Hase-dera

Moving on from The Great Buddha of Kamakura, I walked to Hase-dera, which is nearby. Hase-dera is a temple which I heard was famous for its Jizo statues, and a “massive wooden statue of Kannon“. I could never have imagined what I found there…

Hase-dera (temple)

Hase-dera was so much bigger than I expected and had so much more to see. Their website is really excellent (and in English), and I have borrowed this map from there so you can see the layout of the temple grounds:

It’s worth noting that on the Hase-dera website this map is actually clickable. Mine is not – sorry! Instead, I have added letters, which I shall refer to throughout this blog. That way, you can follow my path around the temple grounds.

So, I entered the temple at A, and straight away I found statues and a beautiful garden, around B and to the right of B.

Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

I made my way up to C, which is Jizo-do Hall. If I was asked to draw a picture of what I thought heaven looked like, I think I might be heavily inspired by this area. Around Jizo-do-Hall there are simply thousands of little Jizo statues of all shapes and sizes. It was such a surprise to see so many, and I spent so long crouching down and looking into their little faces. As I’ve said before on this blog, I love Jizo statues, so this area of Hase-dera was wonderful for me.

Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

I think this last one is called Fukuju Jizo, or “Happy Jizo”.

Finally tearing myself away from the Jizo-do Hall, I climbed some more steps (which were lined with more small Jizo statues!) up to the main buildings of Hase-dera. D on the map above is called Amida-do Hall. This building houses a golden seated statue of Yakuyoke (Protector from Evil Spirits) Amida Buddha. This is one of Kamakura’s six principal statues of Amida and it is 2.8 metres in height.

First I took this sneaky picture:

Hase-dera (temple)

Then, realising there was no one around, I got a little braver:

Hase-dera (temple)

I know I probably wasn’t supposed to take a picture of this statue, so I apologise to anyone who thinks I shouldn’t have done. I didn’t use a flash, and I just really wanted to be able to share it with people.

Next, I entered E, which is Kannon-do Hall.

Hase-dera (temple)

This is Hase-dera’s main building, which houses the famous Hase Kannon statue. This statue is 9.18 metres tall, and there was no way on earth I was going to get any sneaky photos of this one! So, I gave in and bought a photo of it instead, which I then scanned in for you:

Kannon statue at Hase-dera

This photo doesn’t do it justice at all, and makes it looks so small. Just take my word for it – it’s awesome, in the true sense of the word. It’s so huge, and I couldn’t stop staring at it. According to my Lonely Planet Tokyo City Guide (7th edition), this statue is “said to have washed up from the sea in the early 8th century”. Can you imagine that?! Just walking along the beach one day and discovering a 9 metre tall Kannon statue lying on the sand?!

I next moved on to F, Daikoku-do Hall:

Hase-dera (temple)

This building houses one of the Seven Japanese Gods of Fortune, Daikokuten. He is the god of wealth or harvest. Thinking of harvests, I realised how hungry I was and decided to stop at the restaurant. The restaurant is right by G on the map. G is the observation platform, so you can imagine the view from the restaurant! This restaurant was ticket-style, which means you have to choose a picture from a machine and purchase a ticket when you enter the restaurant. The staff were very friendly to me and helped me use the machine. I got this delicious bowl of soba:

Noodles

When I was rested and ready for the next part of my adventure, I wandered out to the observation platform. There were a few people around, but really not many. In fact, I think there were more birds than people! There were a lot of signs warning us of the danger of kites, which would swoop down and steal your food.

Beware of Kites!

Despite the danger, I couldn’t resist trying to get a picture of one of these fascinating birds of prey:

Kite

Just as I was admiring the view…

View from Hase-dera (temple)

…a strange thing happened. I decided to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I almost never talk to other foreigners who I see when I’m travelling, unless they talk to me first, but for some reason I felt compelled to talk to this guy, and I’m really glad I did.

He told me his name was Jonny Jeeps, and when I asked him what he was doing in Japan he said “you won’t believe me if I tell you” and gave me his card. His card said “Travelling Around the World by Bike. My name is Jonny Jeeps. I have cycled here from England. I am cycling around the world.” Wow. You can find out more about his adventure on his website. I really admire what he’s doing – it sounds so exciting!

Besides him being a really interesting guy and it being nice to stop and have a chat with someone, I was glad to talk to Jonny because he told me about a part of the temple I hadn’t yet seen. This led me down to H on the map, which is Benten-do Hall and Benten-kutsu Cave.

On the way I came across what was probably my favourite statue in the whole place:

Hase-dera (temple)

Near Benten-do Hall there were some ema hanging. Ema usually contain people’s prayers and wishes. I was particularly taken with this one which features a drawing of what I think is supposed to be a Buddha:

Hase-dera (temple)

Entering the cave, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect…

Hase-dera (temple)

According to the Hase-dera website, the cave contains “Benzaiten and 16 children (which) are chiseled out of the rock walls. Benzaiten is a sea goddess and the only female among the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. Her temples and shrines are located near water–the sea, a river, or a pond. She is the patron of music, the fine arts, and good fortune in general, and usually carries a biwa (Japanese mandolin) or plays a lute.

Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

Crouching down, I shuffled through the dark passageways…

Hase-dera (temple)

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Hase-dera (temple)

In the centre of the cave, I found Benzaiten. Well, actually, I found hundreds of them!

Hase-dera (temple)

For 300 Yen you could buy a small statue, write a message on it and leave it in the cave. People had obviously had fun choosing interesting places to leave their statues, as they were tucked in every nook and cranny of the cave.

Hase-dera (temple)

And so, another chapter of my adventure is over, but not another day. You may recall that in this day, April 19th, I have so far visited Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu and Kotoku-in which is home to The Great Buddha of Kamakura. One might think that three great places in a day is enough, but it’s not enough for me. Guessing that I might just have enough time left in the day, I next made my way to Enoshima… but more about that in another post! 😉

4 thoughts on “Hase-dera

  1. Pingback: Bodhisattva Bokeh |

  2. Your photos are so lovely! That temple reminds me kind of … of Daienji temple in Meguro which is much smaller but was so lovely I went back to visit twice when I was in Japan in Jan. So this is in Kamakura. I didn’t manage to go there but will next year for sure after seeing these photos. The cave looks challenging for me, I dont really like enclosed spaces but it looks worthwhile to venture in anyway! The jizos are gorgeous. 🙂

    Like

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