Daigyoji

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History

Originally, the Temple was erected as an offshoot of the neighboring Myohonji. Legend relates that when Priest Nitto (date of birth and death unknown) was the fifth chief priest of Myohonji in the mid Kamakura Period (1185-1333), he encountered a woman ghost, and since then the Temple's main object of worship has been the goddess of childbirth. It has long been embraced by pregnant women for an easy delivery.

DaigyoMHAccording to the legend, Priest Nitto used to commute Myohonji everyday. One day he heard locals telling about a ghost that often appeared near the Nameri {nah-meh-re} River late at night. Rumor had it that those who saw the ghost fell sick immediately or met misfortunes one way or another. The rumor swirled fast. People tried to get away from this district so as not to encounter the ghost. One night, Priest Nitto stayed long at Myohonji and had to go back to the Temple in the dead of night. As the Nameri River runs between the two temples, he had to wade across it. Near Hongakuji, along which the river flew, he saw a young woman standing at the river-bank with a baby in her arms. Her kimono was smeared with blood and her hair disheveled. He instantly recalled the rumor of the ghost. She must be the one, he thought. "Who are you?" asked Priest Nitto. "I am Mrs. Kageyu Akiyama," replied the woman, "I'm not doing well after a difficult confinement and going to die. To my regret, my child fell into company with me. I am trying to cross this river, but, once I get into the water, this child get too heavy like a stone and I cannot go forward."

Priest Nitto said to her, "I will chant a sutra for you. You should cross the river while I am chanting." Hearing the Priest to chant, she walked into the river. Nevertheless, she was unable to go ahead. "Priest, would you carry this baby to the other side? I will stay here", said the woman. Priest Nitto received the baby and moved forward into the river chanting the sutra loudly. He was barely able to cross the river, but only to find a few withered leaves in his hands, not the baby. He looked back. The baby was back to her arms. Priest Nitto chanted the sutra even louder and urged the woman to quickly wade across. This time, she did it well, and reached the other side of the river, when, however, Priest Nitto found the woman and her baby had just disappeared.

Several days later, Priest Nitto dreamed a strange dream, in which a beautiful woman thanked him for his help the other night and left a brocade pouch with a piece of gold in it as a token of appreciation. The next day, he visited Kageyu Akiyama, who was a retainer of Yoritomo Minamoto, the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, and showed the pouch. Akiyama said that her wife and child had really been dead for a few weeks and acknowledged the pouch was also hers. Knowing this, Priest Nitto erected a monument in the Temple for the solace of the woman and her child, praying to gods to help pregnant women with an easy delivery. Not since then has the district been haunted.

Today, there is the Ebisudoo Bridge spanning the Nameri River in front of Hongakuji. Right here was the woman ghost said to have appeared. The Temple, sacred to the goddess of childbirth, enshrines a baby's statue and a brocade pouch in its feretory, and attracts a number of pregnant women. Locals call the Temple "Onme-sama". As if to further help those women with modern science, a medical doctor used to practice pediatrics in the Temple grounds. Easy delivery and raising healthy babies were sure things for pregnant women if they offered a prayer here and visit the doctor after childbirth.

More recently in February 2009, Kamakura City Medical Association opened an obstetric clinic called "Tiara Kamakura" right here, borrowing the land property of the Temple. There are four obstetricians and more than 10 midwives in the clinic and are ready to accept any women who are going into labor at anytime, serving day and night, six days a week. It can perform even C-Section. This was a timely start-up for the clinic since Japan's birthrate is falling and people are aging rapidly. "Tiara Kamakura" was introduced nationwide as a role model to improve Japan's birthrate.

Stray worshipers are not permitted to enter the main hall. Only on April 8, or the birthday of Sakyamuni, the devout can worship the statue of goddess of childbirth in the face. The Temple is within a stone's throw of Kamakura Station. A red-colored gate stands at Wakamiya Oji street between Kamakura Police Department and Post Office near the Second Torii gate of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. This is the rear gate and the main gate is placed the other side at Komachi Oji street.

(Updated September 2013)

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