Kamakura's Hokoku-ji Temple

The magical beauty of bamboo

By Larry Knipfing    - 3 min read

Hokoku-ji Temple in Kamakura has one of the most beautiful bamboo groves that you are ever likely to see. For the full effect of its beauty, try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when streams of light filter in though the trees and create a truly magical space.

Of course, there is more to this temple than just the bamboo, but you can take in most of the buildings, statues, and tiny waterfall in ten minutes or so. But I guarantee that the grove will draw you back and keep you there for a long, long time.

A walkway of small white stone wedges winds its way through the grove, allowing you to see it from various angles and perspectives. You are so close to these magnificent trees that you can actually reach out and touch them. One thing that will strike you as you look up into the tops of the bamboo is how many shades of green there are: From the deepest dark green, to a cool refreshing light green, green is everywhere you look!

Although the temple (of the Kenchoji school of the Rinzai Zen sect) was established in 1334, most of the original buildings here were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and had to be rebuilt. Thus, there is a feeling of newness to everything.

At the deepest corner of the grove, there is a little teahouse with outside seating. From here you can enjoy a quiet cup of thick bitter hot green tea and meditate on the loveliness of the scene before you. Close your eyes, listen to the birds sing, and enjoy being in Japan—After all, you cannot find sublime beauty like this in Kansas or Frankfurt (or indeed anywhere else in the world) as beautiful as they may be.

Zazen Training

Although I have never partaken in the training, there are sessions open to the public every Sunday morning. Get there early to sign up and to ensure yourself a spot. The class—which lasts three hours—begins at 7:30 sharp and has a reputation for being quite tough. Dress warmly in the winter, and get some breakfast into you before the class. If you are not good at sitting cross-legged on a tatami mat, then think again about giving it a try. But if you are used to this type of meditation or you like an adventure, then give it a try!

There is one thing at this temple that deeply disturbed me: Some thoughtless people (probably teenagers) have carved their names and messages into some of the bamboo trees in the grove—a shocking thing to even contemplate amongst such divine beauty.

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Larry Knipfing

Larry Knipfing @larry.knipfing

Born on Long Island, New York in 1958, I have spent the last 30+ years of my life living in Japan, and enjoying every minute of it! I especially love photography, and Japan is definitely one of the most beautiful places in the world to photograph! (Visit my online gallery) My other love is fiction writing and I have published quite a few books that take place in Japan. Fun stuff! You can find them at my Amazon Author's Page. In addition to my writing, I have mainly been working in the field of corporate training, and at the same time have done a lot of photography. *Kamakura, and now Yokohama (both in Kanagawa Prefecture) have been my home for almost twenty years and are perfect places for me: Hilly, situated on the water, and with amazing histories. The rest of Kanagawa is equally amazing and includes the great Hakone onsen and spa area.  *Tochigi Prefecture, with World Heritage site Nikko, is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and not far from Tokyo.  *Fukui Prefecture, located in central Japan on the coast of the Japan Sea, is brimming with classic Japanese culture and great natural beauty everywhere you look. I really look forward to sharing ALL of Japan's beauty and magic with all of you. Website: www.larryknipfing.com Contact me: larry.knipfing@japantravel.com

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