and Katsu! or How to Make a Zen Vacuum Cleaner
The first thing likely to come to mind when one reads or hears the word "Kamikaze" is likely to be the brave Japanese pilots of World War II who crashed their planes in to American ships in a desperate effort to save their homeland and protect their families from impending invasion. But as most of you know, the meaning behind the label given those pilots, that of Kamikaze ("Divine Wind"), is much older and refers to a series of typhoons which destroyed much of the Mongol fleets of Kublai Khan who attacked Japan in 1274 and again in 1281.
Hojo Tokimune (1251-1284), the 8th regent of the Kamakura Shogunate, dedicated a Zen temple to those on both sides who lost their lives in the battles between Japan and the Mongols. Tens of thousands were killed in those battles and the temple was built to appease their souls. I found it remarkable that Shogun who was a warrior and executed Kublai Kahn's envoys, would also have such a grasp of the Buddha Dharma that in the end would dedicate a temple to all who died regardless of which side they were on.
The temple is called Engakuji and was our next stop on our fast paced exploration of Kamakura. 'En' means enlightenment and 'gaku' means to feel. It is the stage of Self-Realization or Enlightenment. The next stage after this is to enter into Buddhic consciousness where one experiences the true meaning of cause and effect. (The suffix "ji" indicates a temple.)
As we made our way from Kenchoji up Kamakura-kaido Street in the August heat, we crossed a rail line - or tried to. We stopped several meters short, along with many other tourists, as the gates came down and trains flashed by, first in one direction, then almost immediately in the other. The gates rose and people started crossing again, but before we even reached the gate, the signal flashed and yet another train approached. Either our timing was off or this is one busy stretch of track. As it happens, we were crossing the JR Yokosuka line by which we had arrived the previous day.
We arrived at the rather nondescript looking path which leads to Engakuji. Unkempt stagnant ponds were on either side of the path (someone needs to put some monks to work down there), and I soon discovered we were actually on a road as an approaching car tooted its horn at me to get the bleep out of the middle of the street. The ponds are a part of Engakuji property and called Byakurochi (egret pond). Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), a Greek-born journalist and naturalized Japanese, visited the Temple in 1894 and described it in detail in his book "Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan". Crossing over the train tracks yet again - this time without interruption - we came to the temple gate.
The Butsuden was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the present hall was built in 1964 using reinforced concrete, but still has a Zen Buddhist style.
Next to the bell, is a tea house with a covered patio that has benches covered by tatami. We had tokoroten - a traditional Japanese summer snack of cold jelly strips made from tengusa seaweed in a vinegar dressing with powdered green tea and horseradish. Tokoroten has been eaten in Japan for 1300 years.
The tokoroten was cooling and the tea house has a lovely view of the valley. There is much more to see at Engaku-ji, but morning was almost over and we had more temples to visit before heading home.
つづく (to be continued)