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How to Properly Enjoy Kamakura Part 17: Hokaiji Temple 宝戒寺

Hokaiji Temple belongs to the Tendai school of Buddhism.   Among the various schools of Buddhism in Japan, Tendai is the largest and most widely accepted in Japan.   Here is a video snippet on Tendai school you may want to watch first for some context:

From Kamakura Station its about a 20 minute walk - comfortable stoll.  Along the way you'll pass several shops and cafe.

After reaching the temple you'll know you're there by looking at this picture.

This is leading up to the main gate.   The temple itself was founded by Emperor Godaigo making it venerated and holy for the purpose repose of the deceased Hojos.   A Hojo is a top general back then and these grounds are where many had died by ritual suicide.   The whole city is shrouded in death, actually.  Thousands of souls in limbo here.   At any rate, let me continue.

Taishido Hall (太子堂) dedicated to Shotoku Taishi

So why do you need to visit here?

For one, it's to give you a sense of the times.   In primary school when we learn about Japan we are taught about the ancient capitals in Nara and Kyoto, and about the samurai class, and other classes.    Back in those days you had Samurai that were either loyal to the emperor or the Shogun.    When we watch Samurai dramas on T.V. we see this constant depiction of samurai fighting other samurai, and somewhere in the middle of it all is the Emperor of Japan on his throne ruling the whole country from behind a shroud of secrecy, presumably.    

Now, you are all right, right?   Maybe... The Emperor of Japan did not control every clan and did not influence the wealth of every clan either.   Here is where Kamakura city stands out from the dramas!  Kamakura established its own government outside the control of the Emperor influence for generations and had flourished in the Art & letters.  In fact, the first military shogun were born forth from this tiny city on the Shonan Coast, and Hojo-clan was the last government to rule Kamakura before Kyoto attacked it.    The Emperor grew  Jealous of the power and prosperity of not only Kamakura, but of also the Fujiwara Clans of Tohoku who amassed great wealth and power on their own, and had more gold than the all of Kyoto and the imperial courts of Nara!   This is an oversimplified account I just gave you, but you get the picture.

Lastly, the Hojo were crushed in a surprise attack from Kyoto then mass suicides ensued all over this area.   Similar to what occurred in Okinawa after Japan's defeat.   People were killing themselves and murdering their families out of disgrace and shame.   The area itself, as with this temple are heavily consecrated and it' here where you make and seek answers to prayers.  

Most Japanese who visit this temple do it for love wishes; safe child-bearing.   If you are a flower lover then autumn is the best time to enjoy Bush Clovers.  


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