Japan: Hasedera Temple in Kamakura

Hasedera is one of my favourite temple sites that we visited in Kamakura, because it has so many levels, areas and layers to it.

Even amongst the school groups and tourists, you can always seem to find a little space of quiet.

Plus, the gardens are gorgeous and are planted in a way that means there is always something flowering whatever time of the year you visit. There are sakura, plum and maple trees, ponds with coy, a traditional Japanese rock garden, waterfalls and water features, pine trees, bamboo, and beds of hydrangeas too. Some things you’ll find all year long and some are there to change the landscape seasonally. It really is a beautiful place.

Hasedera was originally built in the 8th century to house one of the largest wooden Bhuddist statues in Japan. The carved Kannon statue stands at over 9 metres tall and has eleven heads that sit on top of its own. It’s quite something to see up close, and it’s enshrined in the beautiful Kannon-do hall on the upper level of the temple grounds. There’s also a museum here that holds a number of treasures, but you’ll have to pay an extra fee to enter. Around the rest of the grounds are a number of smaller temples, shrines and areas, where people can sit, pray or even study.

Jizo-do Hall, located up the stone stairs from the lower level, is surrounded by hundreds of Jizo statues. These little figures represent a deity who protects all children, even in the afterlife, including those who were miscarried. It was sad looking at a sea of these statues, wondering how many of them represented lost children, but actually I read that it can also be a comfort for the parents to know that their little one has someone in the afterlife taking care of them. The area surrounding the hall also has a lot of flowers and a little pond, making it a lovely place for people to come and pray.

Benten-kutsu cave is an underground area (obviously!) where there a number of statues carved out of the rock face inside. It’s a small walkthrough area, where a Buddhist saint apparently went into seclusion, but with a completely different ambience to everywhere else! There’s a beautifully maintained rock garden outside of Shoin Hall in the far east of the lower grounds, and at the far west of the upper level there’s a winding garden which is home to beds and beds of hydrangea plants. They weren’t in flower when I visited, but in June there seems to be a sea of pastel coloured petals as you make your way up to the highest point. If you visit at certain times of the year (once a month and a few other select dates), you can also experience turning the rotary bookshelf of Buddhist scriptures (Rinzo) in one of the buildings. Apparently, if you rotate it once ‘you will receive the same virtue as when you recite all scriptures stored inside‘. I guess that would be a bonus to your visit here!

Many of the temples in Kamakura charge an entry fee and here is no different, with entrance costing 400 yen per adult plus another 300 if you want to visit the museum. To get to Hasedera from Kamakura station, you can either walk for 25 minutes or take the Enoshima Electric Railway to Hase station and walk 5 minutes from there. This journey costs 200 yen (you can use your Suica/Pasmo metro pass for this train) or the route is included in the train’s special day pass that you can buy for 650 yen – more information here. Hasedera is also really close to Kōtoku-in, which is home to the Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu), a huge copper statue of a seated Amitabha Buddha located outdoors. The statue is hugely famous throughout Japan -it has even been identified as a National Treasure – and is another spot well worth a visit whilst in Kamakura.

If you can, I would definitely set aside some time to visit Hasedera on a day trip to Kamakura. While I obviously didn’t visit every temple in this seaside city, it was the one I prioritised over all of the others to make sure I saw while I was there. Regardless of what you choose to do, Kamakura has so much to see that you can easily fill a day here! I’ll try and make a little guide of everything we did here, so you can get an idea of what’s available, but there’s a reason it’s a popular day trip from Tokyo!

Hasedera // 3 Chome-11-2 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan

And to finish.....

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