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Kamakura’s oldest Buddhist temple

The history of Sugimotodera Temple, the oldest temple in Kamakura

The history of Sugimotodera Temple, the oldest temple in Kamakura

Sugimotodera Temple has the oldest history of all the temples in Kamakura.  According to legend, it was established in the Nara period, year 734 C.E. (Tenpyo 6).  That means the temple existed for about 450 years before the Kamakura shogunate was established by Yoritomo Minamoto. It is said that the founder of Sugimotodera Temple was Gyoki, and it was revived by Jikaku-daishi Ennin.  Sugimotodera Temple is the first stop on The Thirty-three Knnon(Goddess of Mercy) Pilgrimage of the Kanto area.  The people believed that the deity Kannon transformed into 33 figures to save people, so a custom began of making a round of pilgrimage to visit 33 temples where Kannon statures were enshrined in the Kanto area. From the atmospheric, rustic main hall, to the mossy stone steps, to the thatched roof, Sugimotodera Temple is a classic example of everything one would expect of a mountain temple.

Beautiful moss-covered stone steps

Beautiful moss-covered stone steps

From the red Nio Guardians standing guard at the entrance gate to the main hall at the top of the hill, stone steps covered with beautiful moss climb up the mountainside. This mossy staircase is off limits, but you can take the other steps running beside them to get to the top. There is one other temple in Kamakura, Myohoji Temple in the valley of Matsuba-ga-yatsu, which is well known for moss. However, not even Myohoji Temple has steps that can compare to the ones in Sugimotodera Temple.

The legend of how Sugimotodera Temple got its name

The legend of how Sugimotodera Temple got its name

Three statues of the Eleven-faced Godesse of Mercy (Jyu-ichi-men Kannon) are enshrined in the main hall as the temples primary icons. They were created by Gyoki, Jikaku Daishi Ennin, and Eshinsozu Genshin. Legend has it that when a fire broke out in the temple in the early Kamakura period, these three statues of Kannon escaped from the fire all on their own and took shelter under a cedar tree. The name of the temple, Sugimoto Kannon, derives from the words sugi, Japanese for cedar tree, and moto, meaning under.

Information

Address:  903 Nikaido, Kamakura City
Phone:  0467-22-3463
Access:  Take the Keikyu bus bound for “Kamakura Reien Seimon Mae Tachiarai” from bus stop number 5 at JR Kamakura Station east exit.  Get off at “Sugimoto Kannon”, 1-minute walk.
Map: Map
Official Website: Sugimotodera Website

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