All Buddhas Great and Small

Seventh and last in a series that began with Road Trip (Railroad That Is), continued with Putting On Airs followed by The Pirates of Ashinoko , Dîner Français and the First Kamakura Shogun , Katsu! or How to Make a Zen Vacuum Cleaner, and Engakuji - Honoring One's Enemies.

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.

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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.

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Entrance to Hasedera

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.

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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.

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Main Hall, Kannon-do that houses the statue of the eleven headed Kannon, which, at over 9 meters (30 feet) tall, is the largest wooden statue of Kannon in Japan.

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Hasedera's bell, cast in 1264

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A thousand statues of the Bodhisattva Jizo (Jizo Bosatsu), spiritual guardian of children, both alive and dead, including stillborn babies and aborted fetuses.

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View of the Kamakura coast and Sagami Bay from Hasedera

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.
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Rickshaw Driver - Don't know how she works in that long skirt.

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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.
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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.

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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...

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Along the road we passed a few Hawaii themed stores. This one, Cafe Hula, is across from the train station.

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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).

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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.


ladybug said...

Hmmm Panda, have you ever thought of writing travel books...there might be some money in that!

Love the pics! and of course the cute one of K as a student...

Yes, I know I've seen pictures of that Buddha...but it's alot more interesting with the backstory and history along with the photos!

Don Snabulus said...

Indeed. Thanks for another installment in the travelogue.

PinkPanther said...

Envy of you & K have lots of time to explore & discover some characteristic spots in JP often.

Hey, why don't you be a Rickshaw Driver to tak that lady with long skirt to your's next stop. :-P

Agree with Ladybug, cute pic of K, not that big changes after so many years.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Yes, send some stories to Lonely Planet or travel magazines. Your pictures are so good they would be excellent material for one of those glossies.
So you are staying put. Okay, Fiji can wait.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I didn't go inside the Daibutsu statue when I visited Kamakura back in the 90s. What's it like in there, anyway?

Do they still have those giant straw sandals for the Daibutsu that were made as a gift from (of all places) Kashima Shrine? When I was there they were one of the exhibits in the museum.

Pandabonium said...

Ladybug - I have thought of that, but I really don't think my writing (or detail work) is up to snuff for it. Glad you liked the pics.

Snabby - 'welcome. Glad to wrap up this trip. There was a lot to write about for such a short journey.

PP - me pull the rickshaw? ha! ha!

We don't really have so much time for such excursions. Most of the time we do day trips. But glad you enjoy reading about them. Thank you.

I do think K is still kinda cute. ;^)

Oh Wendy, you are too kind, but thanks. We plan to get to Fiji next year (sigh). Will probably wait until May or so for cooler weather there.

Moody - it's dark... until the eyes adjust, the only light coming in through those vents. I should post an update with a photo of it. The whole statue is hollow and you can look up into the head. the surface is rough and you can see the joints of the bronze sections and repairs made to them.

Those big sandals (I don't why I didn't take a picture of them - guess I was getting tired) are hanging on a wall in the open building next to the statue.

Swinebread said...

very good, now I know about Kamakura and I can ask my wife about it, maybe she too had a school trip there.

Incidentally the largest Buddhist temple in Oregon (Oregon Buddhist Temple) is a pureland sect. Lots of Nisei on the west coast and such

Pandabonium said...

Swinebread - That's interesting. They have a nice website. They are part of the Buddhist Churches of America which is the mainland US branch of the Nishi Hongwanji in Hawaii (which I was involved with for many years) with headquarters in Kyoto.

Olivia said...

I have a feeling that if I visited Japan I would become a "collector" of certain things like tenugui.

I love netsuke (because I love tiny detailed things), but they've become cliche and everyone collects those.

lesdixchats said...


I also went to this tenugui shop and I would love to have its name or/the address if you still have it because a friend of mine is going to japan in few days and I would like to ask her to bring me another tenugui from this shop when she will visit kamakura.

thank you so much


lesdixchats said...

my email address in case you read my message.

thank you


lesdixchats said...

sorry. Here it is: