Jufukuji

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History

Jufuku1The oldest Zen temple in Kamakura is generally thought to be Kenchoji. But, the Temple had been erected almost half-a-century earlier than Kenchoji, and yet it ranks third on the list of the Five Great Zen Temples in Kamakura, since Zen was not its denomination at the very beginning.

Founder Masako Hojo erected the Temple to propitiate the soul of her departed husband, Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, following his unexpected demise in 1199. She chose this site where the residence of Yoshitomo Minamoto, Yoritomo's father, had existed. She invited Priest Myo-an-Eisai to be the founding priest at a time when he was not necessarily well accepted in Kyoto. Priest Eisai was born in Okayama Prefecture and took Buddhist vows at the age of 14. First, he entered Enryakuji near Kyoto, the mecca of the Tendai sect, and then visited China twice, in 1168 and in 1178. In China, he was ordained under Zen tenet and introduced it to Japan for the first time. Hence, he is called the father of Japanese Zen Buddhism.

However, the Tendai sect was so powerful back then that his dogmas were not welcomed in Kyoto. Masako and her family invited the unhappy priest to Kamakura and asked him to expound his Buddhism and perform religious service for them. Soon afterward, he was appointed as the founding priest of the Temple. Though he is said to be the Japanese pioneer of Zen, the doctrine he introduced in Kamakura was mixed with Tendai, Shingon and Zen creeds, sometime focusing on incantations and prayers.

So influential was his preaching of Zen that in later years a number of talented Zen priests were brought up. Just to name a few, Taiko-Gyoyu (1163-1241), the second chief priest of the Temple and the founding priest of Jomyoji and Jorakuji, Taikyu-Shonen (1215-1289), the founding priest of Jochiji, et al. were disciples of Priest Eisai, all were notable and excellent Zen priests. In the latter half of the 12th century, the Temple was expanded into a full-fledged Zen temple.

Priest Eisai is also famous for introducing green tea into Japan and brought its seedlings from China. They were planted at Uji {woo-gee}, south of Kyoto, and Uji later became a production center of Japanese green tea. When Sanetomo Minamoto (1192-1219), the second son of Masako and the Third Shogun of Kamakura Shogunate, was suffering from a hangover one day, he recommended to drink green tea, and addressed its medical efficacy in his two-volume essay entitled Healing Sickness with Green Tea. Not only was this essay worthwhile for medical care, but also valuable as an ancient writing, and it is on the list of ICAs. Medical value of green tea is proved by today's chemical technology. A Swedish scientist recently found that a substance in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, can prevent the growth of new blood vessels in cancer cells.

In the meantime, Sanetomo repaired to the Temple and often listened to Priest Eisai's preaching. In its golden days, the Temple had as many as 14 sub-temples, and on the occasion that the mass requiem for the 12th anniversary of Ninth Hojo Regent Sadatoki Hojo's death took place at Engakuji in 1323, says the record, 260 priest participated from the Temple. Unfortunately, the main hall is off limits to occasional visitors.

In the neighborhood of the Temple, there lived many sculptors of Buddha statues such as the Goto, Mitsuhashi and Kano families, and they contributed to the development of wood-carving technique. Many of the statues were carved by those family members. As the year passed and culture in Kamakura declined, however, Buddha statues were no longer in demand. They gradually switched object of wood-carving from Buddha statues to others using the technique they so long inherited from their ancestors, and it eventually produced today's Kamakura lacquered wood-carving called Kamakura Bori.

Meanwhile, the Temple is designated as a Historic Spot by the National Government.

Main Hall

JufukuMainThe building was destroyed by fires many times and the current one was rebuilt during 1751 to 1763. Inside the hall, a trinity statues of Shaka, or Sakyamuni in Sanskrit, flanked by two attendants are enshrined as the main objects of worship. The statue of crowned Shaka here is popularly called Kago (basket) Shaka named after the way it was produced. First, a wooden frame for a statue is made, on which a rough figure of statue is modeled with clay. Then, hemp cloths are affixed to it with lacquer to form multiple layers. After it is dried up, the clay inside the statue is taken out. With elaborate paintings on the surface, the work is completed, which sounds like a cage. Hence, the name of Kago Shaka. By whom and when it was made are unknown. Some say it was in 1395. Flanking the Shaka statue are those of Fugen Bosatsu, or Samantabhadra in Skt., in his right and Monju Bosatsu, or Manjusri Bodhisattva in Skt., in his left. All are 295 centimeters tall.
Paintings of Shaka trinity at NNM.

The hall has also a statue of Eleven-Headed Kan'non, or Ekadasamukha in Skt., and it ranks 24th among the Thirty-Three Kamakura Kan'non Pilgrimage.

An Eleven-Headed Kan'non statue at e-Museum.

In addition, the following statues are enshrined:

Other than the above, the Temple owns a statue of Jizo Bosatsu, or Ksitigarbha-bodhisattva in Skt., an ICA, made in the later half of the Kamakura Period. It is preserved by the Kamakura Museum and on regular display in the Museum. The statue is unique in that the entire body including pedestal is made of a single-wood block.

Another important statue owned by the Temple and kept at the Kamakura Museum is a statue of Indian Priest Kasho, or Kasyapa in Skt., one of the Ten Great Disciples of Sakyamuni and is most respected by Zen Buddhists. Priest Kasho is known of his contribution to making scriptures of Buddha's teachings. A statue of Kasyapa at British Museum.

To the right of the main hall building are caves called Yagura {yah-goo-rah}, in which ashes of all the chief priests are buried. The Temple was also the family temple for local sculptors of Buddha-statues who lived near here as noted above, and their ashes were also buried in yagura here.

Graveyard

Behind the main building is the Temple's graveyard, which is open to the public and we can go in from the left-hand path of the inner gate. Far back of the graveyard are a row of yagura where Gorinto, or five-tier-stone stupa, of Masako and Sanetomo are placed. Record shows that their ashes were buried at Choshoju-in, which no longer exists. According to historians, the Gorinto here represent a typical style made in the latter half of the Kamakura Period, and therefore, these are not real tombs but cenotaphs erected for the repose of the departed.

The yard has quite a few tombs for the Japanese celebrities. Included among them are:

Note:
The name of the founding priest is called "Myo-an-Eisai" in alphabet here, while Ken'ninji in Kyoto, the head temple of Ken'ninji School of Rinzai Zen, addresses him "Min'nan-Yosai". The original name is composed of four Chinese characters (Kanji). Even though each character has different pronunciations, "Myo-an-Eisai" and "Min'nan-Yosai" are quite different. Real pronunciation should have been only one when he was alive. I asked Ken'ninji by e-mail why the difference and which is correct. Ken'ninji was kind enough to answer my question. It said both are right, and that ancient documents with his name have Japanese kana printed alongside each kanji to show how they should be pronounced. The two temples followed kana of different documents. Personal name is one of the most important factors in conveying ancient writings, and yet his name is called differently today depending upon temples. It seems there were some blank periods when Buddhist teachings had not been passed on by word of mouth due to civil war, disturbances or crackdown on Buddhists by the ruler then in power.
Kanji characters bother me to write this website particularly to show proper noun such as personal names in alphabet. They often differ by information source.

(Updated August 2013)


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