Access Map and Temple Diagram


HasegardenLegend relates that in 711, a priest by name "Tokudo" of Hasedera in Nara Prefecture instructed two sculptors to carve a pair of Eleven-Headed Kan'non (Ekadasamukha in Sanskrit) statues out of a single block of camphor which was felled from the forest behind the temple. After the pair of the statues were made, Priest Tokudo dedicated one to Hasedera in Nara, and set the other adrift at sea shore praying that may Kan'non help people who lived wherever it might reach. Twenty-five years later in 736, it was washed ashore at the beach of Nagai, the other side of Kamakura on the Miura Peninsula. Fusasaki Fujiwara, a court noble, picked up the statue and enshrined it at the present site naming Priest Tokudo as the founding priest. Hence the Temple's assertion that it was founded in 736.

A Eleven-headed Kan'non statue at e-Museum.

A similar story was also introduced by Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), a.k.a. Yakumo Koizumi, a Greek-born Journalist and naturalized Japanese, in his book "Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan." He visited the Temple in 1894 and introduced the old tale concerning the Temple's origin. The book is available at Project Gutenberg.

Historians do not necessarily support the legend saying that Kan'non was first introduced into Japan during the Heian Period (794-1185), well after the said statues were carved. In addition, nothing is referred to about the Temple in Azuma-kagami, official epic-type records of the Kamakura Shogunate. Probably because of this obscure origin, the statue of Kan'non, the main object of worship of the Temple, is designated as neither a National Treasure nor an Important Cultural Asset. Judging from the inscription affixed to the Temple's bell reading 1264 as the year of make, one of the oldest in Kamakura, it is certain at least that the Temple had existed in the late Kamakura Period (1185-1333).

In 1342, Takauji Ashikaga (1305-1358), the First Shogun of the Muromachi Period (1333-1573), had the statue gilded, and further in 1392, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga (1358-1408), the Third Shogun, provided the Temple with the halo for this statue.

In the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Tokugawa Shogunate gave financial aids to the Temple in view of the popularity of, and people's devotion to theKan'non statue. The Temple has since been a member of the Jodo sect, the Tokugawa's favorite tenet, and popularly called Hase Kan'non (Hase {hah-seh} is name of the place). Besides, there are many other statues and Buddhism-related objects preserved by the Temple.

Today's Hasedera is a popular attraction for the tourists. Sightseeing buses stop by here after or before visiting the Kotoku-in (Great Buddha), and the Temple has a spacious parking lot for those buses. The entrance is like that of an amusement park. Once inside the Temple grounds, the first thing you will see is a beautifully arranged garden (Picture; top).

(1) Sentai-Jizo or One-Thousand Jizo
Along the flights of steps leading to the Main Hall is a structure called Jizo-do, in which statues of Jizo Bosatsu, or Ksitigarbha-bodhisattva in Skt., are enshrined. There are countless Jizo statuettes made of stone and placed near here. They are called Sentai Jizo, meaning literally 'one thousand Jizo' and installed mostly for the aborted fetuses. Jizo is believed to be a guardian deity of children, both alive and dead, including stillborn babies and aborted fetuses. Grief-stricken parents who lost children dedicate the statuettes and pray that the god may protect the poor little ones wandering in the netherworld. Usually, the parents offer dolls and baby clothes to the statuettes. (Picture; bottom)

(2) Amida-do or Amitabha Hall
Standing at the right (north) of Kan'non-do is Amida-do, wherein is enshrined a sedentary statue of Amida Nyorai (Amitabha in Skt.). It is 2.8 meters tall, so-called jo-roku or 1.6 jo, (jo is an old unit of length, approx. 3 meters), which measures 4.8 meters if the statue stood up. Amida is believed to reside in the Pure Land Paradise (Sukhavati in Skt.) in the far west and save all souls arriving at the moment of believers' death. Traditionally, Jodo sect temples enshrine Amida statues as the main object of worship. Not in the Temple.

Legend has it that the Amida statue here was fashioned for Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, to ward off the evils as he reached the age of 42, an unlucky age for men. However, records show that it was made during the Muromachi Period. The statue is flanked by smaller satellites: At its left is Miroku Bosatsu, or Maitreya-bodhisattva in Skt., and at its right is Seishi Bosatsu, or Mahasthama-prapta in Skt. The Amida trinity (Sanzon in Japanese) here is different from the traditional ones, which are usually attended by Kan'non and Seishi Bosatsu.
Exactly when the statue was fashioned is not known. In light of the documents that say it was repaired in 1412, the time of make is thought to be the early part of the Muromachi Period.

Amida trinity statues at Kyoto National Museum.

Amida Nyorai here is popularly called 'Yakuyoke', meaning to ward off evils, and it is on the list of the Six-Amida Pilgrimage in Kamakura. Worshipers pray to Amida that they be protected specifically from the evil fortune.

(3) Kan'non-do, or Main Hall (Picture; right)
Hase MHOnce inside the hall, a gigantic and brilliant statue of Eleven-Headed Kan'non will look down visitors. Perhaps, it will take the first-time visitors by surprise with its enormous size and brilliant golden color. It measures 9.18 meters tall, by far the largest wooden statue of Kan'non in Japan. Eleven-Headed means it has eleven additional heads on top of the Kan'non's head; three in front, left and right respectively, one in center and one in the rear, all have different looks. (The rear one is said laughing, though we cannot confirm).

Unlike ordinary statues of Kan'non, this one here has a staff called Shakujo (Khakkhara in Skt.) in its right hand and a vase with lotus flowers in its left. Normally, Shakujo is a Buddhist staff held by Jizo Bosatsu. As a result of this uniqueness, the Kan'non statue of the Temple is called 'Hase style', and is listed on the 4th of the Bando, and 22nd of the Kamakura Thirty-Three Kan'non Pilgrimages. During the Edo Period in particular, the statue was greatly venerated by the devout. Even today, quite a few pilgrims visit here and worship the statue.

In 1964, the interior of the statue was inspected, and it was revealed that the halo was repaired in 1485 and a famous Kamakura sculptor Ko-en (1442-1529) by name took part in it. Ko-en is well known for carving the Datsueba statue enshrined at En'noji.

Right in front of the Statue, a smaller Kan'non statue is installed. Overwhelmed by the main statue, this one seems like a statuette. Most visitors may be surprised to know it is a life-size, measuring as tall as 178 centimeters.

At the right-hand side of the hall is a sedentary statue of Priest Tokudo, fashioned during the latter half of Muromachi Period. The style of this 93-centimeter-tall statue sitting on a chair looks very much like those of Zen priests often seen at Zen temples.

A statue of Eleven-Headed Kan'non at NNM.

Statue of Binzuru, or Pindola-Bharadvaja in Skt.
Binzuru is the name of a priest and listed on the top of the Sixteen Rakan (Arhat in Skt.) or 16 disciples of Sakyamuni. Since his ancestors were physicians, Japanese folklore tells that the statue will cure one's decease if he or she passes its hand over his bald head.

(4) Homotsukan or Treasure Hall
Adjacent to the main hall is the Temple's treasure hall, which was opened in 1980, and renewed in April 2008 exhibits important objects associated with Buddhism. Open from 9:00 to 16:00. (Closed on Monday, or Tuesday in case Monday is a holiday). The following are the major objects on display:


(5) Daikokudo Hall
Adjacent to the Treasure Hall is this Daikokudo-hall wherein is enthroned a replica of Daikokuten upon the altar. The real one is displayed in the treasure hall as explained above. However, most of pilgrims making the circuit of Shichifukujin pilgrimage come over here to say a prayer to Daikokuten, and after the prayer they receive temples' seal and signature in proof of their visit.

(6) Kyozo or Sutra Storehouse
Next to the Daikokudo Hall stands the scripture house. All scriptures covering Mahayana Buddhism called Issaikyo, or Tripitaka in Skt., are kept in the revolving repository. Issaikyo (also called Daizokyo) has 100 volumes with 900 pages each, all in Chinese. (Recently, Buddhist professor and his group in Japan have completed translation of all the scriptures into English. It took them 17 years to finish up.) If you turn the repository around, so reads the explanation, you would be given the same virtue as you would get by reading all of the Issaikyo. Many visitors are turning it probably just for fun.

(7) Benten-kutsu
At the north corner of the lower level over the pond is a red torii gate, which is the entrance to the cave called Benten-kutsu. Worshipers buy candle sticks and put them on the altar after lighting, and start a short pilgrimage inside the cave stooping to enter. In addition to the Benten statue, there are sixteen statues engraved on the wall, all of them are followers and messengers of Benten. Benten (also called Benzaiten), or Sarasvati in Skt., is the Goddess of Eloquence, Music and Wisdom. As the torii gate indicates, this is an example of merging Buddhism with Shinto. Sarasvati in Buddhism was fused with Ugafuku of Shinto. Zeniarai Benten is an independent shrine dedicating to Ugafuku with the name of Benten.

With respect to Jizo statuettes, which are mostly for aborted fetuses called Mizuko {me-zoo-koh}, or unborn child, Mizuko-related business is a big industry in Japan. One factor behind the boom is that in Japan, contraceptive pills are approved only recently in September 1999, and as pointed out by Mother Teresa (1910-1997), Japan is an abortionist's paradise. Parents who had to abort their fetuses make expensive Jizo statuettes for the unlucky children, and dedicate them to specific temples where memorial services for Mizuko are regularly held. Some temples are making a lot of money through this service. For further detail of Jizo concept, refer to En'noji.

(Updated August 2013)