Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sites : Kencho-ji Temple, Kamakura, Japan

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Kamakura, Japan - November 2013
Kenjo-ji Temple is one of the finest Zen temple. Founded in 1253, it is also the oldest training temple in Japan. Surprisingly, it was founded by a Chinese Zen monk, Rankei Doryū and is a Rinzai Zen temple. Officially it is called the Kōfukuzan Kenchō Kōkoku Zenji.

Entrance is through the entrance outer arch gate called Somon, the just after a carpark off the Kamakura-Kitakamakura main road.

Pass the entrance arch are two rows of stalls, on the left are souvenirs shops and on the right the ticketing stalls. Entrance to visit Kencho-ji is 300Y.

Beyond this, we are ready to begin our visit proper, walking through an approach open walkway line with cherry trees.

The entrance pavilion called the Sanmon. It's a double-storey building built in 1754 from dark timber structural elements.

To the left the Bonsho, the temple bell shed. This bell like the one in Engakuji is considered a National Treasure.

The Buddha Hall, Butsuden.

Inside this hall is a timber statue of Buddha. This statue was moved form the Zojo-ji Temple in Tokyo.

A nice ceiling with a beautiful lotus emblem lies above this statue.

The main hall, Hatto, where public religious ceremonies are held.

Further in is the Hojo, the living quarters of the head priest.

Within its compound lies a nice Japanese garden. This Zen garden was designed by the well known teacher, poet Muso Soseki.

Here, there is an intricate timber door with elaborate gold trimmings with a similarly intricate arch above. I believe this is the entrance for official ceremonies as the public was barred from using it.

To the rear of the Hojo is a nice hillside garden where the residence of other temple staff are.

Somewhere in this garden is a shrine to a goddess.

Inside, visitors can pray at the altar. As it is laid out with tatami mats, visitors are required to take off their shoes before entering.

Kencho-ji Temple
Address: 247-8525 Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture,
Yamanouchi 8, Japan
Phone: +81 467-22-0981

GPS : 35.331009, 139.552577
Web Page :
Admission : 300Y

Kencho-ji Temple, Kamakura, Japan Location Map (Google Map Link)

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sites : Hachiman-gu Shrine, Kamakura, Japan

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Kamakura, Japan - November 2013
The Hachimangu Shrine is one of Kamakura's most well known tourist sites. Its distinct red colour and location right at the junction of the town's main street make it prominently stand out. Officially it known as the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine.

Sited just opposite Kamakura's old town main street, the shrine stretches northwards and uphill. Entry is through a large red torrii gate opposite Kamakura's renown cherry tree lined pedestrian walkway, the Dankazura.
We visited the shrine while on a cycling trip in Japan (...see Cycling Japan 2013).

Past the main torii gate is a large flat compound marked by two big lantern posts. The compound is about twenty five metres wide by a hundred metres long.

Two bridges with bright red low railing spans across a narrow canal. This canal separates the main compound from the smaller entrance compound. After each bridge are smaller torii gates that marks the official entry into the temple.

At the centre of the main compound is a the Maiden dancing stage.

To the left of the Maiden is a smaller shade, for visitors to carry out the Japanese drinking of holy water ritual.

Beyond this is a long wide stairs that lead up to the Main Hall. Sitting atop these stairs, the Main hall seems framed by the green slopes of the hill. A conspicuous site nestled in the forest.

Up close, the main prayer hall does not look large, but then I always like the bright orange-red colour of Shinto temples. Zen temples are usually dark, sombre, looking bold and majestic. Whereas, Shinto temples tend to be smaller, bright and have that lively atmosphere.

The architecture is impressive, with a two-tiered batten system at the roof edge and an elaborate roof support system. 

Carvings of some dragons in the sea can be seen above the main doorway. Do they represent the Minamoto clan that successfully defended Japan against the Mongolian Invasion as dramatized by Robert Shea's book Zinja Part 1 : Time of The Dragons.

On the left wing, prayers written on small wooden tablets were hung up as offerings to the gods.

In a smaller compound, opposite the left wing, similarly prayers were written and nicely folded up before the were hung up as offerings.

Round in a nook, a series of small torii gates lead to the Inari sub-shrine. This one is dedicated to the fox spirit (kitsune ), the representative of Inari, the diety god of rice.

To another side, a small red bridge lead to another garden further inside on the hill.

Just past this bridge is another sub-shrine dedicated to the diety Benzatien that has been dismantled sometime back. Left of this are two stones where devotees sometimes perform a ritual of pouring water onto the stones.

To one side of the main hall is a large drum facing a wooden tablet carving of birds.

Inside, the main hall, is the altar to the god Hachiman. It is partitioned off my a netted screen. 

Devotees pray here, and then throw coin offerings into a collection box in front.

We were in luck when we visited the shrine, there were a couple of festivals ongoing. Next to the Main Hall, at a shed, there was a Japanese Ikebana competition.

This one is that of a seahorse crafted from a live bush with pretty red flowers.

This one is with a miniature of the Hachimangu Shrine surrounded by flowers to represent the forest.

The other festival on going was even more interesting and eye-capturing. It was a day where parents brought their little children to prayer before starting their school term. These children came cutely dressed in colourful kimonos and robes.

They were happy too, to pose with us.

This young girl, acted beyond her years, posing for her father in a very adult pose.

It was a gay and happy atmosphere as many adults too came wearing kimonos for ladies and traditional robes for men.

Some were happy to to be photographed together with us, like this pretty girl dressed in a simple but nice kimono...

... and this young Japanese couple too.

At the lower compound rickshaw pullers offer to pull tourists on a short route around Kamakura. There are even kimonos and robes for rent, for that authentic look.

As we were about to leave, we saw this lady modelling a beautiful bridal kimono, one of pine trees and flying cranes. She looked delicately elegant.

Night view of Hachiman-gu.
Hachiman-gu Shrine
Address: Yukinoshita 2-1-31, 248-0005 Kamakura
Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
Phone: +81 467-22-0315

GPS : 35.323949, 139.555033
Web Page :
Hours: 6:00 am - 9:30 pm (Everyday)
Admission : Free

Hachiman-gu Shrine, Kamakura, Japan Location Map (Google Map Link)

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