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Kamakura

The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) of Kamakura, Kotoku-in Temple , Engaku-ji Temple, Tokei-ji Temple, Kaikozan Hase-dera Temple, Hachiman-gu Shrine, Kamakura and Kita-Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Kanto Region, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Kamakura is a city located in Kanagawa, Japan, about 50 km south-south-west of Tokyo. Surrounded by mountains on three sides and the open water of Sagami Bay on the fourth, Kamakura is a natural fortress. During the Heian period it was the chief city of the Kanto region, and from the 12th through 14th centuries the Minamoto shoguns ruled Japan from here under what is known as the Kamakura Shogunate.

Kamakura is now mainly known for its temples and shrines. Kotoku-in, with the monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha, (The Great Buddha of Kamakura or Daibutsu) is the most famous of these. A 15th Century tsunami destroyed the temple that once housed the Great Buddha, but the statue survived and has remained outdoors ever since. Magnificent Zen temples like Kencho-ji and Engaku-ji; the Tokei-ji (a nunnery that was a refuge for women who wanted to divorce their husbands); the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine; the Hase-dera, an ancient Kannon temple; the graves of Minamoto no Yoritomo and Hojo Masako; and the Kamakura-gu where Prince Morinaga was executed, top the list of Kamakura's most famous historical and religious sites.

Daibutsu is a Japanese word meaning literally "Large Buddha" that refers to large statues of the Buddha or one of his various incarnations. The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha in the Kotoku-in Temple in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. It is believed that the statue was originally cast in 1252, following an idea by the priest Joko, who also collected donations to build it. The sculptors were One-Goroemon and Tanji-Hisatomo. The statue is approximately 13.35m tall and weighs approximately 93 tons. The statue is hollow, and visitors can view the interior for 20 Yen a person. The Great Buddha was originally housed in a temple, but this was washed away by a tsunami in 1498. Since then the statue has stood in the open air. Repairs were carried out in 1960-1961, when the neck was strengthened and measures were taken to protect it from earthquakes.

Engakuji is one of the leading Zen temples in Eastern Japan and the number two of Kamakura's five great Zen temples. Engakuji was founded by the ruling regent Hojo Tokimune in the year 1282, one year after the second invasion attempt by the Mongols had been reverted. One purpose of the new temple was to pay respect to the fallen Japanese and Mongolian soldiers. Engakuji is built into the slopes of Kita-Kamakura's forested hills. The first main structure encountered upon entering the temple grounds is the Sanmon main gate, which dates from 1783. Behind it stands the temple's main hall, the Butsuden, which displays a wooden statue of the Shaka Buddha. The Butsuden was rebuilt relatively recently in 1964 after the former building was lost in an earthquake. Engakuji is a popular spot for autumn colors, which usually reach their peak around early December. The temple entrance, which is surrounded by many maple trees, is a particularly popular photo object.

Hase-dera (known more formally as Kaikozan Jishoin Hase-dera) is one of the great Buddhist temples in the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, famous for housing a massive wooden statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The temple is the fourth of the 33 stations of the Bando Sanjusankasho pilgrimage circuit dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten. The temple originally belonged to the Tendai sect of Buddhism, but eventually became an independent temple of the Jodo shu sect. The statue shows Kannon with eleven heads, each representing a characteristic of the goddess. The 9.18 meter tall, gilded wooden statue is regarded as one of the largest wooden sculpture in Japan, and can be viewed in the temple's main building, the Kannon-do Hall. It was carved from the same tree as the similarly tall Kannon statue worshipped at the Hasedera Temple in Nara Prefecture. Hasedera is built along the slope of a wooded hill. A pretty garden with ponds is found at the base of the slope just after entering. The temple's main buildings are built further up the slope, reached via stairs. Along the way stands the Jizo-do Hall with hundreds of small statues of the Jizo Bodhisattva who helps the souls of dead children to reach the paradise.

Tokei-ji is a small branch temple of the Engakuji school within the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. Its head temple, the Engakuji Temple, stands just a few hundred meters away on the opposite side of the railway tracks. Tokei-ji was founded by the wife of the regent Hojo Tokimune in 1285 after Tokimune had died at a young age. Until the end of the Edo Period, the temple served as a shelter for women who suffered abuse by their husbands and sought a divorce. An official divorce could be attained by staying at the temple for three years.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine (literally Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu) is the most significant shrine in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine was originally built in 1063 near Yuigahama, and was dedicated to the Emperor Ojin, his mother Empress Jingu and his wife Hime-gami. Minamoto no Yoritomo, the founder of the Kamakura shogunate, moved it to its present location in 1191 and invited Hachiman, the god worshipped popularly among warriors, to reside there and guard his government. There are a number of shrines on the site, the most important of which are the Junior Shrine at the bottom, and the Senior Shrine 61 steps above. The present Senior Shrine building was constructed in 1828 by Ienari Tokugawa, the 11th Tokugawa shogun. Cherry trees line the avenue to the shrine. The trees were ordered by Yoritomo as a prayer for the safe delivery of his first-born son. Yabusame, archery from horseback, is practiced at the shrine. Minamoto no Sanetomo, the third Kamakura shogun, was assassinated on February 13, 1219 by an archer hiding behind the great ginkgo tree that still stands beside the great staircase at the shrine.