Saturday, June 18, 2011
Engakuji in North Kamakura, kanagawa , is one of the most important Zen Buddhist complex in Japan and is the number two of the Kamakura five mountain Zen temples, after Kencho-ji.
When Mongolian troops, commanded by Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan), the dominant force at the time and far more powerful than Japan, threatened to conquer the Japanese islands, the regent of Japan Tokimune Hojo relied on meditation and advice from his Zen master to decide on repelling the attack.
The Mongols attempted to invade in 1274 with a large fleet, only to lose the majority of the vessels to a timely typhoon during the attacks. A second attack in 1281, by a larger fleet, was also repelled by another typhoon. The invasion preventing typhoons were called kamikaze or “divine wind” (word now sadly associated with the WWII suicide pilots). In 1282 after the war, Tokimune ordered the construction of Engakuji to honor those of both sides who died in that war.
Located a few meters from the Kita-Kamamura station. As is common in Zen temples, the complex has two gates: Somon or Outer gate and Sanmon or Internal gate. Sanmon is an exceptional double-decked wooden gate, reconstructed in 1783.
Straight ahead, the next building is butsuden or main hall, the hall contains a Shaka Nyorai statue, and magnificent roof paintings.
To the left of the butusden is the senbutsujo with thatched roof built in 1699, and next to it, there is the beautiful Kojirin a hall for practicing Kendo.
The main path is lined with impressive views like the Miyokocho pond, and stone carving statues.
Further up the hill there is the Dai hojo, the head priest’s living quarters, with stone figures lining on the walls on the front courtyard and a small pond at the back. The quarters are also used for Zen meditation retirements.
Continuing up the road, there is the Butsunichi-an, the Zotoku-an and the Jutoku-an.
At the end of the path there is the Obai-an, a small thatched temple, with a beautiful courtyard.
On the way out do not forget to check the Keisho-an to the right side of the Somon, the hall is also used for practice of Japanese archery.