Archive for April 23, 2017

kamakura: from yoritomo’s grave to tokei-ji {walking tour 23: part 2}   5 comments

Sunday, April 23: After leaving Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, I follow the map east along Yabusame-baba through charming leafy neighborhoods.  I’m feeling awfully hungry by this time, but no restaurants are in sight, so I have no choice but to keep walking.  As I walk along a street with a sprawling elementary school on the left, I find a food sign outside this place with a carp flag over the door.  The food pictures look enticing and reasonable, so I try to go in; however, the door seems to be locked even though I see a few people eating inside.  Maybe it’s being used for a private party.

a banner over a restaurant door

the walk following Yabusame-baba through a neighborhood to the Grave of Yoritomo

Finally I can see a stone torii and a staircase up the hillside.  I’ve found the grave of Minamoto Yoritomo, the first Kamakura shogun.  At one time, the stones that mark the grave overlooked the site of Yoritomo’s one-time palace on the flat land below the tomb.

In 1180, Minamoto Yoritomo raised an army in order to overthrow the Heike clan, and with Kamakura as his headquarters, he defeated the clan in 1185.  In addition, the creation of the Kamakura Shogunate in Okura established the foundations of the samurai system in Japan.

approaching the grave of Yoritomo

shrine near the grave of Yoritomo

a small shrine near the grave of Yoritomo

In 1199, at the age of 53, Minamoto Yoritomo died and was laid to rest at his own place of worship in Hokkedo, which then became a holy place as his gravesite.  Hokkedo was later abolished, but traces of its location remain around the top of this hill.

stairs to the grave of Yoritomo

It is said that the current pagoda on the site was erected by the Shimazu feudal lord, Shimazu Shigehide.

Yoritomo’s grave

Some people leave flowers and burning incense at the grave, but I’m not equipped with such offerings, and I don’t know poor Yoritomo anyway.  What I do know of him, that he had his brother’s child killed, makes me not think much of him.  However, having read James Clavell’s Shogun years ago, I do have some fascination with the shoguns of Japan.

After visiting Yoritomo’s grave, I continue east following the map, continuing through neighborhoods.

a pretty house on the walk to Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

As I continue to the east, I find the Egara Tenjin Shrine to Sugawara Michizane (under the name Tenjin), the patron of intellectual activities and scholarship.  It’s favored by students who come to pray for success in their studies.

approaching Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine is counted as one of Japan’s three great Tenjin Shrines, along with Fukuoka’s Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine and Kyoto’s Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.

It is said that on August 25, 1104, a depiction of Michizane fell to earth during a thunderstorm.   The painting still survives in the Treasury of Kamakura-gu Shrine; in it, Michizane is in court costume holding a religious symbol of authority, a shaku.  This painting was revered by the local villagers and from that time, the shrine was built and worship began.

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

The grounds of the shrine are a Registered National Historical Site, and the main shrine has been designated as a National Important Cultural Property.

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

There are hundreds of ema on racks here, with pleas for success in studies scrawled on the back..  Michizane was the most brilliant man of his age, but due to court intrigue, he was banished in 901 from Kyoto to Kyushu, where he died two years later.  Various catastrophes after his death were seen as the result of his restless spirit, and thus 45 years later, he was deified as Tenji, the Deity of Heaven.

I think Egara Tenjinsha Shrine was my second favorite today, after the fabulous Kencho-ji Zen Temple near Kita-Kamakura, which I encounter later in my walk.

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

The last place I plan to visit on the east side is Kamakura-gu Shrine, but on the road there, I find a few restaurants.  I poke my head into Warashibe Cho Cha, which looks like the lunch rush just finished; the debris of eaten lunches litters the tables. The frazzled owner directs me to the bar, where I can overlook him and his wife frantically cooking away.

having lunch at Warashibe Cho Cha

I take the owner outside to his sign and point to a tempura meal, and I have to wait a good long while, maybe 40 minutes, before I’m served.  During this time, two very fit Japanese ladies in their 50s, decked out in exercise tights, pristine tops, and colorful running shoes, sally up to the bar in the two adjacent seats. One of them speaks to me in English with a British accent.  She asks if I’ve ordered already.  Then she tells me she and her friend just ran 20km from Kita-Kamakura all the way to the sea at Yuigahama Beach, where Wakamiya Oji begins. They order beers immediately, and then settle in to wait for their lunch, which they say is a special that this restaurant offers.  The one tells me she lives in London because she met and fell in love with an Englishman, marrying him and having two daughters.  She comes back to Japan periodically to help her elderly and ailing mother.  She says she can now stay a month, the longest she’s ever been able to stay, because her job as an investment banker allows her to work at home.  It’s really fun to talk to this beautiful lady, but I try not to occupy much of her time because it’s obvious her friend doesn’t speak English and so cannot be part of the conversation.

I leave the restaurant feeling quite stuffed on all the tempura; the woman, whose name I never got, told me to put radish in my soy sauce to counter all the fat used in deep-frying the tempura.  The meal is entirely too heavy as the variety of shrimp and vegetables fried in tempura batter is expansive!  Plus there’s soup and some other side dishes, all for 1,000 yen, or under $10.

After leaving the restaurant, I walk next door to Kamakura-gu Shrine, which I talk about below. On my way back past the restaurant, I stop to take a picture of it from the outside, and the owner sees me and comes out, offering to take a picture of me. So, here I am.  I think this may be the first picture I’ve had of myself since I arrived in Japan.

Kamakura-gu Shrine was built to worship the spirit of Prince Morinaga, the son of Emperor Godaigo.  Prince Morinaga helped his father to overthrow the forces of the Kamakura Shogunate.

approaching Kamakura-gu Shrine

After the fall of the Shogunate, the Emperor restored direct Imperial rule (the Kemmu Restoration) and Prince Morinaga was appointed commander-in-chief “Sei Taisyogen.”  He was later captured by Ashikaga Takaugi during a confrontation, and was killed at the young age of 28.  The cave where the prince was said to have died remains to the rear of the shrine.

Kamakura-gu Shrine

I’m not sure who the fierce-looking character with the red face is in this shrine.

Kamakura-gu Shrine

I assume this fellow below is Prince Morinaga.

Kamakura-gu Shrine

I get to see a Shinto priest walk past at Kamakura-gu Shrine, but I’m only able to capture a view from behind.

priest walking to Kamakura-gu Shrine

Back in the neighborhood, heading south this time, I pass this pretty pergola with wisteria.  As I turn the corner to head west, a man with dyed black hair, maybe my age or a bit younger, is standing out in his yard and he hollers out to ask where I’m from.  He asks if I’d like to come in for a cup of tea.  I thank him kindly but tell him I just spent an hour in the restaurant up the street and I have a long way to go before it gets dark.  He says, “Okay, okay!  Hold on then!”  He runs into his house.  He comes out with a cold beer, a cold can of coffee and a quart of mango juice and asks me which one I want.  I want the mango juice but I don’t want to carry that quart with me!  I don’t want the beer because it will make me sleepy and pee-prone, and I don’t want the coffee; I don’t normally drink coffee in the late afternoon as it will keep me up at night.

He won’t take no for an answer and insists that I take one of them, so I take the coffee, which has both the effect of making me have to pee plus keeping me up all night, as I figured it would.

wisteria spotted in the neighborhood

It’s quite a long haul to retrace my steps past all the temples I just visited and return to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu.  I bypass the famous temple until I reach a two lane thoroughfare to the west where I’m supposed to walk north through a tunnel and up a huge hill until I finally reach Enno-ji.

Enno-ji is a temple that worships the Ten Judges of Hell, with Enma Daio in the center, whom one will meet in the underworld after death. Enma Daio refers to Yama from Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu mythology.  Yama was born initially as a human and later came to rule paradise after his death.  As Yama from India was introduced to China along with Buddhism, Yama became “Enma,” and due to the influence of Taoism, it later became the “Thoughts on Ten Judges of Hell,” centered around Enma Daio.

The “Thoughts on Ten Judges of Hell” later became the “Faith in Thirteen Buddhas” during the Muromachi era, and is the basis of Buddhist sermon and funeral service that goes beyond the creed of Japanese Buddhism. The Ten Judges of Hell in Enno-ji is the sculpted image of the “Thoughts on Ten Judges of Hell” that came from China during the Kamakura era.  The wooden seated statue of Enma Daio has been passed on as the work of Unkei, and is a nationally designated treasure.

Sadly, no photography is allowed of the extravagant statue of Enma Daio, so I take a photo of this unknown character just for the sake of having something to show for my visit here.

a figure at Enno-ji

Just past Enno-ji and across the road, to the east, is the fabulous Kencho-ji Zen Temple.

Entering through the San-Mon Gate is said to free you from any form of strong desire, addiction and obsession.  The founder of this temple, Rankei Doryu, said “Kencho-ji Temple is open to anyone who intends to learn Zen.  There is always a pleasant breeze that equally treats all people on the temple grounds,” meaning that Kencho-ji Temple is open to everyone, not only the disciples engaged in spiritual practice.

Kencho-ji Zen Temple – San-mon main gate

character in the San-mon main gate

This bell, Bonsho, was cast in 1255 by Mononobe Shigemitsu, a leader of the Kanto Imoji association of bell makers in Kanto.

the Bonsho, the great bronze bell

the Butsu-den (Buddha Hall)

The Butsu-den (Buddha Hall) was built in the Chinese Song style of architecture.

The path to the Buts-den is lined with juniper trees whose seeds the first abbot is said to have brought from China and planted here 750 years ago.  Today the trees are 39 feet (12 meters) tall and have a girth of 20 feet (6 meters).

large juniper trees on the temple grounds

Within the Butsu-den sits a figure of the seated wood-lacquered  Jizo, the deity who protects travelers, children and pregnant women. He holds the shakujo in one hand; it has rings that jangle to scare away insects, so they aren’t walked upon and crushed in violation of Buddhist principles to preserve all life. In his other hand, he holds the jewel that is said to make wishes come true. Behind the Jizo are 1,000 small Jizo images arranged in tiers (Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City).

Jizo, the deity who protects travelers, children and pregnant women

Jizo, who protects travelers, children and pregnant women

In the past, the entire grounds of Kencho-ji Temple were for spiritual practice.  All the 388 monks and priests who lived in the temple precincts gathered here to listen to the chief priest’s sermons.  The building is currently used for Buddhist memorial services, lectures and exhibitions; ascetic monks use Seirai-an for their practice.

Reconstructed by one of the Kencho-ji sect temples in 1814, the biggest hatto building in the Kanto region currently houses the main holy statue, the statue of Senju-kannon. This thousand-armed kannon deity has the great ability to save people from all forms of ambivalence and thus enlighten them. Unryu-zu, the dragon on the ceiling, was painted by the painter Koizumi Junsaku to commemorate the 750th anniversary of Kencho-ji Temple.

the Hatto (Dharma Hall or Hall of the Law)

The hall is sometimes called the Ryuo-den, the Dragon King Hall, because of the dragon painted on the ceiling

dragon painted on the ceiling in Hatto

Inside the Hatto

Inside Hatto

monastic residences at Kencho-ji Zen Temple

Kara-mon Gate, the “four-legged” lacquered gate was built in Momoyama-era Muko-karahafu-style (the late 16th century Japanese roof architect style) and has many elaborately designed metal parts all over it.  It was built as a mausoleum for Ogo no Kata (the wife of Tokugawa Hidetata, the second shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate) at Zojo-ji Temple in Shiba, Tokyo, in 1628. It was donated to Kenjo-ji Temple.  The gate took on a new luster with a complete overhaul in 2011.

Kara-mon, the Chinese Gate of 1646 in the Song Style


monastic residences

gardens at Kencho-ji Zen Temple

peonies at Kencho-ji

After leaving Kencho-ji, I continue walking north toward Kita-Kamakura.  It’s such a long way!  I have no choice but to keep walking to get to Kita-Kamakura Station or backtrack south to Kamakura Station.  I still want to see two more temples, but the light is running out and I’m not sure I’ll make it.

the long walk to Kita-Kamakura

Finally, I reach Tokei-ji Temple, founded by Kakuzan Shidoni, wife of the eighth regent, Hojo Tokimune, of the Kamakura Shogunate.  It’s nearly 4:00 by now and the temple closes at 4:30.  I expect the man at the gate will tell me I don’t have to pay, but he still happily collects my entrance fee.

In the era when wives could not cut marital ties with their husbands without a letter of divorce from the husbands, the temple, where women could seek asylum to divorce their husbands, had kept following the “Divorce Temple Act” for nearly 600 years since its foundation.  When the “Divorce Temple Act” came to an end during the Meiji period, Shakusoen Zenji re-founded the temple to make it a Zen temple of the Enkakuji school of Rinzai Sect.

Buddha at Tokei-ji Temple (The Divorce Temple)

Buddha at Tokei-ji Temple

The temple is famous for graves of many scholars and writers.

path up Mt. Shoko

graves at Tokei-ji Temple

graves at Tokei-ji Temple

moss-covered path at Tokei-ji Temple

On a platform above the cemetery is the grave of the wife of the Regent Hojo Tokimune, who founded the Engaku-ji Temple.  On this platform are also tombs of various abbesses and nuns.

small platform with tombs of abbesses and nuns

in front of the memorial hall at Tokei-ji Temple

in front of the memorial hall at Tokei-ji Temple

Since I leave Tokei-ji at the 4:30 closing time, I am doubtful that I can see the last temple on my walk, Engaku-ji Temple, near Kita-Kamakura.  I don’t even bother trying as it’s a little off the road and I’m beat. Besides, I’ve been told that there are many more temples north of Kencho-ji which I should visit during the middle of June when the hydrangeas are in bloom.  In addition, there is the Daibutsuzaka Hiking Course which leads from these temples to the Daibutsu, or the Great Buddha at Hase.  Also, south of Kamakura is Enoshima Beach, another place that is a “must-see.”

I guess I will have to plan several more trips to Kamakura in June.

On Monday when I go to class, I tell my students I walked over 16 km from Kamakura to KITI-Kamakura.  They look at me funny and then burst out laughing.  It’s not KITI-Kamakura, they tell me, it’s KITA-Kamakura.  We all have a good laugh over my mispronunciation of yet another Japanese name!

Total steps today: 24,696 (10.47 miles).  🙂

kamakura to kita-kamakura: temples, shrines & peonies {walking tour 23: part 1}   6 comments

Sunday, April 23: It’s a beautiful Sunday in Japan, so I’m off for a walk through the temples and shrines of historic Kamakura. After taking the metro from Fuchinobe to Yokohama, I switch lines to the Yokosuka Line and go six more stops to Kamakura.

On the Yokosuka line, I chat the whole time with a 20-year-old Japanese boy named Yuki (I thought that was a girl’s name; I’m always getting confused by which names are male and female in Japan!); he is on his way to a BBQ on Enoshima beach with his friends. His English is excellent, and he tells me he’s traveled to Spain, Italy and Australia.  I’ve already encountered so many internationally minded Japanese in my short time here.

Although Kamakura proper is today rather small, it is often described in history books as a former de facto capital of Japan; it was the seat of the Shogunate and of the Regency during the Kamakura period (1185-1333).  This period marks the governance by the Kamakura shogunate, officially established in 1192 by the first shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, and it is known for the emergence of the samurai, the warrior caste, and for the establishment of feudalism in Japan. When the shogunate was destroyed in 1333, imperial rule under Emperor Go-Daigo was reestablished for a short time (Wikipedia: Kamakura).

Kamakura was designated as a city on November 3, 1939.

When I walk out of Kamakura Station, I veer south to see one temple before I walk north along Wakamiya Oji, the grand walkway leading to the famous and imposing Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu.  I encounter a small shrine that isn’t on my official “Walking Tour 23: Kamakura and Hase” from Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City. The shrine itself isn’t that photogenic, but the gardens and the ivy-covered buildings around it are striking against the blue sky.

This is the Daigyoji Temple.  Before the end of the Muromachi period (16th century), the chief priest of this temple, Priest Nitto, held a memorial service for the wife of Akiyama Kageyu, who had died in childbirth.  From that time, people come to worship the “Ubusume Deity,” the Goddess of Childbirth, said to protect women from suffering during childbirth.

view from temple

I find my way to Hongaku-ji Temple, built in 1436.  It sits on the site where the priest Nichiren lived after returning from exile in 1274.  He was exiled to the island of Sado in the Japan Sea for being against Zen Buddhism, which angered the pro-Zen Hojo regents, who ruled Japan from Kamakura. Later, they forgave him and allowed Nichiren to return to Kamakura.  Two centuries later, in 1407, a portion of this anti-establishment priest’s ashes were placed here, making the temple an important pilgrimage site for believers in the Nichiren sect of Buddhism.

Hongaku-ji Temple

sakura at Hongaku-ji Temple

The temple grounds also hold the grave of Masamune, a famed medieval swordsmith. Each year, the temple hosts a demonstration of sword making in Masamune’s honor, with the swordsmith decked out in the white robes of a Shinto priest.  Thus this ceremony with Shinto overtones, held on the grounds of a Buddhist temple, is a casual mixing of Japan’s two major faiths, reflecting Japanese flexibility when it comes to religious beliefs.

The ceremonial path of Wakamiya Oji is known as the Young Prince’s Way.  It was created in 1180 by Minamoto Yoritomo, the first Kamakura shogun, as an offering to the gods for the successful pregnancy of his wife, Masako.  Though the walkway starts at Yuigahama Beach, 1.4km south of Kamakura Station, I don’t start at the origin. Kamakura Station, where I get off, is near the first red torii.  From the sea to the first red torii, Wakamiya Oji is a commercial roadway; after the torii, the road narrows and splits, and is laid out on either side of a raised promenade.

The long promenade from the sea and the vermillion shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu sitting on the green hillside at the end were meant to impress any visitors to the shogun’s government of the 13th and 14th centuries.

At the red torii where the raised promenade begins, two stone koma-inu (Korean lion-dogs) stand fiercely to prevent evil from encroaching on the path.

koma-inu and vermillion torii at Wakamiya Oji

It just so happens that I find a gaggle of Western girls dressed in kimono taking turns posing in front of the first red torii.

white girls in kimono at Wakamiya Oji

vermillion torii at Wakamiya Oji

As I stroll down the promenade, I get a glimpse of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu at the end.

Wakamiya Oji

As I pass through the second vermillion torii, I come to the extremely steep half-moon Taiko-bashi bridge at Gempei Ponds.  The bridge is closed off, but it is said that success in crossing this bridge assures that a wish will be granted.

the Taiko-bashi bridge at Gempei Ponds

There are two ponds, one on either side of the Taiko-bashi bridge, but I only visit the one to the right (east). There’s a lot of complicated history about the two ponds and their symbolism in history, which you can read about here. As soon as I begin to walk around the right hand pond, the Genji-kie, the pond of the victorious Minamoto clan of Yoritomo, I am stopped and required to pay an admission fee of 500 yen.  I find, much to my surprise, that the peonies are in bloom here, and because of that, a fee must be paid.  This is a pleasant surprise as I’ve always been partial to peonies, and these are particularly charming because of the iconic Japanese umbrellas shading the flowers from the sun.

Genji-ike, or Genji Pond

Genji-ike, or Genji Pond

It’s truly peony heaven on the shores of this Kamakura pond.

Peony heaven


white peony

umbrellas for the peonies

charming umbrellas

umbrellas and pergolas

pink peony

The island on the right holds a shrine to the Shinto deity Benten.  It’s pretty because of all the white banners and the wisteria on the pergola near the shrine.

wishes at the shrine to the Shinto deity Benten

wisteria and shrine to the Shinto deity Benten

ema at the shrine

shrine to the Shinto deity Benten

white flags

white wisteria

After walking the perimeter of the pond, I am ready to visit the famous Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, but before reaching the 61-steps leading to it, I stop to admire the wall-less, roofed Shimo Haiden, the Lower Shrine Prayer Hall, which looks much like a stage. Here, Minamoto Yoritomo, who violently hated his younger and more popular brother, Yoshitsune, forced his brother’s pregnant mistress to dance in hopes she would have a miscarriage. Shizuka Gozen, the brother’s mistress, sang of her love for Yoshitsune in defiance of Yoritomo; he was enraged and would have killed Shizuka if his wife, Masako, hadn’t prevented him from doing so. When Shizuka eventually gave birth to a son, he was immediately put to death at Yoritomo’s order.

Shimo Haiden

Shimo Haiden

Shimo Haiden

small shrine

By happenstance, I cross paths with a bride and groom walking south from the staircase.

wedding procession

wedding in progress

scholarly type

Common at every Shinto shrine are wooden sake barrels, known as sakedaru, wrapped in straw blankets and stacked and bounded together by rope on a wooden frame.  Such barrels, which are actually empty, are called kazaridaru, which means “decoration barrels.”  Shinto shrines and sake manufacturers maintain a symbiotic relationship in which the shrines conduct rites to ask the gods for the prosperity of the brewers, and the brewers donate the sake that shrines need for ceremonies and festivals.

The Japanese believe that sake acts as a symbolic unification of Gods and people, according to The Japan Times: Sake barrels at shrines.

sake barrels, or kazaridaru  (decoration barrels)

sake barrels

Finally, I reach the staircase, but before climbing, I admire the huge ginkgo tree that was supposedly planted 1,000 years ago; it blew down in 2010.  There is an intriguing story about the tree and the blood vengeance so common during that period: here the 3rd Minamoto shogun, Sanetomo, was assassinated by his nephew, Kugyo, who had hidden himself behind the tree. Thus, it is also called Hiding Ginkgo.

61 steps to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Ema at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

the ginkgo tree that was

Finally, I climb the steps to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, the Hachiman shrine to the deity of the city of Kamakura.  When founded in 1063, it sat beside the sea, and honored the Shinto god of war.  The shrine to Hachiman also celebrates both the Emperor Ojin, who is said to have reigned from 270-319, and his mother, the Empress Jingu.  A long and complicated history is attached to this shrine, which you can read about here.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

At the top of the steps I take a picture of the shrine from the center point, but I’m admonished by the guard that I’m only allowed to take pictures from the side.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

I always love to inspect the ema I find at each shrine.  Each has its own colorful character.

Ema at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

After leaving Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, I climb steps up a small hill through a tunnel of torii gates to the Maruyama Inari Shrine, dedicated to the Shinto deity of commerce; it attracts worshipers desiring success in business affairs.

Maruyama Inari Shrine

Maruyama Inari Shrine

torii at Maruyama Inari Shrine

Maruyama Inari Shrine

Walking back past the staircase, I head east to visit several shrines a little more off the beaten track.  Before I do, I pass this shrine, but I don’t know what it is.

Shrine near Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Near the shrine is a chōzuya or temizuya, a Shinto water ablution pavilion for a ceremonial purification rite known as temizu.  These are used by worshippers for washing their left hands, right hands, mouth and finally the handle of the water ladle to purify themselves before approaching the main Shinto shrine. This symbolic purification is normal before worship and all manned shrines have this facility, as well as many Buddhist temples and some new religious houses of worship. The temizuya is usually an open area where clear water fills one or various stone basins. Wooden dippers are usually available to worshippers. (Wikipedia: Chōzuya)

a purification fountain

leaving the shrine area for Yabusame-baba

I leave the shrine complex to follow the path down Yabusame-baba, through cozy Japanese neighborhoods, toward the grave of Yoritomo.

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