While Tokimune Hojo was the de facto ruler of Japan as the Eighth Regent of the Hojo regime, Mongolian troops under the command of Kublai Khan (1215-1294), grandson of Genghis Khan (1167-1227), attacked northern part of Kyushu island in 1274 and again in 1281. Though they failed to invade Japan owing to timely typhoons. (Hence the word Kamikaze, or the god's wind. Kamikaze popularly denotes those pilots of the legendary suicide bombers who attacked to ruin the Allied Fleet during World War II, and further today's reckless taxi drivers). However, tens of thousands of warriors were killed during the battle. Tokimune even executed Kublai's envoy summoning them to Kamakura. To propitiate souls of the war victims including those of enemy's, he founded this Zen temple in 1282. As the founding priest, he invited Priest Mugaku-Sogen (1226-1286), a Chinese Zen Buddhist (Wu-hsueh Tsu-yuan in Chinese), then living in southern China, where freedom of religion was suppressed under the Kublai government. Since Zen Buddhism was cordially protected by Tokimune and well accepted by the samurai class, the Temple flourished during the entire Kamakura Period (1192-1333). No doubt Zen would not have flourished in Kamakura had not been for his contribution. Priest Mugaku's eulogy on Tokimune at his funeral ceremony may sum up his personality. Zen and Japanese Culture written by Daisetz T. Suzuki (1870-1966), a famous theologian, reads like this: Quote: There were ten wonders in his life, which was the actualization of a Bodhisattva's great vows: he was a filial son to his mother; he was a loyal subject to his Emperor; he sincerely looked after the welfare of the people; studying Zen he grasped its ultimate truth; wielding an actual power in the Empire for twenty years, he betrayed no signs of joy or anger; sweeping away by virtue of a gale the threatening clouds raised by the barbarians (Mongolian attack), he showed no feeling of elation; establishing the the Temple, he planned for the spiritual consolation of the dead both for Japanese and Mongolian; paying homage to the teachers and fathers of Buddhism he sought for enlightenment---all this proves that his coming among us was solely for the sake of the Dharma: Unquote.
Even after the Hojo regime came to an end in 1333, Priest Muso-Soseki (1275-1351), then the chief priest, was so influential as a Zen master that he earned confidence of the Imperial Court as well as the new Shogunate. (Back at the time, Tenryuji was being built in Kyoto for the repose of Emperor Godaigo's souls and Priest Muso was named as the founder. Tenryuji is the head temple of Tenryuji school of Rinzai Sect). Thus, the Temple was able to maintain its status as a leading Zen monastery. It is recorded that in 1383 more than 1,500 people attended the memorial service held here for Priest Muso's 32nd anniversary of death.
As was the case in other temples, the Temple was ravaged time and again by fires and earthquakes. Further, it had to weather hardships in the 14th to 16th century with no financial support from the rulers then in power. Entering the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Temple was again protected by the Tokugawa Shogunate and was able to restore some of the Temple's structures. To name a few, the Main Hall was rebuilt in 1625 and Hojo (living quarter for chief priest) in 1673. But, the great earthquake in 1703 destroyed most of the structures, though they were restored shortly afterward.
When Priest Imakita-Kosen (1817-1893) (some call him Imagita-Kosen) assumed the post of the chief priest, he renovated the Temple, making it the most influential Zen monastery in eastern Japan. His immediate disciple named Shaku-Soen (1859-1920) attended the world religious convention held in Chicago in 1893 as a representative from Japan and introduced Zen Buddhism to the world's religious leaders, thereby many foreigners started to appreciate Japanese Zen, Rinzai Zen in particular.
Shortly before the Yokosuka Line of East Japan Railway was opened in 1889, the Temple had to yield part of its grounds. A small pond lying on the other side of the railway tracks near the Temple is still a part of Engakuji property and is called Byakurochi (egret pond). Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), a.k.a. Yakumo Koizumi, a Greek-born Journalist and naturalized Japanese, visited the Temple in 1894 and described vividly in his book "Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan" how it looked like back then. His book is available at Project Gutemberg.
The Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 again devastated almost all of the Temple structures, and therefore, most of the current ones were rebuilt after the quake. In its heyday, the Temple owned 42 sub-temples other than the main structures and its acreage totaled approximately 200 hectares. Today, it has 17 sub-temples. Naturally, it keeps a number of important assets and the whole Temple enclosure is designated as a Historic Spot by the National Government.
Over the past 700 years, the Temple was ravaged at least by ten major fires, and if other calamities like earthquakes are included, such a calamity occurred every 50 years on average. In Kamakura, there are the Big-Five Zen temples and the Temple ranks second, accommodating today more than 200 priests. Among today's Rinzai sects, Engakuji school is one of the biggest and has no fewer than 200 affiliated temples throughout Japan.
(1) Somon, or Outer Gate
As is common in Zen temples, the Temple has two gates; one is the outer gate called Somon and the other is the inner gate called Sanmon. Somon here has a tablet reading 'Zuirokuzan', part of the official Temple name.
(2) Sanmon, or Inner Gate (Picture; top, right)
The magnificent, double-decked gate next to the first gate is Sanmon. This was reconstructed in 1783 in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the founding priest's death by Priest Seisetsu-Shucho (1745-1820), who was the 189th chief priest. A large tablet reading 'Engakuji Kosho Zenji', though almost blurring, hangs above, and it was inscribed by Emperor Fushimi (1265-1317), implying the Temple was under the Imperial patronage. On the second floor, a statue of Eleven-Headed Kan'non (Ekadasamukha in Sanskrit) is enshrined in the center flanked by those of Sixteen Rakan, or Arhat (Sakyamuni's disciples).
A Eleven-Headed Kan'non statue at e-Museum.
(3) Butsuden (also called Taiko Myo-ho den), or Main Hall (Picture; below)
The next building you will see straight ahead is Butsuden, or the main hall of the Temple, in which a 2.6-meter-tall sedentary statue of Shaka Nyorai or Sakyamuni, the main object of worship, is enthroned on a gigantic lotus support. The size of 2.6 meters is a typical dimension of Buddha statue and is called Jo-roku in Japanese. Jo is a unit of length measuring about 3 meters and roku is six, meaning Jo-roku is 1.6-jo, roughly 4.8 meters. If the statue stood up, it would be as tall as 4.8 meters. Jo-roku originates in the belief that Sakyamuni was that tall.
Usually, Shaka Nyorai statues wear simple clothes and put on no accessaries such as crowns or jewelry. But in the Temple, the Nyorai statue has hair dressed up with a crown on top of the head and looks like a Bosatsu or Bodhisattva in Skt. Zen Buddhism regards the Kegon-kyo, or the Garland Sutra (Avatamsaka Sutra in Skt.) as its scriptural authority, of which main object of worship is Birushana Butsu, or Vairocana in Skt., and the Nyorai statue here is a sort of this Vairocana. Similar Nyorai statues can therefore be viewed in many Zen temples such as Jufukuji, Hojo of Kenchoji, etc.
The head part of the Statue is original one made in the first half of the 14th century. The body part was repaired in 1625. Flanking the Statue are those of Bonten, or Brahma-Deva and Taishakuten, or Indra in Skt. The previous building was totally damaged by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. The current one was reconstructed in 1964, the year when the 18th Summer Olympic Games took place in Tokyo.
A head part of Bonten and Taishakuten at KNM.
The building is pretty new and modern made with reinforced concrete, said to be tolerable should another great quake hit the area. However, it retains, more or less, a Zen style design. On the ceiling appears a white dragons painted by Tadashi Moriya (1912-2003), a Kamakura resident, under the supervision by Seiton Maeda (1885-1977), a famous artist.
The Temple holds Zazenkai session, or sit-in meditation for the laity in this building every morning for one hour from 5:30 to 6:30 (6:00 to 7:00 from November through March). It is called Gyoten (before dawn) Zazenkai open to the public and anybody can join free of charge.
At the north (left) side of Sanmon stands Shorei-in, sub-temple for Priest Shukuetsu-Zen'eki (?-1535), who was the 150th chief priest and passed away in 1535. Enshrined here is a 25-centimeter-tall sedentary statue of Amida Nyorai, or Amitabha in Skt., carved in the Edo Period. Also placed inside the house are statues of Priest Daisetsu-Sono (1313-1377), the 40th chief priest and Priest Kibun-Zensai, the 154th chief priest. Behind the wooden house is a graveyard on the hill, where celebrities' ashes are buried. Among them are; Kinuyo Tanaka (1909-1977), a famous actress and movie star in the '40s, '50s and '60s, and Takeshi Kaiko (1930-1989), an author, and Tsutsumi Sakamoto, a lawyer who was murdered together with his wife and a baby in November 1989 by members of an occult group called Aum, which spread deadly gas on the Tokyo subway in March 1995.
Peony and other flowers are beautiful in this sub-temple, but open to the visitors only from the second Saturday of September through November 30 except for autumn equinox days. An extra 100-yen admission have to be paid at the entrance. An offertory box is placed at the gate.
Next to Shorei-in and at the left-hand side of Butsuden is Senbutsujo with thatched-roof built in 1699. Though used to be an exercise hall for Zen priests until 1966, it no longer is. Instead, a wooden statue of Yakushi Nyorai or Bhaisajyaguru, believed to be fashioned in the 14th century is installed. A good chance to take a closer look at the statue. Tatami mat room is clean and simple. In early times, Senbutsujo used to be one of the most important place for Zen temples, where screening of priests who attained Nirvana were conducted (a Zen sect version of ordainment). It is usually built west of the main hall. Today's Senbutsujo here is occasionally used for Zen sit-in meditation.
A Yakushi Nyorai statue at e-Museum.
Further up the Senbutsujo is the Kojirin. Koji means a lay Buddhist and this was a drill hall for kendo, or Japanese fencing used by Yagyu school (Yagyu is the name of a famous sword-master family served as instructors for the Tokugawa Shogun during the Edo Period). Most notable among the Yagyus was Munenori Yagyu (1571-1646), one of the greatest swordsman in history, who served the Third Shogun Iemitsu Tokugawa (1604-1651), and won the favor of the Shogunate. (Incidentally, Rin'noji in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, was built for this Shogun). A devout Zen Buddhist, Munenori incorporated much of the Zen teachings into his treatise on swordsmanship. This was the reason why the building was relocated here in 1928 from Tokyo.
Enshrined in the center of the hall is a sedentary statue of Fudo Myo-o or Acalanatha in Skt. The hall is open to the public for sit-in meditation every Saturday afternoon. Also for students who wants to study and practice Zen, this hall offers a good opportunity. It is a six-day session held in March and September.
A Fudo Myo-o statue at NNM.
(7) Dai-Hojo, or Living quarters for the chief priest:
Back to the main path, and go straight up about 100 meters, and there will be the Dai-Hojo to your right. Hojo is the same spelling as that of the Hojo Family in alphabet but totally different in kanji characters. Hojo of living quarters originally means a jo (3 meters) square, enough space for a chief priest's living room, but today's Hojo is like a mansion and is used to accommodate distinguished guests. The Temple's Dai Hojo is also open to those who practice Zen.
In the courtyard, there is a huge juniper tree like the ones standing in Kenchoji grounds. Priest Mugaku brought the seeds from China. You will also see scores of stone figurines in the garden along the wall. Those are One Hundred Kan'non statues, or the Goddess of Mercy, (Avalokitesvara in Skt.), and all have different expressions on their faces. (One Hundred originally meant a total of Kan'non Pilgrimage temples in three regions: 33 in western Japan, 33 in Kanto and 34 in Saitama Prefecture. There are not as many here, but roughly 70). In this Dai-Hojo, a sedentary statue of Shaka Nyorai is enshrined.
(8) Myokochi pond, or Pond of Sacred Fragrance:
Ahead of Hojo and to your left is a small pond called Myoko-chi (chi means a pond). It was designed by Priest Muso, the founding priest, who was also famous as a garden designer. The best known garden designed by him, perhaps, is that of Saihoji in Kyoto. Today's Myokochi is muddy, however, and must be quite different from the original one. It was remodeled in March 2001 and the rock in the center is called "Tiger's head rock."
A house standing over the pond is said to be the incumbent chief priest's residence. On top of the roof, a satellite dish used to stand. Probably he was keeping abreast with the times watching CNN and other satellite TVs, but the dish does not seem to be in harmony with the Temple atmosphere. Fortunately, it was removed.
Up the pond and at the right-hand side of the path is a cave called Byakurokudo. Legend has it that a white deer appeared from this cave to listen to the Priest Mugaku's preaching shortly after he founded the Temple. Roku of Byakurokudo means deer and do a cave (not a hall in this case). The official name of the Temple is Zuirokuzan Engakuji and Roku is included in this name to commemorate the legend.
(10) Butsunichi-an and Ensokuken:
Go straight along the white wall of the left-hand side for about 50 meters and there is an entrance to Butsunichi-an (an extra 100-yen fee is needed), where Tokimune Hojo built a hermitage when he was under pressure from the Mongolian attack and practiced sit-in meditations. He died young at age 34 and was cremated here. Later, a hall was constructed to host memorial service for him. Subsequently, it became a sepulcher-cum-mass hall for the other members of the Hojos including Kakuzan-ni (1253-1306, Tokimune's wife who founded Tokeiji), their son Sadatoki Hojo (1271-1311, the Eighth Hojo Regent) and grandson Takatoki Hojo (1303-1333, the 14th Regent). As Tokimune died on April 4, 1284, a tea ceremony is held here on the fourth day every month, calling it The Fourth Day Tea Party.
Meanwhile, NHK (a state-run broadcasting corporation like BBC in the U.K.) has long been televising a 45-minute-drama every Sunday night featuring the saga of historic heroes and heroines in Japan. The heroes or heroines change every year. In 2001, it was Tokimune and his role was played by a young Kyogen player Motoya Izumi (1974-). Due to this drama, the number of visitors to Kamakura topped 18 million in 2001, up 10 percent over 2000, according to a survey made by the city office, and in case of the Temple, it jumped by 14 percent to 770,000.
In this sub-temple, wooden statues of Eleven-Headed Kan'non, Tokimune Hojo, Sadatoki Hojo are enthroned on the altar. The Kan'non statue here is the last of the Thirty-Three Kan'non Pilgrimage in Kamakura. A priest at the entrance will give you a burning stick of incense in exchange for the 100-yen fee. The incense should be offered in the hearth placed before the hall. Red felt-covered benches are available for the visitors to relax.
Also erected here is a tea house called Ensokuken, which was the stage of the tea party mentioned above, and appears in a novel Senba-zuru, or A Thousand Cranes written by Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972), a Nobel Literature Prize (1968) laureate. 'A Thousand Cranes' means a string of folded paper cranes and in this novel they are printed on a square-size wrapping-cloth a young lady brought with her to the tea ceremony. A young man joining the ceremony is attached to the lady. The ceremony had been arranged to have them meet each other for a possible marriage, but he continues to have adulterous affairs with other women and they never marry. At this Ensokuken, visitors can enjoy powdered tea and Japanese cakes for 500-yen. Also enshrined in here is a statue Jizo Bosatsu or Ksitigarbha-bodhisattva in Skt. It ranks 14th of the Twenty-Four Jizo Pilgrimage in Kamakura. The statue is called Enmei Jizo meaning a deity to prolong one's life.
A Jizo Bosatsu statue at NNM.
At the far end of the path is Obai-in sub-temple wherein is enshrined a statue of Thousand-Armed Kan'non (Sahasrabhuja in Skt.) in the center flanked by Sho Kan'non (Arya-avalokitesvara in Skt.), those of Yakushi Nyorai and Priest Muso. Originally the structure was erected sometime during 1352 to 1356 by one of Priest Muso's disciples. Priest Muso was very aggressive in promoting Zen Buddhism and this sub-temple was once the headquarters for all of the Muso groups. Among his prominent disciples was Priest Gido-Shushin (1325-1388), who was influential in propagating the Muso doctrines and even rebuilt this sub-temple soon after it was destroyed by fire of 1374. In the memorial service held here for Priest Muso in 1383 at his 32nd anniversary of death, more than 1,500 people reportedly participated as noted earlier. Important portraits were also painted in the Temple and have been kept here. In Zen Buddhism, portraits of great priests were highly respected and hung on the wall after their death. As a matter of fact, they later gave a great impact on the Japanese portrait paintings.
Another statue of Sho-Kan'non is enshrined in the small hall straight ahead of the gate. As the word obai (literally yellow plum) suggests, this sub-temple has a lot of flowers in the courtyard just like a small botanical garden.
(12) Shariden: (Picture; above, right)
Back to the Myokochi pond and to the north (to your right), there is a gate from where Shariden, the centerpiece of the entire Temple, can be viewed, the oldest building in the whole Engakuji complex and the only building in Kamakura that is designated as a National Treasure. The original one, which no longer exists, was built in 1285 by Sadatoki Hojo, but ruined by the 1563 fire. The existing structure was first constructed in the early 15th century as the main hall of Taiheiji nunnery, which was situated at Nishi Mikado near Raikoji, and once listed on the top of the Five Great Nunneries in Kamakura, but was abolished after the chief nun was abducted during the 1556 battle waged among the local warlords. With no chief nun, the nunnery was on the brink of dilapidation, and it was the Temple that volunteered to take over the structure in the latter half of 16th century. The steep slope of roof with shingles indicates something of a Sung-style Chinese architecture. With the double-deck roofs, it seems like a two-story structure, but it is not. Indeed, it is the oldest Chinese-style building in Japan and that is the main reason for being enrolled on the list of National Treasures. The roof was repaired in 2010 for the first time in 17 years.
The principal object of worship is a statue of Birushana Butsu, or Vairocana, the same group as that of Todaiji in Nara, flanked by Kan'non Bosatsu at its right and Jizo Bosatsu at
its left. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to go through the gate except for New Year Days and early November when the Temple's treasures are on view. Even on these special occasions, paying a 300-yen fee, there is a rope hanging around the structure and going inside the structure is not permitted.
Shari is Sarira in Skt., and denotes sacred ashes of Shaka (Sakyamuni). Shariden, therefore, should means a hall that is dedicated to the ashes of Sakyamuni. However, there is no such ashes any more. The world famous Kinkakuji, or the Temple of Golden Pavilion in Kyoto is also a Shariden. Meanwhile, in April 1998, Japanese newspapers reported that Taiwan Buddhist priests held a grand ceremony in Taipei in honor of the arrival of a tooth relic of the Lord Buddha, believed to be one of only three that still exist. Other temples that say they keep Buddha's ashes are: The Temple of the Tooth near Lake Kandy, Sri Lanka that claims it keeps the left eye-tooth of Sakyamuni, and Fa Men Temple in X'ian Shaanxi Province, China.
(13) Kaisando Hall:
Though barely viewable, there is another structure right behind Shariden, which is the hall for the founding Priest Mugaku. He came to Kamakura in 1279 from China at the request of Tokimune Hojo shortly after the demise of Priest Rankei-Doryu (1213-1278), the founding priest of Kenchoji, and immediately assumed the seat for the fifth chief priest of Kenchoji. At the same time, he was appointed by Tokimune to be the founding priest of the Temple in 1282. Upon death of Tokimune two years later, however, Priest Mugaku resigned as the chief priest of the Temple, and returned to Kenchoji, where he also died at its Hojo hall after the second anniversary of Tokimune's death. Kenchoji buried him in its temple grounds and built a sub-temple named Shozoku-in to perform memorial service on his behalf. The Temple was unhappy with the way Kenchoji treated, since the Temple was not able to have the founding priest's tomb nor his sub-temple. Thereafter, the two temples turned hostile to each other. While Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) was briefly in power, the fifth chief priest Muso somehow made an acquaintance with the emperor, and succeeded in getting Priest Mugaku's tomb back to the Temple. The emperor also instructed to relocate Shozoku-in sub-temple to the Temple.
In this hall, Priest Mugaku's wooden statue (an ICA) resting on a chair is enthroned on the altar. It was made circa 1286 after his death. The face looks stern just like a real Zen Master who has experienced ascetic disciplines. On his anniversary of death, this statue is brought out from here to Butsuden, treating it like the real Priest Mugaku still alive. He was honored with the title of Bukko the National Teacher, given after his death. Also in the hall is a pedestal called Shumidan (the word came from Sumeru in Skt.), an excellent artifact made during the Kamakura Period. Meanwhile, Kaisan (literally "opening the mountain") means founding a temple as well as a founding priest. Unfortunately, visitors are not permitted to get access to the hall. In Zen temples, a religious hall for the founding priest is customarily built in front of the Kaisando hall and is called Shodo, like the one in Kenchoji. Shariden in the Temple is therefore the equivalent to Shodo of Kenchoji.
Inside the gate of Shariden and to your right is Shozoku-in sub-temple, which was built for dedication to Priest Mugaku, the founding priest. The original structure belonged to Kenchoji as referred to above, but was brought here in 1337 by Priest Muso. Today, Shozoku-in consists of a Zen hall, priests' living quarters, accommodations for visiting priests, a bell, etc. and looks like an independent temple. Beginner-priests who want to pursue Zen Buddhism first visit here and apply for enrollment. Shariden also belongs to this Shozoku-in. The Zen hall houses a sedentary statue of Jizo Bosatsu, which ranks 13th of Twenty-Four Jizo Pilgrimage in Kamakura.
(15) Bell and Benzaiten (Picture; below)
On the right-hand side of Sanmon, there is a flight of about 140 steps leading up to the top of a hill where the famous bell, the largest in Kamakura measuring 2.6 meters high with 1.42-meter diameter and a National Treasure is hanging. Unlike the Western bells, Japanese ones have clappers not inside but outside the bells, and the clapper is a log (hemp-palms are preferred) hung horizontally. To ring a bell, a man swings the log and hit the outside of the bell. It was made by members of Mononobe family, the most notable caster family during the Kamakura Period, and Sadatoki Hojo donated it in 1301.
Near the bell stands a wooden structure, which is Benten-do, or the hall sacred to the Goddess of Fortune (Sarasvati in Skt.). When the Mononobes began to cast the bell, it didn't go well for no apparent reason. The Hojos, founder's family, offered a prayer for successful casting to Enoshima Benten, one of the three largest in Japan located west of Kamakura on a small island. After the prayer, the Mononobes succeeded in making this fine bell. In honor of and to dedicate to Enoshima Benten, this Bentendo was erected as its offshoot.
In Zen temples, they customarily established sub-temples inside the temple grounds to worship and commemorate master priests. The Temple had as many as 42 sub-temples at the height of its prosperity. Today, it has the following ones, but most of them are not open to the public: (The suffix an translates as a small monastery, a hermitage, or a retreat.)
Dedicated to the memory of Priest Daikyu-Shonen (1214-1289) or Butsugen the Zen Master (posthumous Buddhist name), who was the second chief priest and died in 1289. Shortly before he died, he had made his stupa in the Temple. The head part of his statue made in the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) is kept at the Kamakura Museum. Originally, this sub-temple was built in Jufukuji in 1283, but later his disciples relocated it here in 1335. His preaching written with a brush pen reads the date of 1282 and it is designated as an ICA. Fifth Regent Tokiyori Hojo (1227-1263) invited him from China. Incidentally, The Temple keeps quite a few ancient documents. All of them are valuable and called Engakuji Documents.
Erected for Priest Tomin-Enichi (1272-1340), a Chinese and the 10th chief priest. A statue of Crowned Sakyamuni believed to have been made in the latter half of the 14th century is enshrined. Also enthroned on the altar is Priest Tomin's sedentary wooden statue, 97 centimeters tall, which was made in the mid-to-late 14th century and is an ICA. Ninth Regent Sadatoki Hojo invited him to Kamakura. Though the Temple belongs to Rinzai sect, Tomin was a devotee of the Soto sect, the other of the two main Zen sects. Also, a 30-centimeter tall statue of Idaten, or Skanda in Skt., a swift-running heavenly warrior, is enshrined in this sub-temple. A Idaten statue shown on Gifu City's official site.
A sub-temple for Priest Okawa-Dotsu, a priest at Jufukuji and was invited to the Temple to become the 17th chief priest. He died in 1339. His wooden statue, which is believed to be fashioned in the 14th century, is housed. The word Garyo is literally a lying dragon and means great men who have no chance to show his talent.
Originally, this sub-temple was erected in the grounds of Choshoji (no longer extant) to honor its founding priest Kuzan-En-in, and was once named as one of the ten greatest temples in the Kanto region (the greater Tokyo area). It was located near Kita-Kamakura Station. Unfortunately, Choshoji was abolished in 1431, when this sub-temple was brought here. Priest Kuzan's wooden statue enshrined in this sub-temple has an inscription affixed telling 1693 make. The main object of worship is a sedentary statue of Crowned Shaka Nyorai . Neither the name of the sculptor nor the year of carving are known.
Built in 1348 to dedicate to the memory of Priest Myogan-Sho-in (?-1369) in Manjuji (no longer exists), but was brought here in 1354. In the hall is his wooden statue carved in 1365 by a local sculptor named In'no Minobo. Priest Myogan was the 24th chief priest, who died in 1369 and was conferred with posthumous title Daitatsu the Zen Master. He was also the 34th chief priest of Kenchoji. His portrait painted in 1365 is kept at the Kamakura Museum. Also enshrined is a statue of the Crowned Shaka Nyorai.
Erected around 1354 by Takauji Ashikaga (1305-1358), the first Shogun of Ashikaga Shogunate, for Priest Daiki-Hokin who was the 30th chief priest and died in 1368. He also belonged to Jomyoji and Jochiji. Butsuman the Zen Master was his Buddhist title given after his death. The main object of worship is a wooden statue of Sho Kan'non brought from Tokeiji, and carved in the late Kamakura Period. Used to be a large sub-temple, but the present one was rebuilt in 1964 .
This sub-temple is sacred to Priest Mugai-Myoken or Busshin the Zen Master, the 36th chief priest, who passed in 1369. The original structure was built in 1370 right after his death. His wooden statue is placed on the altar. Important ancient writings are also kept in here.
A flight of steps on the south of Sanmon ascends to this sub-temple, which is for Priest Ketsu-o-Ze-ei, or Bukkei@the Zen Master, the 38th chief priest, who died in 1378. His wooden statue is enthroned on the altar. He painted a portrait of his master Priest Shi-an-Dokan (?-1342) in 1333, which is an ICA and kept at the Tokyo National Museum as one of the most important portraits of the days. Soseki Natsume (1867-1916), one of the most influential writers in modern Japanese literature, whose portrait used to appear on 1,000-yen bills, stayed here for about ten days in autumn 1894 when he was 28 years old to practice Zazen, or sit-in meditation. His experience at that time is depicted in his novel Mon, or The Gate. On December 9 every year, his anniversary of death, writers gather here in memory of his works. (Note. He went to London for study. He stayed in an apartment at the Chase, south London for about one year in 1901 and his room was recently given a Blue Plaque by the English Heritage. First ever for Japanese). Another popular writer named Toson Shimazaki (1872-1943) also stayed here twice. Together with Butsunichi-an, this Kigen-in was a stronghold for the Rinzai sect Buddhists in modern times. The old building was totally wrecked by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.
Built for Priest Sejo-Dokin, the 49th chief priest who died in 1385. Inside the structure are 15 statues of Ten Kings in Hades including those of Enma (Yama in Skt.), or the King of Hell and Datsueba. All are about 30 centimeters tall. Visitor can view the statue of Datsueba. For the details of Ten Kings and Datsueba, refer to En'noji. Today, this sub-temple is also used as a practice hall for archery. Also see Goryo Jinja.
A Datsueba statue at MFA.
A sub-temple dedicated to Priest Don'o-Shu-o, the 58th chief priest, who belonged to the Muso school and died in 1401. Now, part of Kojirin.
A Sub-temple dedicated to the memory of Priest Togaku-Mon-iku, or Bucchi the Zen Master, the 61st chief priest, who died in 1416. Used to be a training hall for young priests but was later remodeled. Other than Priest Togaku's statue, that of Priest Tokei-Tokugo (1240-1396), who was the 4th chief priest is also enshrined here.
Built for Priest Gettan-Chu-en, the 66th chief priest, who died in 1408. His statue is enshrined. The main object of worship is a sedentary statue of Sho Kan'non carved in the 14th century. Since this sub-temple was restored by the Miura family (see Who's Who for details), their tombs are placed in its grounds.
Enshrined is Priest Nanzan-Siun (1254-1335), the 11th chief priest. Formerly, a sedentary statue of Jizo Bosatsu carved in the early 14th century, had long been enshrined, but it is now kept at the Kamakura Museum as an ICA, and is on display from time to time. The statue is unique in that it has domon ornamentation, a technique developed in Kamakura and can be found nowhere else. Patterns of flowers, leaves of tree and Buddhist fittings are put on the robe of the statue. Those are made of clay and affixed on the statue's robe with lacquer. The patterned clays are glued on the statue with lacquer. The building is currently used as a kindergarten run by the Temple. Priest Nanzan was a disciple of Priest Mugaku and enjoyed a close intimacy with Takatoki Hojo, the 14th Regent. In this sub-temple, a portrait of Priest Nanzan painted by Takatoki Hojo is kept.
Donryu Jizo Bosatsu
In the courtyard of Keisho-in sub-temple stands a stone Jizo statue specifically called "Donryu Jizo Bosatsu. "Donryu" is a name of Japanese bomber like Zero for fighter plane used during World War II, and "Donryu" statue here was installed to the memory of those who risked their lives going on suicidal missions aboard the bomber in the Pacific War. They were the members of Kikusui Suicide Attack (kamikaze) Unit, and survivors installed this statue in 1977 as an RIP monument for the victims. Kikusui is literally "Chrysanthemum and Water" in Chinese characters. In his book "Okinawa. The Last Battle of World War II " (Viking 1995), Robert Leckie (1920-2001) says: Quote: In Japan the chrysanthemum is probably the most beloved of all flowers, woven into wreaths for weddings and funerals alike, decorating graves or dropped by grieving pilots onto waters in which their dearest comrades had plunged to their death. Thus, in conformance with this custom among the flower-loving Nipponese, Admiral Ugaki decided to give the scheduled Ten-Go aerial attacks on American shipping the name Kikusui, or "Floating Chrysanthemum." Unquote.
Leckie further narrates. Quote: The first organized attacks of the kamikaze came on October 25, 1944 at the beginning of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Suicide bombers struck blows strong enough to startle the Americans and make them aware of a new weapon in the field against them, but not savage enough to shatter them. Too many kamikaze missed their targets and crashed harmlessly into the ocean, too many lost their way either arriving or returning, and too many were shot down. Of 650 suicides sent to the Philippines, only about a quarter of them scored hits--- and almost exclusively on small ships without the firepower to defend themselves like the cruisers, battleships, and aircraft carriers. But, Imperial Headquarters, still keeping national mind carefully empty of news of failure, announced hits of almost 100 percent. Unquote.
The suicide bombers mentioned here may be Donryu. Leckie translated Kikusi as "Floating Chrysanthemum." Kiku of kikusui is Chrysanthemum, which is Imperial Family's emblem. Kikusui is literally Floating Chrysanthemum. However, it implies more than that. Kikusui is a family crest of the famous samurai named Masashige Kusunoki (1294-1336) and it shows a 16-pedal chrysanthemum flower on water, whereby it looks like the flower floating on water. Kusunoki is well known for his undying loyalty toward the Imperial Family and helped Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) restore imperial supremacy in 1333 from the Kamakura Shogunate, sacrificing his life. Admiral Ugaki perhaps named its unit in the hope that his corps would behave like Kusunoki.
Many Japanese still believe chrysanthemum is the national flower, as its 16-pedal design logo is printed on the front cover of all Japanese passports. The real national flower is, however, not chrysanthemum but cherry blossom.
Gyoten (pre-dawn) Zazen-kai
I once experienced this early morning sit-in meditation in summer of 1997. As it was the first time for me, I phoned the Temple about two weeks in advance for reservation, and asked what I should wear or bring with me. The other party of the phone simply said, however, "No reservation or preparation is necessary. Just come over here on time." One weekday morning, I got up at 4:00 a.m. and walked to a nearby station of the Yokosuka Line to catch the first train of the day. It took me 30 minutes. (I live in Yokohama. Buses are not running this early). The train arrived at Kita-Kamakura station at 5:14. Since the main gate was closed, I went 50 meters down to the rear gate. It was also closed, but an old gentlemen over 70 walking ahead of me opened a side door by hand and went in. I followed him. By appearance he seemed to join the sit-in. He stopped at Butsuden. Before asking him, I looked for the information board on which I thought an instruction or notice for the sit-in would be written. There was none. The old gentleman was trying to open the west-side door of Butsuden. "Good morning, sir. Is this the place for the sit-in?" I asked him. "Yes, it is." He replied. Then, I told him politely that I wanted to join the sit-in for the first time. He told me to wait there. Another old gentlemen appeared. He seemed to be a leader. The first gentleman whispered something to the second gentleman. The second gentleman came to me and said, "We have to form a line facing the hall until the priest shows up," and explained how to greet, sit, breathe, etc. In the hall, we must not put on socks and wrist watches, he added.
At 5:30 sharp, a young priest appeared and we greeted with our hands clasped in veneration. He led us to the back door of the Butsuden. There were nine people including three women. Piled at the corner of the hall were Japanese cushions, large and small ones, to sit on. Everyone took a pair of them, which cushion the body and help align it into a proper position. In the hall, long wooden-benches were placed along the three sides of the walls in the U-shaped hall. I was told to sit anywhere I liked. I chose the chair at the west wall near the back door as I was a beginner. First, I put the large cushion on the chair and the small one next, and then climbed onto the chair to settle into the posture. Placing the right foot on left thigh first, and then the left foot on the right thigh is the correct posture (called kekka-fuza) but, laymen like me are allowed to put only the left foot on the right knee (called hanka). Hand position is also important. The right hand has to be placed at the lower abdomen with palm upward and the left hand on top of it with palm upward. The thumb tips of both hands have to be jointed near the navel forming an oval with thumbs and other fingers. Needless to say, the spine has to be straightened up. To be more specific, the lower back as well as the spine has to be straightened up, buttocks must be push outward, chin should be pulled in and neck has to be extended. Soon, I found I took a wrong place. The pillar in front of me (there are nine pillars in the hall, roughly 50 centimeters in diameter each, well enough to be earthquake-proof) stymied the view of the Crowned Shaka statue.
As soon as everyone was ready in a sit-in position, the priest sitting near the Buddha statue struck wooden clappers sharply and rang the chimes, which was a signal to start meditation. I kept my position as I had been told, straightening up my back, breezing deeply, slowly and quietly, with the eyes half-open looking down at 45 degrees. Thanks to the 30-minute walk to the JR station earlier, my legs were all right but the root of my left thumb hurt. After 10 minutes or so later, the priest came near me and whispered "Make your back upright and put more power on your abdomen." Probably, he found easily that I was a beginner and I seemed to be idle-dozing. Samadhi, or a state of complete concentration and relaxation, was way beyond my ability. One participant moved a little bit and clasped his hands toward the priest. The priest went to him slowly and struck him on his shoulders with a flat stick or kyosaku, about 8 centimeters wide and 1.3 meters long. First, on his right shoulder and then his left, each twice. After hitting, the priest put up the stick in front of his eyes horizontally, and then made a bow.
About 20 minutes later, the priest struck the clappers again, which meant a rest for a couple of minutes. We were allowed to make ourselves comfortable. The second half session was a real sit-in to me. All we could hear was bird's chirping and slight noise of running train down the Temple, which incidentally reminded me of Dietrich Fischer Dieskau (1925-2012) recital years ago at the Carnegie Hall in New York City where noise of subway train running under Seventh Avenue slightly sounded when Dieskau was singing a German lied in pianissimo. Mosquitos sometimes buzzed around my head. Halfway through the second part, another gentleman sitting opposite me was hit. After 15 minutes or so later, the priest came over to me again. He gave me a folded paper in which sutras are printed. He said, "We chant Han'nya shingyo. Join us." (Han'nya shingyo is the Heart sutra, said to be the shortest with only 262 Chinese characters).
Back to the seat, he struck the clappers and intoning of the sutra started. All followed him in a unison. Everybody except me memorized the sutra. Chanting lasted for maybe ten minutes and the pre-dawn sit-in is over. Each bowed to the priest with his or her hands clasped and got out of the hall. Outside, we made a line again to show our gratitude to the priest and then we parted. I thanked the two gentlemen for their help. They were kind and told me to come again. Particularly impressive to me was the lady in her mid-forties who sat north-east corner of the hall. As I was sitting near the west wall looking east, I could see her motionless profile in a perfect sitting position. All through the session including the break and chanting time, she never did budge an inch with her back straightening up all the time.
You can hear how chanting Han'nya shingyo sounds like here. (Click the starter.)
(Updated May 2012)