Archive for July 2, 2017

kamakura: the zen temple of engakuji   4 comments

Sunday, July 2:  After lunch, we get on the train for one stop to Kita-Kamakara to visit Engakuji, one of the leading Zen temples in Eastern Japan and the second of Kamakura’s five great Zen temples.   The temple was founded in 1282 by the high-ranking priest, Mugaku Sogen (Bukko Kokushi), who arrived in Japan from China, where he was born.  He committed himself to ascetic practices to become a priest at the age of 12.

The temple’s patron was Hojo Tokimune of the Kamakura Shogunate, who played an important role in the battles against Mongolia.  Engakuji was built mainly to honor the war dead from both sides of the conflict.

The first main structure encountered upon entering the temple grounds is the Sanmon main gate, which dates from 1785.  The framed calligraphy reading “Engaku Kosho Zenji” was written by the retired Emperor Fushimi.  Statues of the Eleven-Faced Kannon (Bodhisattva) and the Sixteen Lakans (Saints) are on the upper floor.

I love encountering old weathered temples and gates in Japan.  So many temples and buildings are shiny and spiffy because of being rebuilt after Japan’s fires, earthquakes and wars; it’s always nice to find an original building.

Sanmon (Main Gate)

Engakuji endured several major fires as well as periods of decline.  Priest Seisetsu at the end of the Edo Era (1603 – 1868) reconstructed the monastery to consolidate the foundation into Engakuji’s present form.  In the Meiji Era (October 23, 1868 to July 30, 1912), many unsui (zen novices) and koji (lay trainees) came to practice Zen meditation, making Engakuji the center of Zen gatherings in the Kanto area. Today, with its Zen meditation halls, variety of Zen meditation sessions, and summer courses, this temple is loved by many and is known as “The Temple of Spirit” (From a pamphlet distributed by the temple).

Sanmon (Main Gate)

details – Sanmon (Main Gate)

The Butsuden Hall, or Main Hall, beyond the Sanmon Gate, peeks out from behind a stand of junipers. The original was destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923; the 1964 hall was reconstructed of reinforced concrete. Its actual design, though, is an exact copy of an old plan from 1573.  On the ceiling is a painting of a dragon among clouds, Unryu no Zu (kcn-net.org: Kita-Kamakura area).

the Butsuden, or Main Hall

Dragon on the ceiling of the Main Hall

Dragon painting

A seated statue of Hokan Shaka Nyorai in the center of the hall was made in the late Kamakura period (1185/92-1333). The attendants, Bonten (梵天) and Taishakuten (帝釈天), were made in 1692 (kcn-net.org: Kita-Kamakura area).  Hokan Shaka Nyorai is the principal object of worship of Engakuji.

Hokan Shaka Nyorai

screen in the Butsuden

storm drain patterns 🙂

Kojirin is a Zen meditation hall for Koji, or lay trainees of Zen.  Here Zen meditation sessions are held for the public.

Kojirin

hydrangea-lined pathway at Engakuji

on the grounds of Engakuji

Shozokuin is a hermitage honoring the grave of the founder and Zen Master, Mugaku Sogen (Bukko Kokushi).  It was built in the 5th year of the Koan Era (February 1278 – April 1288).  Today, it is a Zen training hall for Zen novices.

Shozokuin

monuments at Engakuji

monuments at Engakuji

monuments at Engakuji

Originally, the Hojo, or Abbot’s Quarters, was a lounge for the abbot of Engakuji but it is now used for numerous functions such as religious rituals, Zen meditation sessions, sermons, the Summer Lecture Series, and the Autumn Treasure Exhibition.

Hojo

Hojo

Hojo

The Shariden is a sacred hall that holds a tooth of the Buddha offered to Minamoto no Sanetomo by Noninji of China. Built in the Kara style introduced from China in the Kamakura Era, the beauty of this building’s architecture has led it to be designated as a National Treasure.

Shariden (National Treasure)

other buildings on the grounds of Engakuji – photo by Tobias Manthey

Monuments at Engakuji

Back to the Sanmon, or Main Gate

After walking around the grounds of Engakuji, Tobi and I take the train back to Fuchinobe where we part ways.  On my bicycle, I make a stop at Gourmet City for some groceries and then crash at my tiny apartment, turning on the air conditioning full blast and sprawling out on my futon. Every time I come into my apartment after a full day out, it’s like an oven because the air-conditioning always cuts off automatically after 3 hours.  I usually turn it off myself before leaving because even if I leave it on for 3 hours, which I have often tried to do, it still cuts off early enough that plenty of heat has time to accumulate in the apartment.  Oh, this miserable summer weather in Japan.  How I despise it!

Total steps today (Hasedera, Daibutsu and Engakuji): 12,708 (5.39 miles). 🙂

 

a second visit to the kamakura daibutsu   4 comments

Sunday, July 2: After enjoying ice cream while sitting in an air-conditioned ice cream parlor, Tobi and I continue to the Kamakura Daibutsu.  Tobi has never seen it before, but I have.  The first time I visited (daibutsu: the great buddha of kamakura), the skies were bright blue; today it’s overcast and hazy.  No matter.  It’s still a treat to see the famous Buddha again.

IMG_5404

Kamakura Daibutsu

Here are a couple of pictures of me with the Daibutsu, and my really flat hair.

me at the Daibutsu

Kamakura Daibutsu

me at the Daibutsu

I love the Buddha with the lotus flowers.

Daibutsu and lotus flowers

Daibutsu and lotus flowers

We decide to take the Enoden Line, packed as usual, back to Kamakura.  In Kamakura, we search for a restaurant.

Kamakura restaurant

We have no idea what we’re getting, but the picture looks good.

I find out later, from my Instagram friend Yukie, that what we ate was Chirashi Sushi, or “scattered sushi.” This kind of sushi apparently came on the scene along with Maki Sushi (rolled sushi) around the 18th century.  Another close translation for it is “sushi rice salad.”  The ingredients, or “gu,” are scattered on sushi rice with no rolling or shaping involved (All About Sushi Guide: Chirashi Sushi).

Chirashi Sushi, or “scattered sushi”

This is the first time I’ve had this in Japan, and I love it!

Chirashi Sushi, or “scattered sushi”

After lunch, we get back on the train and go to Kita-Kamakura, where we plan to visit Engakuji Temple.

hasadera’s hydrangea walk: the third time’s a charm   16 comments

Sunday, July 2: Today, I invite my colleague Tobi to come along with me to Hasedera Temple, which is about a 7-minute walk from the Daibutsu, or the Big Buddha. He’s been wanting to go to the Daibutsu for a long time, but hasn’t done it for whatever reason.  I’ve decided once more to try to do the hydrangea walk at Hasedera.  I tell him we must get an early start because I don’t want to miss the hydrangea walk for the third time.  I tried two times before, with no success.  You can read about those botched attempts here and here.

Even though we live in the same apartment building, I have a bicycle and Tobi doesn’t, so we agree to meet at Fuchinobe Station at 7:30 a.m. After meeting and having a brief coffee, we get on the train to Kamakura.  On the train, we sit across from this lady carrying a huge bouquet.  Tobi takes a great photo of her and allows me to share it.

on the Yokohama Line – photo by Tobias Manthey

Upon arriving at Kamakura Station, rather than pack ourselves like sardines into that ever-crowded Enoden Line, we hire a taxi for 800 yen to take us directly to Hasedera.  By the time we arrive, it’s nearly 10:00. We get our timed tickets for the hydrangea walk and find, much to our surprise, that the wait is only about 45 minutes!

floating iris garden at Hasedera

We check out the Benten-kutsu Cave while we wait.  It is here at this cave that Benzaiten and her followers of Sixteen Children are chiseled out of the rock walls. Benzaiten is the Goddess of water and wealth, and the only female among the Seven Japanese Gods of Fortune.

outside the Benten-kutsu Cave

inside the Benten-kutsu Cave

ema at the Benten-kutsu Cave

Benten-do Hall is next to Hojo-ike pond.   It houses the statue of Benzaiten with eight arms.

Benten-do Hall

We make our way up the hill, past the pond and iris garden.

pond and iris garden at Hasedera

About halfway up the hill, we stop at Jizo-do Hall, where Fukujyu is enshrined. Here, visitors can pray for easy childbirth and prosperity.  Surrounding the hall are thousands of little Jizo statutes standing in long rows. The statues are there to comfort the souls of miscarried and deceased children.  Jizo is a Buddhist saint who saves people and is especially believed to protect children.

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall – Photo by Tobias Manthey

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall

At the top of the hill, we find the Kannon-do Hall, which houses the fabulous statue of Hase Kannon.  Although Kannon is often described in English as “the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy,” it is, strictly speaking, neither masculine nor feminine.  Sadly, no photography is allowed.

Kannon-do Hall

incense burner at Kannon-do Hall

We stop to admire the hazy view of Yuigahama and Zaimokuza Beaches, as well as Sagami Bay, from the Observation Platform.  We can see the Zushi Marina and the Miura Peninsula in the distance.  It’s very hot and humid today.

View of Yuigahama and Zaimokuza Beaches and Sagami Bay from the Observation Platform

garden near the hydrangea walk entrance

garden near Kannon-do Hall

Buddha footprints – Photo by Tobias Manthey

Buddha footprints

The hydrangea walk begins near the Observation Platform, and now, at 10:45, we show our tickets and get into the line.  Luckily, the line is not nearly as long as it’s been the last couple of times I’ve been here.

map of the hydrangea walk

hillsides covered in hydrangea

hydrangea hills

As we walk up the hill of the hydrangea walk, sweat is pouring off of me.  It’s such miserable weather today!

view from the hydrangea walk

multi-armed statue

hydrangea

view of Sagami Bay from the hydrangea walk at Hasedera

view of Sagami Bay from the hydrangea walk at Hasedera

I’m finally able to have someone take a picture of me, and my hair looks horrible because of the straightening I had done yesterday.  It’s so flat!  I’m never allowed to wash my hair for two days after straightening, and after sleeping on it all night, it looks awful. 😦  Oh well, at least periodically, I like to prove I actually was in Japan. 🙂

We continue on the hydrangea walk, admiring the views, the plethora of hydrangeas, and the stone lanterns.

stone lantern among the hydrangeas

lantern amidst white hydrangeas

view over Sagami Bay

view over Sagami Bay

Japanese lady in yukata

hydrangea heaven

from a bygone era

hydrangea

Back at the bottom of the hill, near the exit to the hydrangea walk, I find this lineup of Buddhist deities.

Buddha statues

stone lantern

In the Kyozo (space for storing Buddhist scriptures), there is a rotary bookshelf called a Rinzo. It is believed that when you rotate the Rinzo once, you will receive the same virtue as when you recite the complete scriptures. There are also 18 prayer wheels called Mani-guruma which you can turn to receive virtue such as that from the Rinzo.

Rinzo- a rotary bookshelf

looking back up at the hillside

the hillside above

a rock garden with stone lantern

We go inside of Kannon-do, where we admire the amazing Kannon statue, at 30.1 feet (9.18 meters), one of the largest wooden Buddhist statues in Japan.  It has eleven heads in addition to its main one: three on the front, the right, the left, one at the top and another on the back.  Each face has a different expression, signifying that the Kannon listens to the wishes of all types of people and leads them away from distress. Hase Kannon holds a vase with lotus flowers in its left hand and is unique in that it holds a staff instead of prayer beads in its right. It stands on a stone-like base instead of a lotus flower like most eleven-headed Kannon statues.  It really is amazing to see, and I’m sorry that I’m not allowed to take a picture of it. 😦

The Sho-Kannon Bosatsu is one of the most beloved deities from old times in Japan. Kannon is known for its mercy and compassion such as a mother’s affection.  It is believed that Kannon will immediately appear to those who seek salvation in this realm.  Created by the late Mr. Seibou Kitamura, the statue is enshrined here as a symbol of peace.

statue of Sho-Kannon Bosatsu

Next to Kannon-do is Amida-do Hall, where the golden seated statue of Amida Nyorai, one of Kamakura’s six principal statues of Amida Buddha, is enshrined.  According to legend, in 1194, Minamoto no Yoritomo, who was the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan, commissioned the statue for warding off evil.  In later years, people came to believe it would expel evil spirits and offer protection against misfortune.

statue of Amida Nyorai

ema at Hasedera

ema at Hasedera

The Shoro Belfry was constructed in 1955 to house a massive bronze bell, created in 1264 and recast in 1984.  Following the Buddhist tradition, the bell is run 108 times around midnight on New Year’s Eve to dispel the 108 sufferings of humanity.

Shoro Belfry

This shrine was rebranded Inari-sha in later years, although it was originally dedicated to “Kojin” (god of the cooking stove and fire). According to the legend of the Kannon statue, the deity appeared floating on the sea, drifting ashore by the guidance of “kakigara” (oyster shells) attached to the statue.  This Inari-sha was established to enshrine the Kakigara and to receive the divine guidance of Kannon.

Inari-sha (Kakigara Inari)

“kakigara” (oyster shells)

Inari-sha (Kakigara Inari)

“kakigara” (oyster shells)

“kakigara” (oyster shells)

Near the Benten-do Hall and Benten-kutsu Cave is a pretty rock garden.

rock garden at Hasedera

The Japanese rock garden (枯山水 karesansui) or “dry landscape” garden, often called a zen garden, creates a miniature stylized landscape through carefully composed arrangements of rocks, water features, moss, pruned trees and bushes, and uses gravel or sand that is raked to represent ripples in water (Wikipedia: Japanese rock garden).

rock garden at Hasedera

rock garden at Hasedera

Near Benten-do Hall, one can pick up a fortune which appears blank; the fortune appears when placed in a concrete water bowl much like a bird bath. My friend Yukie from Instagram later translates my fortune for me:  I have moderate luck (chu-kichi).  In different categories, my fortune is such: Romantic relationships: Being kind to others will bring you happiness. Learning: Go back to your basics again! Health: You should relax with aromatherapy tonight!  Your work: Be more careful than usual.  One step at a time.

It’s funny about the work fortune, because at work, the university barely turns on any air conditioning, making the work situation unbearable. It’s miserably hot and humid in Japan, and I’m not tolerating it well.  I am about to explode over the situation, and have even seriously considered hopping on a plane and going home!  So, the admonition to “be more careful than usual. One step at a time” is an appropriate warning for me to calm down about the situation. 🙂

my fortune for today

Daikoku-do Hall houses the statue of Daikokuten.

inside Daikoku-do Hall

Daikokuten is one of the Seven Japanese Gods of Fortune. He is considered the god of wealth (or more specifically, the harvest), or of the household, particularly the kitchen. He is often prayed to for an abundant harvest, success in life and business. Recognized by his wide face and beaming smile, he is often portrayed holding a golden mallet and standing or sitting on bales of rice (Must Love Japan: Hasedera Temple).  People are allowed to touch this “Sawari Daikoku” to receive good fortune.

statue of Daikokuten

By the time Tobi and I leave Hasedera, it’s 11:40, and we walk down the street toward the Daibutsu, which I’ll now see for the second time. 🙂  We stop in one of the shops for an ice cream treat, and then we’re on our way.

(All information about Hasedera is from the temple’s tourist brochure, unless otherwise stated).

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