kamakura: hokokuji temple, the bamboo temple   6 comments

Sunday, July 23:  After leaving Ofuna, I take the train to Kamakura Station on my way to Hokokuji Temple.  Also known as Take-dera (bamboo temple), it is famous for the beautiful bamboo grove behind the main hall.

The temple is quite far from the station, so I take a crowded bus there.  At the temple gate, a young couple in yukata coming out of the temple seem a bit chagrined when I snap a photo of them.

Hokokuji Temple Gate

It’s been spitting rain a bit as I’ve walked to the temple, but the rain hasn’t eased the heat at all. I’m tempted to walk up the stairs of a mossy hill, but I follow the main path instead.

stairway through moss-covered rocks

Along the main path is a pretty rock garden.  I always love these gardens that have been meticulously and artistically raked by the monks.

rock garden at Hokokuji

Hokokuji Temple rock garden

Hokokuji Temple rock garden

Zen rocks

The sound of water flowing from a bamboo spout makes for a peaceful and serene atmosphere, a perfect escape from the hubbub of Kamakura city.

a water spout to a pond

I find one small grove of bamboo along the main path to the temple, but this isn’t the main bamboo garden.

a small grove of bamboo

Hokokuji Temple belongs to the Zen Kenchoji Temple of the Rinzai Sect. It was established by the priest Tengan Eko in 1334 — a time of great turbulence and unrest in Japan — to commemorate Ashikaga Ietoki, grandfather of Takauji, first of the Ashikaga shoguns. The principal image enshrined in the main hall is Shaka-nyorai-zazo (sitting Shakyamuni), which is designated as a cultural property by Kamakura city.  The temple has many other treasures designated as important cultural properties, such as statues  of Butsujo-zenji (the posthumous title of Tengan Eko) and Kasho-Sonjazo, a disciple of Buddha.

The main hall of Hokokuji Temple originally had a thatched roof. However, it was destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.

The main building of Hokokuji Temple

Today, only the bell tower has a quaint-looking thatched roof.

Bell Tower at Hokokuji Temple

Near the Bell Tower is a circle of moss-covered Jizo statues.

Jizo statues

There is a small stone garden with mossy stones that has a serene Zen atmosphere.

rock garden at Hokokuji Temple

rock garden at Hokokuji Temple

Hokokuji Temple

A yagura is a cave to accommodate tombs; these at Hokokuji reportedly hold the ashes of the Ashikaga family, including Ietoki, who died by seppuku (ritual suicide).

Tombs of Ashikagas

green blossoms

Behind the main hall, there once was an annex in which Butsujo-zenji, the posthumous title of the priest who founded this temple, used to have Buddhist training and write poems.  His Toki-Shu, a manuscript of Chinese poems, and his wooden stamp are now preserved in the Kamakura Museum; they are specified as important cultural properties by the Japanese government.

The site of the annex is where the bamboo grove is now.  About 2000 thick moso bamboo reach densely to the sky in the garden. Moso bamboo is a temperate species of giant timber bamboo native to China and Taiwan and naturalized elsewhere. This bamboo can reach heights of up to 28 m (92 ft) (Wikipedia: Phyllostachys edulis).

garden backed by bamboo

The bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

path through the bamboo

moss-covered sages

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

After wandering around the bamboo grove for a while, I make my way back to the main road where I can catch the bus.  A long line of people is already queued up, and I wonder if I’ll even get on the bus with such a long line.  Luckily I see a restaurant next to the bus stop.  As it’s after 1:30, I’m hungry, hot and thirsty, so I order a cool orange Hi-C and a shrimp tempura set meal.  It’s the perfect escape from the heat and the crowds.

a cool Hi-C

shrimp tempura set meal

After lunch, I take the bus back to Kamakura Station, where I head to Yokohama.  There, I plan to visit Yamate Bluff, a famous foreigner’s residential area.

Information in this post comes from the Hokokuji Temple pamphlet, JintoJapan: The Official Guide: Hokoku-ji Temple, and  All About Japan – Hokokuji: The Bamboo Temple of Kamakura.

6 responses to “kamakura: hokokuji temple, the bamboo temple

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  1. I just love Kamacura, it is one of my favourite places in Japan!! Looking forward to exploring Japan with you.

    • Me too, Janaline. As I was working while in Japan, I was stuck in the Tokyo area for most weekends, and I found Kamakura my favorite escape. I’ve left Japan now, but I spent four very busy months there. It was fantastic. 🙂

  2. What a lovely place, Cathy! And so unusual 🙂 🙂
    Do you remember any of the history you research for these posts? I’m afraid it all washes past me 😦 I can just about remember the basics of European history.

    • Thanks so much, Jo. Haha, are you kidding? I never remember historical details. I can’t remember even our own history in the USA, much less Japanese or European history. However, though I can’t remember details, I do feel I gain some broad general knowledge about history after I visit places and research them. 🙂

  3. Great photos of the bamboo, Cathy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any quite that tall.

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