Kamakura: Kencho-ji


Kencho-ji is ranked as the foremost of Kamakura’s five “great” Zen temples, and is apparently the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan, having been founded in 1253 (Eyewitness Travel Guides). The entrance gate is especially impressive, and the pathway to the gate is lined with cherry trees.

Visitors come to say their prayers for the new year at one of Kencho-ji’s halls.

More buildings on the temple grounds.

The Hojo is used for services, and the pond in the rear garden is supposed to be shaped like the kanji for ‘heart’ or ‘mind.’ If you keep walking past the Hojo, you’ll find a path that leads up into the hills. Past bamboo groves and guardian tengu statues, and up a long flight of stairs, you’ll eventually find yourself at Hanso-bo, a small shrine far up on the hillside overlooking Kencho-ji. If you walk up even further, you’ll come to a viewing platform near the top of the hill where you can look out over Kamakura, and out onto the ocean. I walked up to the viewing area in 2001, but there wasn’t enough time during this visit to make the climb (for one thing, the sun goes down a lot earlier in the winter!).


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