Here are the best Temples in Kamakura, with travel tips and more, according to LIVE JAPAN, a top-class travel website for visitors to Japan. Our ranking is based on the most popular pages viewed by foreign visitors in a given category. For instance, Hase-dera, The Great Buddha and Kotoku-in, Kencho-ji and other related spots will be listed. Be sure to check them out during your visit to Kamakura!
Hasedera or the Hasedera Temple has a long history; it is said that this old temple was established in 736, long before the Kamakura period (1192–1333). The principal image of Hasedera is an eleven-faced Kan'non Bodhisattva, which is one of the largest wooden statues in Japan with a height of 9.18 meters. The upper precinct consists of the Kan'non-do Hall, which houses the eleven-faced Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva) statue lined with other main halls as well as a lookout tower from which you can enjoy a view of the ocean and the city, one of the best scenic spots in Kamakura. Hasedera also has a circuit garden where you can walk and enjoy the surroundings. You will see beautiful flowering trees (magnolia, somei-yoshino cherry tree, hydrangea, fragrant olive, and camellia) all year round, season by season. It is suitable to call the garden Kamakura's Saiho-gokuraku-jodo (the Pure Land of Highest Happiness). You can practice sutra copying or visit the Kan'non museum on the site to enjoy and learn about Buddhism. It is a five-minute walk from the Hase Station on the Enoshima Dentetsu (Eno-den) Line.
No.2：The Great Buddha and Kotoku-in
Kotoku-in is a Buddhist temple of the jodo-shu sect founded by Priest Honen. The principle image of Kotoku-in is the copper image of Amidanyorai. It is also known as the ”Buddha sitting in a roofless house”, and is a Japanese national treasure. The statue is approximately 11.3 m tall, weighs 121 tonnes, and retains its near-original state. It is regarded as highly valuable in Japanese Buddhist art history.
The construction of the Great Buddha began in 1252 but there are many gaps in information about the circumstances of the time, and to this day, it is unclear who created the statue. 750 years after its construction, the Great Buddha attracts a large number of Buddhists of all sects from Japan and overseas, and is seen as a symbol of Japanese Buddhism. Visitors can view the interior of the statue and see how it was cast using advanced techniques of the time. It is a seven minute walk from Enoshima Dentetsu Hase Station.
A temple with a rich history, located in the ancient city of Kamakura. It is ranked first among the Kamakura Gozan and is the head temple of the Kencho-ji Temple school of the Rinzai sect. Hojo Tokiyori, the regent at the time, invited a high priest of China's Song Dynasty to build this temple in 1253 as a family temple and to commemorate the rise of the nation. It is said that over 1000 trainee monks practiced asceticism in the training hall. The face of Kencho-ji is the Sanmon (the three gates) built in 1775. The original thatched roof is now copper, and as a result of the major renovations that the temple underwent in the early 2000's, it once again presents the magnificent stature that it had when it was first built. Enter the Sanmon, and you will see a number of remarkable Buddhist temples including The Butsuden, or Buddhist Hall, where the Jizo-Bosatsu, the principal object of worship, is located; the Hatto (Dharma Hall), where the statue of the thousand-armed Kannon is enshrined; and Hojo (or Ryuo-den) where the statue of Hokan Shaka Nyorai is enshrined. The temple even has three national treasures, including the statue of Daikaku Zenji, the founder of the temple, and three important cultural assets including the seated statue of Hojo Tokiyori. The temple is a 20 minute walk in the direction of Kamakura Station from Kitakamakura Station on the JR Yokosuka Line.
Enkakuji or the Enkaku-ji Temple was built alongside an erosional valley where a hill used to be. It is the head temple of the Enkaku-ji Sect of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism. It was built by then-regent Tokimune Hojo in 1282 for the national prosperity, prevalence of Zen Buddhism, and for mourning the deceased, without distinction of enemy and ally, in the war which took place at the time. Using the difference in altitude, the temple is built so that you will see one hall after another as you climb up. The sight is absolutely magnificent. When you enter the San-mon gate towering at the entrance of the temple premises, you see a Buddhist hall where the principal object of worship is situated, and this is the hall where morning zazen meditation and other events take place. You will also see the Koji-rin training hall for Zen trainees and the reliquary hall, a designated National Treasure, where it is said that the Buddha's teeth are housed. You'll see many other historical structures, such as the temple bell, also a piece of National Treasure, which is the largest in the Kanto region at 259.5 centimeters in height. It is a one-minute walk from the Kita-kamakura Station on the JR (Japan Railways) Yokosuka Line.
The Sugimoto-dera Temple is the oldest temple in the Kamakura area. Its principal image of worship is the three figures of eleven-faced Kan'non Avalokiteśvara. The temple is the first stop of the “Kamakura Thirty-Three Kan'non Pilgrimage of Bando.” It was founded by a high priest called Gyoki in 734 by the request of Empress Komyo. A legend says that the main image of worship itself took refuge from fire under the cedar tree on the temple grounds in the Kamakura era (1192 – 1333); thus, the temple has been called Sugi-moto, or “under a cedar tree.” On January 18, the day of hatsu Kan'non (the first Kannon ceremony), a Gomadaki ritual is held to commemorate and unveil the statues every year. Hondo (the main hall) and the Nio-mon Gate have thatched roofs that are rare for temple architecture. Various flowers and trees are planted on the entirety of the temple grounds to make the temple a beautiful place every season, such as cherry blossoms in spring, hydrangeas in summer, maple trees in autumn, and sasanqua camellias in winter. You may also enjoy lovely wildflowers like alpine gesneriad or bellflowers. You can take the JR Yokosuka Line to the Kamakura Station, take a Tokyu Bus to the Sugimoto Kan'non bus stop, and walk one minute to the temple.
Zuisenji, established in 1327 by Muso Soseki, is prestigious among the Kanto-jissatsu (10 Temples of Kanto) and one rank below Kamakura-gozan (Five Temples of Kamakura) among Zen Buddhist temples. Muso Kokushi (also known as Muso Soseki) was a Zen Buddhist priest of the Rinzai school from the Kamakura to Nanboku-cho Periods; he was the high priest at five different temples one after the other, including Engaku-ji. He was also famous for designing gardens and created many including the one at Saiho-ji (Koke-dera) in Kyoto, a World Heritage Site. Behind Hondo (the main hall) there is another garden designed by him. Zen Buddhist gardens, made by scraping away bedrock and arranging water, are well worth visiting. Zuisen-ji is known as Kamakura's flower temple with such seasonal blossoms as ume (plum) in early spring, lotus in summer and narcissus in winter. Late autumn is special too, as the leaves change color. The best part being when trees in the precincts and surrounding mountains all change at once (as implied by their names Momijigayatsu and Kinpeisan). Take a bus for Daitono-miya from the East Exit of JR Kamakura Station, disembark at Daitono-miya, and walk for 15 minutes.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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