Our final temple during our visit to Kamakura was my favourite one – the Hasedera Temple. It is famous for its large Kannon statue, the goodness of Mercy. It is one of the largest wooden statues made from camphor wood and gilded in gold in Japan. It has 11 heads, each of which represents a different phase in the search for enlightenment.
But I did not like the statue much – instead, I was intrigued by the view and the many little statues at this temple. Let’s start at the entrance. Hasedera is built along the slope of a wooded hill. A pretty garden with ponds is found at the base of the slope just after entering. The temple’s main buildings are built further up the slope, reached via stairs.
After the first steps I noticed some beautiful stone statues. Three of them, bundled together, looking at you.
A few more steps and then suddenly I saw hundreds of small statues.
They are called Jizo statues. Jizo is the guardian deity of children. Historically, parents came to Hasedera to set up these statues in hopes the deity would protect and watch over their children.
Today, though, the Jizo statues represent the souls of miscarried, stillborn or aborted children. More than 50,000 Jizo statues have been offered here since the war, but the thousand or so currently displayed will remain only a year before being buried to make way for others.
We reached the top of the temple grounds where the main hall, neighbouring buildings and a restaurant are located. There are several Buddha statues on the ground…
… and the view from up here is quite amazing.
The temple grounds include an attractive garden and pond, with bamboo water fountain and stone lanterns. Near the pond is the Bentendo, a small hall that contains a figure of Benten (or Benzaiten), a Shinto goddess of feminine beauty and wealth.
Next to the Bentendo is the Bentenkutsu, a small cave with candle-lit sculptures of Benten and other minor gods.
It’s pretty amazing to walk through this cave and the small tunnel, which opens up into a small space with lots of little yellow statues.
I’m always fascinated by the Ema wooden wishing plates that are displayed at Shinto temples and shrines. Here is an interesting blog post describing their history and styles. I always like to look at the calligraphy but also spot the English or German ones and see what people wish for. Sometimes it could be a winning sports game and other times it could be a tree house!
Here is my final picture of the Hasedera temple and also the final picture in Kamakura, before we head back to Tokyo for our last day in Japan.
- The temple is in walking distance from Hase station in Kamakura
- It is open every day from 8.30am to 5pm and the entrance fee is 300 yen per adult