2007/10/24

Engakuji - Honoring One's Enemies

Sixth 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 ,
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.)

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Enkaku-ji is at the top of this map of Kamakura

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.

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Steps to the inner gate, Sammon, of Engakuji

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Strangely, it seemed to me, a glamor photo shoot was in progress under the gate, which was reconstructed in 1783.


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A priest's residence rests above Myokochi Pond (pond of sacred fragrance) which was originally designed by an early chief priest, Muso, but remodeled in 2001. The rock is called "tiger head rock".


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.
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The object of worship in the Butsuden (Buddha Hall) is a statue of Shaka Nyora (Sakyamuni - the historical Buddha). Sorry for the blurred picture. The statue is 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) tall.

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Unlike many of the buildings which over time were consumed by fire or leveled by the great earthquake, this beautiful old momiji (Japanese maple) still stands.


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This is called Shaiden and was once the main hall of a nunnery that was abandoned in the 16th century after the chief nun was kidnapped during a war. It was built in the early 1400's and is the only building in Kamakura to be listed as a National Treasure. It is the oldest Chinese style building in Japan


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This building, which is surrounded by a wall, is called Butsunichi-an. It was built after the death of Hojo Tokemuni who meditated there and houses his ashes. As he died on the 4th of April (1284), a tea ceremony is held there on the 4th day of each month.


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Up a very long flight of steps (140 to be exact) is the temple bell which was cast in 1301 and is a National Treasure. It is the largest bell in Kamakura, measuring 2.6 meters in height and 1.42 meters in diameter.


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.

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Tokoroten


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)

10 comments:

Olivia said...

I think I can understand how Zen could come out of a country with scenery like that.

As with any Japanese dish I've not yet seen, I'd love to try tokoroten.

Pandabonium said...

Olivia - Zen was brought to Japan from China, but yes, this country has some beautiful scenery which lends itself to deep meditation and artistic inspiration. Not surprising that it took root here and flourished.

Hope you can get to try tokoroten sometime. It's a very unique experience.

The Moody Minstrel said...

A temple dedicated to one's fallen enemies...wow...

Nowadays you're not considered a "real" leader unless you smear and dis anyone that disagrees with you. Face it; we've become a trash-talking culture.

Robin said...

I have just refered my friend to your wonderful pics on Kamakura.

she is leaving to Jap this weekend.

thanks for the sharing.

Pandabonium said...

Moody - that seems to apply right around the globe these days. :(

Robin - I hope she likes the pics and has a wonderful visit in Japan. You know, I think the first posts I read on your blog were of your trip to Hokkaido - excellent.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

The symmetry and order in the buildings have been captured very well in your photos, but I do like the shape of the maple - what a lovely tree. Yes, we all need to slow down, maybe walk a lot more. I remember when I was going to Deakin Uni to do painting etc. I caught the bus one way, and usually walked back home - about 8 k. and I noticed so much going on that we would miss on a bus or car trip.
w.

Pandabonium said...

Wendy - I agree, I see a lot more on foot or on a bike. I really was impressed with that maple tree. It looks like it has been there a very long time and lived through much.

loloma said...

Haven't been here in a while now, but your photos are as beautiful as always. And they bring back so many memories...

Robin said...

Yes, My friend likes what she saw, both on your blog And the actual visits.

Thanks.. Hokkaido trip.. hmmm, that's 2 years ago where the chrysanthemums are blooming..

There we go again... and I am sure, this year it will be more beautiful.

Pandabonium said...

Robin - I am happy your friend enjoyed my post and her visit to Kamakura.

Also nice you are having happy memories. :)