After we left Engakuji, we walked to the nearby Kita-Kamakura (North kamakura) Station and caught a train to the main station of the city then switched to the Enoshima Line for Hase, in the southwest part of Kamakura City.
It was lunch time when we arrived, so a block from the station we found a nice soba restaurant and after a short wait enjoyed an excellent lunch. The restaurant was right on the corner of the main street and the short side street leading to Kaikozan Jisho-in Hase-dera (Hasedera temple for short).
Unlike Kenchoji and Engakuji which are Rinzai Zen temples, Hasedera is of the Jodo sect. In Jodo Buddhism, one does not engage in strict practices as is done by Zen followers, but rather entrusts enlightenment to the power of Amida, the Buddha of infinite light and life who resides in a place called the "Pureland", and Jodo followers express this entrusting by repeating the name of Amida "namo amida butsu" many times. Jodo Shu, one of many "Pure Land" sects, is based on the Amida Sutra which tells of the 48 vows which Amida, once known as Dharmakara Bodhisattva, took in order to become a Buddha. Buddhahood would only be attained if all 48 vows were fulfilled. The 18th vow, also called the Primal Vow, reads, "If I were to become a Buddha, and people, hearing my Name, have faith and joy and recite it for even ten times, but were not born into my Pureland, may I not gain enlightenment."
Since Amida did become a Buddha, all the vows have been fulfilled. Therefore, according to Jodo teaching, which was founded by Honen Shonin (1133-1212), anyone who sincerely places their enlightenment in the hands of Amida and recites his name is assured of a place in the Pureland and thereby will attain enlightenment. This religion and the related Jodo Shinshu sect that Honen's desciple Shiran Shonin (1173-1263) taught, became very widespread in Japan during the 13th century as it brought the religion to ordinary people. These are still the largest sects in Japan today.
Hasedera's history is much older than Jodo Shu however. Legend has it that in 711, a priest in Nara whose name was Tokudo, had two images of the 11 headed Bodhisattva of Compassion, "Kannon", carved from a single camphor tree. One of the images was installed in a temple there. The other was thrown into the sea with the wish that it would find its way to people in need of Kannon's help.
Continuing this legend now from the book "Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan" by Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904):
"Now the statue floated to Kamakura. And there arriving by night it shed a great radiance all about it as if there were sunshine upon the sea; and the fishermen of Kamakura were awakened by the great light; and they went out in boats, and found the statue floating and brought it to shore. And the Emperor ordered that a temple should be built for it, the temple called Shin-haseidera, on the mountain called Kaiko-San, at Kamakura." And so, this temple claims to have been founded in 736.
There is also a tunnel one may enter to view a statue of Amida, however, that was closed during our visit as they were working on the tunnel.
Outside the temple again, we saw this rickshaw. I tried to hire this young lady to take me up the street to our next stop, but she suggested I could probably use some exercise and should walk.
On the street below Hasedera is an old hotel, Taisenkaku. It was built in 1904 and is the oldest building of its kind in Kamakura and has been designated an important architectural asset of the city. It still operates today.
We headed up the main street again toward one of the most famous statues in Japan, the Daibutsu, or Great Buddha of Kamakura, which appears on postcards, and in books and travel advertisements the world over.
The temple's name is Taiizan Kotokuin Shojosenji (Kotokuin for short) and it too is part of the Jodo sect.
There was a wooden statue and large building to house it built here in 1243. In 1252 construction of a guilded bronze version was started, but records are vague as to who was in charge or when it was completed. The large wooden hall was damaged by earthquakes and storms many times and then was washed away completely by a tsunami in the late 1400's, leaving the statue out in the open as it is to this day. Construction was quite an engineering as well as artistic feat, as the finished statue weighs 93 tons. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 moved the statue froward almost two feet. Being exposed to the elements has also taken a toll on its condition and it has had some repair work done on the bronze shell itself.
The Buddha image represents Amida and the face is beautifully sculpted. One can still see traces of gold here and there, in spite of the weathering. It is 12.3 meters (over 40 feet high), but rather than being an imposing powerful looking figure, the peaceful face makes it seem welcoming and calm.
How does a big bronze Buddha stay cool on a hot August day? Vents in the back provide some relief. We went inside the statue and the temperature wasn't bad at all.
Kamakura gets lots of visits by students, on field trips studying the history of Japan. I had the feeling K had been here before...
Along the road we passed a few Hawaii themed stores. This one, Cafe Hula, is across from the train station.
Before leaving Kamakura for home, we walked the length of Komachi-dori Street which is lined with shops selling art, clothing, wood carvings, and of course, souvenirs. It looked like business was good. K found some gifts to bring home for family and friends (such gifts are called "miyage" in Japan).
I didn't need another towel - tenugui - but this shop would have been the right place to find one. Every wall was lined with shelves of them.
Omiyage shopping over, we headed for the train station to retrieve our bags and start the journey home. And that, gentle reader, brings us to the end of the journey and of my story. We'd seen and learned a lot in three days and two nights and made many memories that we will hold and share for years to come.