Sugimotodera Temple is located in Kamakura district of Kanagawa Prefecture. This temple is a short bus ride from the JR Kamakura train station.
Sugimotodera is the first temple pilgrims visit in the Bando pilgrimage (33 Kannon temples of Kanto region) circuit. Travelers who are starting this pilgrimage usually buy the necessary items (such as a walking stick, pilgrim clothes, a straw hat and most importantly a Bando pilgrimage temple stamp book) for the pilgrimage at this temple.
Sugimotodera Temple Seal
Sugimotodera was founded in the spring of 734 by Fusasaki Fujiwara, minister of the Imperial Court and priest Gyoki to meet the wish of Empress Komyo. The principal kannon at this temple is a "Ju Ichi Men" Kannon. Means an Kannon with eleven faces.
Ju Ichi Men Kannon at Sugimoto Dera
Priest Gyoki enshrined the first JuIchiMen Kannon that he carved himself. In 851, another esteemed priest Ennin (Jikaku daishi) stayed in the temple and he carved second kannon statue during his stay at the temple. Then a third statue of Kannon was carved by priest Genshin-Enshin Sozu at the behest of Emperor Kazan in 985. Emperor Kazan also designated this temple as the first temple in the Bando Pilgrimage of the eastern Japan. To make the pilgrimage further popular, the emperor himself goes on the Bando pilgrimage.
According to Azumakagami - the first official historical documents compiled by the samurai feudal government about Kamakura, during a fire in November 23, 1189, these three principal statues of Kannon hid themselves under a huge cedar tree. They have since been called "Sugimoto-no-Kannon", the Kannons under the cedar tree.
View of the Sugimotodera Temple Hondo
On September 18 1191, a ceremony was held for miracles in all ages when Shogun Minamoto-no-Yorimoto reconstructed the Kannon hall. The first Kannon used to be called "Geba-Kannon" - geba meaning dismounting a horse Visitors to this temple on a horseback are supposed to dismount their horses while they are inside the temple precincts. If they did not, they are believed to fall of their horses because of the dis-respect they have shown to the Kannon. ZenMaster Daigaku, founder of Kenchoji, once stanyed in the hall also.