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One of the largest temples in eastern Japan, Soji-ji is a major temple belonging to the Soto-sect of Zen Buddhism. It was established in 1321 in Noto Province by Jokin Keizan (1268-1325), but after a disastrous fire, it was relocated to Tsurumi in 1911. Both the statue of Miroku Bosatsu, which dates to 1276, and the bell (cast in 1269) have been named important cultural properties. Along with Eihei-ji (in Fukui prefecture) in 1615, Soji-ji was named a major Zen center by the Tokugawa government. The public is welcome to participate in meditation sessions at this very active Zen temple.
The regent, Tokimune Hojo, established Engaku-ji Temple in 1282. It is Kamakura's largest temple and is famous for its "Great Bell" which dates back to 1301. The bell has been designated a national treasure. The oldest extant Zen temple hall, with its distinctive cypress roof, is also found here. Known as the Shari-den, it is believed the hall was relocated from a nearby nunnery during the Muromachi Era (1333-1573). Do not miss the statue of monk Mugaku, the temple's first abbot. The public is permitted to participate in meditations here.
Established in 1253 by Tokiyori Hojo, Kencho-ji is recognized as the greatest of Kamakura's Zen temples. It is believed to be Japan's oldest in the southern "Sung" style. The temple takes its name from the Kencho Era (1249-1255) and was once a refuge for Chinese Zen priests escaping Mongol invaders. The huge bronze bell ("Bonsho") was made in 1255 and is a national treasure. Dating to 1647, the lecture hall ("Hatto") is an example of Buddhist wooden architecture at its best. It is now an important cultural property. The main temple gate is equally impressive.
Dedicated to the Minamoto family's guardian, the god of war, this shrine is believed to date to 1063. Noted for its striking vermilion embellished and lacquered torii arch, the shrine is very different from the Zen temples usually associated with Kamakura. Legend tells us that at one time only the shogun could walk on the Drum Bridge (Taikobashi), the original of which dates to 1182. Other attractions are the very old ginkgo tree near the dancing platform and the lotus-lilied ponds, which rest on former rice fields. It is recommended that visitors acquaint themselves with certain manners particular to Shinto before entering. Another famous sight in Kamakura, the Daibutsu (giant statue of Buddha), is easily accessible from this shrine.
The shrine is dedicated to Benzaiten, the Goddess of Good Fortune Zeniarai or "Money Washing" temple is highly acclaimed for its spring which is inside a cave. Legend tells us that the value of any amount of money can be doubled if it is washed here. The approach to the cave is lined with torii gates (given by the faithful) which serve as a tunnel.
Sadly all that remains of this historically well-known temple which was important during treaty port days is the main gate. All the buildings in the complex were destroyed by bombs during the Pacific War. Soon after the port of Yokohama was officially opened in June 1859 the first US Consul, Townsend Harris [1804-1878] relocated to Hongaku-ji from Gyokusen-ji Temple in Shimoda because Kanagawa was the term used in the treaty. He never established a presence in the village of Yokohama.
Lady Inada, also known as Inada-no-Tsubone together with a monk called Joko were responsible for the fundraising which resulted in the aesthetically pleasing bronze statue of Great Buddha, dedicated to Amida. After several mishaps with wooden statues, the bronze casting crafted by Goremon Ono was finished in 1252. Now gracefully sitting outside, the serene Buddha formerly was housed in the Kotoku-in's main building, which a tidal wave swept away in 1495. The statue stands at 13.35 meters (43.8 feet) tall and is hollow, allowing visitors inside.
The focal point at this temple is the highly acclaimed statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Kannon. It is believed that in 721 the priest Tokudo used half of a massive camphor log to carve the statue with eleven faces, which stands a bit more than nine meters. Also deserving special mention is the bell which was cast in 1264 and has been named an important cultural property, the octagonal shaped prayer wheel and the collection of Jizo statues, the guardian of children.