impressed.


Shaka Nyorai

Famous Fasting Buddha from Pakistan

This dragon on the ceiling was painted in 2003 by Mr. Junsaku.  It's located in the Hatto Hall.

Another  artifact is this Pakistani diety once a real living mystic who is shown in great detail.  Another note are the Junipers.  We grow these in the U.S. naturally and in other parts of the world.   The ones here at Kenchoji are 750 years old and are dedicated as Natural Treasures from China as seedlings now fully grown.  

This temple is huge, so lugging photo gear is not recommended, but needed in some areas like the Ryuo-den in the back.   Most tourist record everything instead.   There are about 9 points of interest, make sure you visit the Hanso-bo if it's open and the Garden all located at the far end of the temple.  Check out the Tokugetsu-ro and Oshinkaku.  

Lastly, if you feel hungry you can try Kencho-Jiru a type of traditional soup made for monks.  You can read the description in English.   This was an excellent dish on a cold day.

Tofu, vegetables, sesame oil

Just across the street from Kencho-ji Temple is this restaurant called Kenchiro.   Enjoy!


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