Engakuji Temple Kamakura

Engakuji Temple 円覚寺

Engakuji Temple (円覚寺), in Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, is the head of a branch school of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism and was founded in 1282 for the repose of the souls (Japanese, Korean and Mongolian) of those killed in the attempted invasions of Japan by Kublai Khan, which took place on Kyushu in 1274 and 1281.

Engakuji Temple, Kamakura, Japan.
Sanmon Gate, Engakuji Temple, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture

Engakuji Temple History

Engakuji Temple was founded in the Kamakura Period of Japanese history on the instructions of regent Hojo Tokimune, who had successfully fought off the two Mongolian invasions of Japan in the late 13th century with the help of fortuitous typhoons known as kamikaze, which had destroyed the invading ships in harbor.

Engakuji became especially prominent as a major Zen temple in the 19th century when Zen began to spread to Western countries.

Engakuji is one of the five major Rinzai Zen temples, its first abbot having been a Chinese monk. Many of Engakuji's buildings were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Therefore, most of the buildings standing, though not all, are modern 20th century reconstructions.

The Shari-den, or Shrine of the Sacred Tooth of the Buddha, houses the relic gifted to the Shogun Sanetomo Minamoto from China, said to be a tooth of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. Built in the 13th century Kara (i.e. Chinese) style, the building itself is a National Treasure.

The Hakuroku-do or Cave of the White Deer, is where a herd of divine white deer are said to have emerged from to listen to the sermon of the temple's founder the day it opened back in the 13th century.

Engakuji Temple, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
Engakuji Temple, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture

Engakuji has a particularly huge gate - the Sanmon Gate - at the top of the long flight of steps leading up to the temple that is unusual in its supporting posts are totally exposed. The Sanmon Gate dates from 1783.

The nearby Butsuden contains an image of the historical Buddha, though the building is modern and was built in 1964.

The massive bell in the temple is also a National Treasure and is next to a Japanese tea house, where visitors can sample Japanese green tea and a traditional sweet.

The spacious wood-like grounds with their many sub-temples ring with the sounds of bird life and are ideal for strolling in the late afternoon.

Engakuji Hours and Admission

Engakuji is open between 8 am and 4:30 pm, March to November, and 8 am and 4 pm, December to February.

Entry to Engakuji is 400 yen for adults, 100 yen for children.

Engakuji offers early morning zen meditation sessions throughout the year: 5.30 - 6.30 am April-October, 6-7 am November-March.

Engakuji Temple, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
The Great Bell or O-gane at Engakuji Temple, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
Engakuji Temple, Kamakura, Japan.
Bows and their quivers as used in the battles between the Mongols and Japanese in the 13th century

Access - how to get to Engakuji Temple in Kamakura

Engakuji Temple is a short walk from Kita-Kamakura Station on the JR Yokosuka Line coming from Tokyo Station and Shinagawa Station. Kita-Kamakura Station is the station before Kamakura Station. Tokeiji Temple, Jochiji Temple and Meigetsuin Temple are all close by.

Engakuji Temple (in Japanese)
409, Yamanouchi
Kanagawa Prefecture

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