A not-so-secret garden.
Located only 60 minutes away from Tokyo, Meigetsu-in is a temple with a well-kept garden that is probably Kamakura’s not-so-well-kept secret.
Although Meigetsu-in Temple, or the Ajisai-dera, is usually packed with tourists flocking to catch a glimpse of its more than 2500 hydrangea bushes during the tsuyu monsoon season, it’s actually a temple that beautifully showcases all four distinct seasons of Japan.
For a small admission fee, you can enter and freely roam through a sea of hydrangeas, with hues ranging from baby blue to blue-violet, during the early months of summer. Fast forward from summer to autumn, and you’ll be in awe at the fall foliage, in particular, the stunning scenery showcased from the circular full moon window located in the Main Hall. During the height of winter, cheerful blossoms of narcissus and lemony star-shaped wintersweet flowers grace the temple grounds.
Come spring, the garden transforms into a lush paradise of peach blossoms and lily magnolia.
Aside from its celebrated seasonal gardens, there’s also a salt-weathered cave situated next to a thatched roof building, where the founder of the temple is believed to have been enshrined. You can’t help but sense a spiritual sacredness surrounding the cave tombs built back in medieval Kamakura when this seaside town once reigned as the political capital of Japan.
These medieval stone tombs – measuring seven meters in width, three in height and six in depth – are some of the largest in Kamakura. Take a good look within the shadowed recesses, you’ll make out the images of Buddha accompanied by the legendary 16 Arhats (the equivalent of Buddhist saints) carved into the wall.
The name Meigetsu-in translates to “Temple of the Clear Moon,” echoing the romantic setting that also features playful rabbit motifs (rabbits are synonymous with the moon in Japan) scattered throughout the garden. If you grow tired from the stirring crowds, slip away to the rabbit enclosure that is home to some very zen rabbits.