Kamakura Trip Hom ＞ Engakuji Temple
Zen-sect temple in Kitakamakura that has a magnifcent and degnified atmosphere
The history of Engakuji Temple
According to the ranking system among Zen-sect (Rinzai) temples, Engakuji is ranked second of the five Kamakura Gozan temples. Engakuji was established in 1282 (Kouan 5). Regent Tokimune Hojo, who battled against the Empire of Mongolia twice, established this temple as a site to pray for and to hold memorial services for the dead Japanese and Mongolian soldiers. The name of Engakuji comes from the discovery a sutra buried in the earth where the temple was built with “Engaku Scripture” written on it.
Sanmon, the temple’s gate was written in the novel of Souseki Natsume
After paying the entry fee and stepping into the grounds, the first thing you will see is the temple gate called Sanmon. This gate was mentioned in a novel titled Mon (The Gate), written by the famous writer Souseki Natsume. Souseki stayed at Kigen-in, one of the sub-temples, for a time and participated in Zen practice there. The novel he wrote was based on his experience at the temple. Passing through the Sanmon gate seems to activate the atmosphere around you, charging it with energy.
Engakuji Temple's beautiful cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms bloom beautifully around the Sanmon gate in Engakuji Temple.
The Senbutsu-jo, located left of Sanmon gate, is a very nice hall with a thatched roof. It was established in 1699 (Genroku 12, in the Edo period) to use as a room to elect Busso, who are fundamentally the same entities as Buddhas. It is also used for zen practice and as a place to keep sutras. The old architecture combined with cherry blossoms is a lovely sight.
The hall of the Buddha and the abbot’s chamber
The temple's main icon of Buddha can be worshiped in the butsuden, the hall for the Buddha. The Great Kanto Earthquake tore down this building in 1923 (Taisho 12). It was rebuilt in 1964 (Showa 39). Daikoumyo Hoden is the name of today’s Buddha hall, which is made out of concrete. The main Buddha statue of the temple, Shaka Nyorai, is enshrined inside. Proceeding further into the temple grounds leads to the hojo. A hojo is the place where elder members of Zen temples live. In the garden of the hojo there are many stone statues of Kannon, each and every one having its own unique expression.
Shariden, the only building which is a national treasure in Kanagawa prefecture
The only building designated as a national treasure in the prefecture of Kanagawa is Shariden with its beautiful Zen-style architecture. It is located in the grounds of Shozoku-in, one of the sub-temples inside Engakuji Temple.
The word shari means Buddha’s ashes; Shariden enshrines the Buddhist ashes that third shogun Sanetomo Minamoto received from Noninji Temple of the Chinese Song dynasty. Because Shariden is not regularly open to the public, you can only glimpse its roof from the entrance of Shozoku-in. However, there are three opportunities a year when Shariden is open for viewing to the public: during the first three days of January for the New Years holidays; during the Golden Week Holidays in the first week of May; and during three days in November including Culture Day (November 3) when Hojo is being aired out.
Butsunichi-an was built as the mausoleum of Regent Tokimune Hojo, who fought through Khubilai-Khan’s Mongolian invasion twice. At the Butsunichi-an, you can rest and have maccha (green tea) for 500 yen, which includes the admission fee. There are several sub-temples (known as tacchu) such as Butsunichi-an within the grounds of Engakuji Temple.
Famous for fall foliage, Engakuji
Engakuji is well known for the best place to be able to enjoy fall foliage in Kitakamakura area. The whole precinct is colored with autumn leaves. Myoko-chi pond area is especially beautiful. The world made by the red and yellow leaves is just like looking at the Gokuraku-jodo, the Buddha’s Pure Land.
The national treasure O-gane, the big bell
The national treasure O-gane is located on the top of a small hill on the right-hand side of Sanmon gate. O-gane is one of the three great bells in Kamakura, the other two being housed in Kenchoji Temple and Jorakuji Temple. The goddess Benten is sitting beside O-gane. It is said that the Goddess Benten from Enoshima helped to successfully complete the bell after many failed attempts.
Gozan-to, the stone monument
The grounds of Engakuji are no only behind the main gate, but also include the prefectural road running in front of Kitakamakura station. During the government enforced movements of the Meiji era seeking to advance both the wealth and power of the military as well as the strength of the economy, the Yokosuka railroad line was built right through the grounds of Engakuji Temple. The stone monument sitting along the prefectural road is the proof that it is one of the five great Zen temples in Kamakura, collectively called the Kamakura Gozan.
Address: 409 Yamanouchi, Kamakura City
Access: 1-minute walk from Kitakamakura station on the JR train line
Map : Visiting guide・Access
Official Webpage: Rinzai sect・Engakuji Temple