From caves, to ocean views, to grand statues, this Kamakura temple is worth much more than just a quick look.
Hase-dera temple in Kamakura was constructed to hold a massive, gold-gilded, wooden statue of Kannon, the god of mercy. Located halfway up Mount Kamakura, the buddhist temple starts at the base of the hill, slowly revealing beautiful views of the seaside town as you climb. It is one of the biggest temples in Kamakura, featuring four halls and three other constructions.
Close to the entrance, you’ll find a koi pond and gardens famous for their hydrangeas in June/July. To the right there is a small temple hall and a cave area dedicated to Benzaiten; the goddess of feminine beauty, water and wealth.
Up the stairs to the Kannon Hall, various other deities are on display. There are rows and rows of small Jizo statues — the guardian deity of children. These are to honor miscarried and still-born children as well as aborted pregnancies and can be purchased inside the temple. Over 50,000 have been displayed, but only 1,000 are on display at a time.
At the top of the hill, there is a small restaurant, a look-out point and the main Kannon Hall. The look-out point is a fantastic spot to take a rest and soak in the view. To the right, Amida Hall houses the golden statue of the Buddha Amida, who promises rebirth in the Pure Land to all who chant his name.
Inside the main hall, you’ll find the statue of Kannon. Standing at over 9 meters and gilded in gold, it is one of the largest wooden statues in Japan. Eleven faces display the different stages of human suffering representing Kannon’s mercy.
Legend tells the statue is one of two, carved from a single camphor tree by a monk in 712. The statue was thrown into the ocean, accompanied by prayers for it to find it’s karmic connection. Fifteen years later, it resurfaced at Nagai Beach, shrouded in ray’s of light and Hase-dera was founded. The statue is awe-inspiring and many stand mildly dumbfounded, staring at it for some time.
As a popular tourist destination, almost everything there (including the fortunes) is translated into English. The temple tends to become crowded, but often thins out in the late afternoon as the temple closes at 5 p.m. It is situated near the the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), so why not visit both!
At an extra cost, you can enter the Treasures Museum, which contains some old and culturally important artifacts relating to the temple. With plenty to do and see, Hase-dera is a temple where you’d want to spend some time.
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