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Kenchoji Temple

Leader of the temple pack.

Esteemed as the first Zen training monastery of its kind back in 1253, Kencho-ji Temple’s still reigns supreme, taking the number one spot in Kamakura’s five highest-ranked Zen temples.

This Chinese ranking, known as the Five-Mountain System (or “Gozan”), was introduced towards the end of the Kamakura Period and, in turn, Gozan temples flourished as artistic and literary centers for the nobility and samurai class.

While the founder was a powerful Kamakura shogunate, the first head priest at Kencho-ji Temple was Rankei Doryu, a Zen holy leader hailing from China, who instituted strict teachings upon his young novices.

Warrior guardian statues stand at the highest point of Kencho-ji Temple.

After passing through the temple’s outer gate (“So-mon”), Kencho-ji’s towering entranceway, with its intricately carved wooden columns and sweeping curved roof, will stop you in your tracks. It’s known as the Enlightenment Gate.

The curvature of a temple’s roof is supposed to repel demons and spirits, but in fact, serves a more practical purpose: to repel rain and snow.

The Buddha Hall, while possessing a serene atmosphere, also has an interesting backstory, once serving as an execution ground dubbed “Hell Valley”. A large, weathered and wooden Jizo Bodhisattva statue stands in the hall’s center. Believed to redeem lost souls who have fallen into the realms of hell, this peacefully seated Jizo statue is said to guide these wandering spirits back to the gates of paradise.

Other highlights include the Zen Hojo Garden whose pond delineates the kanji character for heart (“kokoro”), as well as a grove of ancient 750-year-old juniper trees.

Things To Know

Opening Hours

8:30 – 16:30 every day.

Entrance Fees


How To Get There


Japan, 〒247-0062 Kanagawa-ken, Kamakura-shi, Yamanouchi 建長寺

By train

Kenchoji Temple is a 15-minute walk from Kita-Kamakura Station via the JR Yokosuka Line (approximately a 60-minute train ride from Shinjuku Station).

Where To Stay

Villa Sacra
  • 13-29 Onarimachi, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa, 248-0012 Japan
  • ¥10,000 - ¥32,000
  • 1.3 km
Kamakura Seizan
  • 14-32 Onarimachi, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa, 248-0012 Japan
  • ¥26,000 - ¥101,200
  • 4.27/5 (67 reviews)
  • 1.4 km
Hotel Metropolitan Kamakura
  • 1-8-1 Komachi, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa, 248-0006 Japan
  • ¥27,120 - ¥146,880
  • 4.66/5 (895 reviews)
  • 1.4 km
Kamakura Hotel
  • 12-27 Onarimachi, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa, 248-0012 Japan
  • ¥26,000 - ¥56,000
  • 4.88/5 (118 reviews)
  • 1.4 km
Tosei Hotel Cocone Kamakura
  • 7-10-1 Onarimachi, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa, 248-0012 Japan
  • ¥20,377 - ¥52,470
  • 4.36/5 (480 reviews)
  • 1.8 km

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