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Kamakura Hasedera Temple

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Kamakura Hasedera Temple
Kamakura Hasedera Temple Hondo

Kamakura Hasedera Temple is located in the historic Kamakura district, of Kanagawa prefecture.  This temple can be easily reached by Bus from the JR Kamakura Station.  Or you can take the Enoden Line and get off at the Hase station.  Kamakura Hasedera Temple is the fourth temple in the Bando 33 Kannon Pilgrimage circuit.

Kamakura Hasedera Temple Seal

According to legend, in 721 AD the pious Monk Tokudo Shonin discovered a large camphor tree in the mountain forests near the village of Hase in the Nara region.  He realized the trunk of the tree was so large that it provided enough material for carving two statues of the eleven headed Kannon.  The statue he commissioned to be carved from the lower part of the trunk was enshrined in Hasedera Temple near Nara; the statue from the upper half (actually the larger of the two) was thrown into the sea near present-day Osaka with a prayer that it would reappear to save the people. 

Fifteen years later in 736 AD on the night of June 18, it washed ashore at Nagai Beach on the Miura Peninsula not far from Kamkura, sending out rays of light as it did.  The statue was then brought to Kamakura and a temple was constructed to honor it. 

Hase Kannon Statue

The magnificent statue of Hase Kannon is housed in the Kannon-Do hall for all to see and worship.  It is 30.1 feet tall and has eleven heads in addition to it's main face; three in front, three to the left and three to the right, plus one at the top and another on back.  Each face has a different expression, signifying that the deity listens to the wishes of all types of people.  Hase Kannon is unique in that it holds a staff made of tin in it's right hand and a vase of lotus flowers in it's left.  Gold leaf was applied to the statue in 1342 at the request of Ashikaga Takauji, and in 1392, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu had the halo added.  Although Kannon is usually described in English as "The Buddhist Goddess of Mercy." strictly speaking it is neigher masculine nor faminine.  Kannon is Avalokitesvara Boddhisattva, a Bodhisattva is a future Buddha, destined for englightenment, who has vowed to save all beings and represents compassion, mercy and love.

Kamakura Hasedera Temple Map

There are multiple temples in the Hasedera precincts in addition to the Main Worship Hall where Hase Kannon is situated.  There is Amida-do hall right next to the Kannon-do hall, where a golden seated statue of Yakuyoke (Protector from Evil Spirits) Amida Buddha, one of Kamakura's six principle statues of Amida, is enshrined.  In 1194 Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun of Japan, commissioned this statue;  it measures 2.8 meters in height, not including it's large halo.  There are also a Temple Bell and Sutra Archive Hall in the premises.

On the edges of the temple premises, there is a picnic area from where you can view the magnificent views of the Sugami Bay and the neighborhoods of the Kamakura district.

One of the highlights of this temple is the Jizo-do hall, which one can see while walking up the steps to Kannon-do hall.  In this small building, Fukuju Jizo, or "Happy" Jizo, is enshrined.  Surrounding the Hall are thousands of little Jizo stone statues standing in long rows, some wearing bibs or knitted caps and festooned with cute charms.  These status are there to comfort the souls of unborn children.  Jizo-Bosatsu is a Bodhisattva possessing great powers including all the blessings of the Earth.

Down at the main entrance level to the right side of the entrance, there are caves known as Benten-kutsu, which houses a small statue of Benzaiten goddess with eight arms, which was personally carved by the famous Monk of Heian era Kobo Daishi Kukai.  Benzaiten is a sea goddess and the only female among the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan.  She is present in temples and shrines that are located near water-the sea, a river, or a pond.  She is the patron goddess of music, the fine arts, and good fortune in general, and usually carries a biwa (Japanese Mandolin) or plays a lute.  These caves are a must see. 
(Sources: Kamakura Hasedra Temple Brochure)

Here is a video of this magnificent temple:

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