Kamakura Hasedera visit

10 years ago by in Travel

Not strictly Tokyo, but close to it.

On a sad cloudy day of April 7th we decided to ignore the weather forecast and headed to Kamakura to see the famous Hasedera with all of its wonders. Also Great Buddha Daibutsu is located nearby.

A 55 minutes from Shinjuku on Shonan Shinjuku line (bound to Zushi) to Kamakura and then switching to Enoden line (not JR, but there is ‘Kamakura Free Kippu" available form JR ticketing offices that offers roundtrip to Kamakura + unlimited travel on Enoden line for 1970 yen).
Enoden line looks like a street-car. Station Hase where Hasedera is located is just 3 stops away from Kamakura.

Just a few minutes walk uphill from the Hase station is the Hasedera gate. (There is a helpful sign on the left side of the road at around point where we started to question if we are going in the right direction).

Make sure to visit a mechanical piano shop near the entrance (you won’t miss it, there is an imitation of clock tower in front of it) too.

Main gate, Sammon.
Entrance fee is 300 yen per person.

Originally Hasedera was built to house a big wooden statue of Kannon ("goddess" of mercy). There is its own legend that tells you how around 721 AD the statue was actually made out of a giant tree found near Nara. The tree was so big that two statues were made, one housed in Nara region temple of Hasedera (near a village named Hase) and another one was thrown into the sea from where it reappeared 15 years later shining near Kamakura.
(In fact according to another source this was second reappearance of the statue and the first one only brought disasters to whomever touched the statue so it was thrown back into the sea).
The statue was brought to Kamakura and a temple on a hill side was built to enshrine it. Conveniently the temple was named Hasedera.

The statue has 11 "extra" heads and over time got a lot of added details and enhancements. Of course it is located in a poorly lit hall where you can barely see it. Of course photography in that hall is also prohibited.

Over time other significant statues appeared there. These are much more readily available and combined with other the nice garden make the visit worthy.

Lower level just behind the gates hosts some administrative buildings and a bigger garden. The garden is complete with a pond, waterfalls and statues.

On one side of the garden there is a cave for Benzaiten goddess (will get to it later).
And of course a large stars up the hill.

One of the smallish waterfalls in the pond.

Fureai Kannon statue near the lower pond.

As we go up the stairs we meet a group of three statues of Jizo.

A platform on intermediate level. up the stairs with a lot (A LOT) of small statues.
People splash water on this statue of Jizo. I guess this is like scrubbing and washing the grave stone of ones ancestors?

So like I said there are a lot of small statues around that platform.

The statues are offered by visitors (could be purchased off-site) and all represent Jizo Bosatsu.
Jizo Bodhisattva possesses great powers including all the blessings on Earth. It is believed to protect small children, travelers and seamen
In the past expecting mothers used to put up those statues to have a good delivery.
Nowadays the figures are offered to comfort souls of stillborn and aborted children and guide them to paradise.

More than 50000 figures were offered since end of WWII, so much that in fact the smaller figures are buried or burnt once a year to make space for new ones.

Figures have signs on their backs, but I cannot read these.

Besides the small ones there are long-long rows of bigger stone statues of Jizo too.
Some statues have bibs and knitted caps. There were not particularly many like that when we visited, but that seem to depend on the time of a year, judging by other pictures sometimes most of them are covered.
I suspect that has something to do with when they were last visited by whomever placed them and if each one represents a failed birth attempt, I can imagine would be mothers are devastated about the loss of a baby.

This is called Roku Jizo apparently, which just means six Jizo.

A big Jizo Bosatsu statue is enshrined in a hall surrounded by the figures.

Even going a bit up from that platform we still see shelves on the wall filled with smallish statues.

On the main grounds in the middle of the hill side near Kannon-do hall where Kannon statue is housed, there is another hall where Yakuyoke (Protector from Evil Spirits) Amida Buddha sits.
A wooden ball with two dragons carved is placed nearby, but no idea what it means.

As it is usual you can purchase a wooden tablet and write your wish on it, then hang it on a wooden frame near Amida-do hall. I guess that would make your wish come true.
The tablets were inscribed in all kinds of languages.

There is a smaller garden with a pond near the Kannon-do hall too.

Pretty old statue of Daidokuten (god of wealth) was supposed to be held here (behind the glass near the far wall, almost invisible here), but instead they placed a copy here and the original is held at a museum conveniently located nearby that you can attend for some extra fee (not sure how much as it was closed when we were there).
Daidokuten is usually distinguished by his wide face and often holds golden mallet. He also usually stands or sits on bales of rice.

Also near Daidoku-do there is this group of 4 Deva (Heavenly) Kings (North, East, West and South) surrounding Taishakuten (the ruler of the gods of the Veda) in the middle.

It’s good to visit in the spring as there are plenty of Sakura trees and other flowers.

Observation platform on that level offers a view of Kamakura and a sea.
This is my attempt at making a panoram. Unfortunately not only the sky was cloudy, it actually started to rain by that time.

Additionally to static subjects there are a lot of eagles flying around (with rather unpleasant calls), but to make any worthwhile pictures you need to be there on a good day and with a long telephoto lens too.

There is a further way up the hill from Kannon-do hall to another observation platform.

On the right side of the road there are these images going all the way up. Is that an old cemetery? No idea.

Small bronze statue of Kannon near the top. Also has extra heads on top of the "main" head.

The top platform.

Kamakura and the beach visible from the top platform.

The road down uses another staircase and passes by another platform filled with Jizo statues.

The statues on that platform are much bigger and all seem to be permanently mounted.

Some are uniq.

Down at the lower garden Benten-kutsu cave is located. Torii gate is in the front of the entrance.

Inside of the cave is split into several rooms.
The first room had large figures carved out of stone walls.
Local source calls it "Benzaiten and 16 children".
The cave is very dark. I am glad I had a tripod to make these pictures.

Benzaiten herself. She is a goddes of sea, the only woman between Seven Japanese Lucky Gods.
She also protect music and arts and therefore is often portrayed with a Japanese mandolin or playing a lute.

Pretty low tunnel leads from the first room to another one.

A single statue made of some white stone stands in the second room (and some images are recessed into the wall).

On the way to the exit via yet another low tunnel there are two extra rooms to the right.
The space between fw big statues is filled with smallish yellow ones. These seem to be offered by visitors and could also be purchased on site, no idea what the significance is.

The small yellow statues are everywhere, even on the walls. All seem to portray Benzaiten.

Outside from Hasedera a few more minutes uphill by the road a Great Buddha Daibutsu is located.
To see it be prepared to pay 200 yen (this is kind of steep I think, given that there is nothing else to see there).
The Buddha was casted from bronze in 1252. It is 13.35 meters high and is the second biggest bronze Buddha in Japan.

The Buddha is hollow inside and you can even enter there for the extra fee of 20 yen.

Benefit of visiting during Sakura blossom season.
The cloudy sky ruined everything, though.

There are a lot more pictures that I took that day in Hasedera so if you’d like to see more, they are in my blog.
Day 3 in Japan, part 1
Day 3 in Japan, part 2