We took the train from Tokyo and visited Kamakura for the day. It’s a popular area for visitors since it’s so close to Tokyo, and it’s often referred to as the ‘Kyoto of the east’. Gordon created a great walking tour for us and we spent the day checking out all the sites.
We started at Engakuji Temple, it was founded in 1282 and it’s one of the leading zen temples in Eastern Japan. The Sanmon Gate was very impressive – the meaning of this gate is ‘getting delivered from earthly bondage into three states of emptiness, no substances, no wants’. You must walk through the Sanmon and break off from the world to pray to the principal Buddha image with a purified mind.
There was quite a bit to see at Engakuji Temple and we found it really interesting.
This massive bell is a national treasure!
Our next stop was Kencho-ji Temple, it’s the oldest zen temple in Kamakura and was founded in 1253. The chinese characters on this gate mean ‘a temple that brings in enormous happiness’. This is my kind of temple since I’m enormously happy!
The grounds were beautiful here and the Byakushin Chinese Juniper is a tree designated for preservation. The tree is said to have grown from a seed brought from China and planted at the time of the founding of the temple. That’s one old tree!
Entering through this gate is said to free you from any form of strong desire, addiction, and obsession.
The Butsu-den houses the main statue of the temple and promises to save all creatures in both heaven and hell, and allow them to rest in peace.
The Kara-mon Gate – a four legged lacquered gate built in the 16th century. It was quite something and I couldn’t stop looking at it!
Hatto (Dharma Hall) is the largest wooden temple building in eastern Japan. There’s a dragon painted on the ceiling that is incredible!
Next on the ‘Gordon Walking Tour’ was Tsuragaoka Hachimangu, Kamakura’s most important Shinto Shrine founded in 1063. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the samurai.
We were so lucky at most of the Shinto Shrines we visited, we almost always came across a wedding!
The Hase Temple is famous for its eleven headed statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. It’s one of the largest wooden sculptures in Japan – no photos allowed though.
There are rows and rows of small statues of Jizo, the guardian deity of children. Historically, parents came here to set up these statues in hopes that the deity would protect and watch over their children. Today, the statues represent the souls of the miscarried, stillborn, or aborted children. Some of the statues wear bibs, hats, and sweaters. The thousand or so that are displayed will only remain for a year and then they will be burned and buried to make way for others.
There’s a small cave called the Benten Cave. This is where the Goddess Benten is being worshiped. Inside, you will see an engraving of the sixteen followers of Benten. Small Benzai Tenjin dolls are placed inside the cave. If you’d like you can purchase a small figurine and place it in memory of a loved one.
Buddha’s footprint can also be found here.
Our final stop was at the Great Buddha of Kamakura. It’s a bronze statue of Amida Buddha and the statue was cast in 1252. You could pay a small fee to go inside, and we did, but really there wasn’t much to see (it was like turning a small statue upside down and looking inside it). I would say skip going inside.
We had an interesting and fun day in Kamakura and it’s a stop worth making if you have the time.
Where we stayed: Unizo Inn Tokyo Kandaeki West 👍
Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Love~Travel