Beautiful any time of year, but truly amazing in June during hydrangea season
Kamakura is stuffed with entertaining shrines and temples, but this is the only one with a hillside of gorgeous hydrangeas, a thirty-foot-tall Kannon figure covered in gold, and a candle-lit underground grotto!
Although Hasedera is known for its spectacular nine-meter-tall Kannon figure* my favorite deities are the thousands of Jizo figures clustered all over the grounds. Let’s wend our way up the hillside behind the temple buildings and see some of them on the way…
As we climb the path, we’ll see this unusual pond. It’s not a swastika – the “spin” is in the opposite direction – it’s actually an ancient Buddhist symbol called manjike, which stands for eternity.
If we happen to be here in June, we’ll be super lucky. Hasedera has one of the most spectacular hydrangea gardens in Japan, and it covers the entire hillside behind the temple, with shady walking paths winding amongst the flowers.
It’s good to get there early during The Season, though, because the line to get in is already long at opening time (8:00).
But hydrangeas aren’t the only game in town – if we walk around to the right of the entrance gate, there’s an amazing underground grotto to explore.
Inside are a number of large sacred figures, each in its own niche throughout the caverns…
…along with tiny Benzaiten figures left by pilgrims, filling every nook and cranny.
Got a wish? In the main chamber, we can buy “one word prayer” wishing stones for ¥100 – drop a coin in the offering slot, pick a stone, write your one word wish on it, and leave it in the basket.
Outside and to the right of the grotto is the mossy entrance to the lovely forecourt of another temple building…
…and if we peek inside, there’s a beautifully raked rock garden
But wait! That’s not all. To the left of the temple entrance – after we stop into the sanctuary to pay our respects to the golden Kannon – there’s an entire small building dedicated to this jumbo prayer wheel. Visitors are only allowed to spin it on the 18th of every month, but we can spin the smaller ones anytime.
And just outside is one of my favorite temple attractions – I love how Buddha’s footprints remind the faithful that Buddhism is a path, not a destination.
* The famous nine-meter-tall golden Kannon is a sacred object, so photos aren’t allowed. Despite nearly overwhelming temptation, I honored that request (and I hope you will too!) but if you can’t wait to see its golden benevolence with your own eyes, there are quite a few pirate photos of it on the web.
Open: Every day; Mar-Sept 8:00 – 17:00, Oct – Feb 8:00 – 16:30, last entrance 30 minutes before closing time
HASEDERA TEMPLE MAP
Hasedera is in
Kamakura, my favorite day trip from Tokyo.
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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine , and blogs at Japanagram and Only In Japan The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had