As we left Hachimangu Shrine, we walked up Kamakura-kaido Street, past the Prefectural Modern Art museum annex. This street is part of an ancient highway network that was built to connect Kamakura with Kyoto and other parts of Japan.
The next stop on our sightseeing adventure was Kenchoji, an important Zen training center that was founded by Hojo Tokiyori (1227-1263) - fifth Regent of Kamakura and Zen follower - in 1253. Minamoto Yoritomo's wife Masako who was mentioned in the previous post about this trip was from the Hojo clan. They took over the Shogunate following the turbulent times which ensued upon Yoritomo's death. The temple is the oldest Zen temple in Kamakura and one of the oldest in all of Japan. It was operated by Chinese monks who came to Japan to escape the repression of the Mongolians who had invaded China. As with many temples in Japan, the buildings have been the victims of fire over the years and have been rebuilt at various times.
This is the Butsuden (main hall for worship). I found it quite interesting because it was built in Tokyo for the purpose of memorial services for the wife of Hidetada Tokugawa (1579-1632), the Second Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and brought to Kenchoji in 1647. Also, it was constructed for a Jodo sect temple, so the architecture is much more ornate that one usually sees at a Zen temple. Another curious fact is that the statue(s) within it is of Jizo Bosatsu - the bodhisattva who helps children and others who are lost in hell to find their way to nirvana. Jizo is perhaps the most popular Bodhisattva in Japan, but is not commonly the focus of worship in Zen temples. In this case it was done because the grounds were once a place where criminals were executed and Jizo is there to help those who were killed cruelly or who were innocent.
This is the Karamon gate which leads to the "Hojo" - Chief priest's quarters. It was brought here along with the main hall in 1647 and was only used for receiving special emissaries. Even now, it is only used on special occasions and one enters the Hojo through a door off to one side.
Inside the Hojo looking back at the Karamon gate. The tall building behind the gate in this picture is the lecture hall, or Hatto, which was built in 1814 and is dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of Infinite Mercy.
This part of the Hojo is where Zazen (sitting meditation) sessions are held for the laity.
The garden designed by Priest Soseki Muso (1275-1351). The building on the right contains offices and guest rooms.
On the way back out, we saw monks gathering at the Hatto (Lecture Hall). The giant cypress trees in the background of the above picture were planted by Priest Rankei, the founding priest, who brought the seeds from China. The trees are known to have been there since at least 1331.
As we got closer to the Hatto, the monks were filing in through a side door.
Then we were treated to another fascinating and colorful sight.
As we rounded the corner of the building, a VIP - perhaps a visiting Abott - was entering the front of the Hatto in his beautiful gold robes and red slippers, being shaded by an attendant with a red umbrella. No doubt he would be speaking to the assembly of monks. Martin, of Kurashi - News from Japan fame, spent a year training in a Zen temple. He informs me that such visits called for a great deal of temple cleaning and attention to detail down to the arrangement of the food and tea offered to the VIP. Yet, when engaged in conversation, they were always delightful people to speak with.
On the way out, we stopped at the temple store and got t-shirts. Mine (above) says "Katsu", a word with no meaning that Zen priests shout at their students, often accompanied by a blow with a stick, to break their train of thought and thus help them to a deeper understanding of a koan. At least that's what I hear. I hope Martin will correct me if I've been misinformed.
Oh, I almost forgot. How do you make a Zen vacuum cleaner? Easy. Just lose all the attachments!