Kamakura’s Hasedera Temple, a sister temple to Nara’s temple of the same name, is renowned for its 11-headed statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. This Jodo-sect Buddhist temple is one of the oldest temples in the city and has roots in the eighth century. Legend has it that the monk Tokudo Shonin requested two Kannon statues to be made from a camphor tree in 721. The smaller statue was enshrined at Nara’s temple, while the other one was thrown into the sea as an offering. In 736, the statue washed ashore in Kamakura, and Hasedera was built to enshrine it.
Hasedera’s grounds feature a harmonious display of traditionally designed temple buildings interwoven with lush nature and seasonal flowers, making for a peaceful stroll. Thanks to its elevated position, it also offers wonderful views of Kamakura’s townscape and Sagami Bay.
The temple’s artfully crafted nature is on full display when you first enter the grounds. The welcoming garden features a pond encircled by plants, the small Benten-do Hall, dedicated to the goddess of music and wisdom, and Benten-kutsu Cave, which contains carved statues of deistic Buddhist figures.
If you are hungry, refuel at the temple’s Teraya Cafe, located just before the entrance, or Kaikoan, which is built at an elevated level and boasts large windows with fantastic views of the area.
Admission to the temple costs 400 yen for adults and 200 yen for children (ages 6 to 11). Parking costs 350 yen for 30 minutes.
Hasedera’s most revered artifact is its 11-headed statue of Kannon. This relic stands at an impressive 9.18 meters tall and is one of the largest wooden statues in Japan. It is decorated with gold leaf and is located in Kannon-do Hall. (Photography is prohibited).
Kannon-do Hall is the main building of the temple complex and, aside from housing the 11-headed statue of Kannon, is a remarkable display of traditional Japanese architecture. West of the hall is an observation that offers stunning views of Kamakura.
Located directly to the left of Kannon-do Hall, Kannon Museum exhibits temple treasures and information about Kannon. Admission to the museum costs 300 yen for adults and 150 yen for children.
Located on the right side of the main hall, Amida-do Hall contains a nearly three-meter-tall, golden statue of Amida Buddha and Japan’s largest mokugyo (a wooden drum played during Buddhist chants) at 105 centimeters wide.
Jizo-do Hall is a small temple structure dedicated to Jizo, the Buddhist deity who protects children, and is surrounded by hundreds of small Jizo statues. You can reach the statue from the lower level of the complex by following a staircase up the hillside.
Hasedera Temple is a five-minute walk from Hase Station, on the Enoden train line between Fujisawa and Kamakura.
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