Friday 16 September 2016

Another trip to Kamakura - Hokokuji (the bamboo temple) and Hase Dera - Part 1

We've been having a few typhoons here in Japan recently, averaging one a week, but finally a weekend came around with fine weather so a trip down to nearby Kamakura was hastily planned.  Good friend Tetsuya and another friend Yoshie both said they wanted to come so we met up in Shibuya and jumped on the train for the quick 45 minute ride down south.
We had met up late morning so by the time we arrived it was around 1pm.  Feeling a little hungry we set off along Komachi Dori (you can read more about this great shopping street here).  Yoshie came across a dango (sweet dumplings made from rice flour) stall and stopped to get some mitarashi dango, a dango covered with a sweet soy sauce glaze.

We started walking along with Yoshie enjoying her dango when I heard the shrill call of a kite (the bird variety) screech out above us.  I looked around trying to spot it, well aware that they can, will and have been known to (with painful effects) swoop down and snatch food from people's hands as they walk along.  I found him and mentioned the danger to Yoshie who ate the rest of her dango under cover.

A little further along we found a manju (steamed bun) shop.  I ordered a steamed pork bun which hit the spot nicely.

I always say that people need to constantly keep their eyes open in Japan as you never quite know what you will see.  The following are just a few random scenes that we passed on the way to our first destination of the day.

Pretty soon (a nice 40 minute walk from Kamakura station) we arrived at our first stop, Hokokuji temple.

Hokokuji temple is a little unassuming temple hidden away in the foothills on the east side of Kamakura.  It was built in 1334 and existed through to 1923 when many of its structures were damaged in the devastating 1923 Great Kanto earthquake that ripped through Tokyo and the surrounding areas.  It was subsequently rebuilt during the rest of the 1920's.  Hokokuji temple would be just like any other temple that exists (a beautiful old temple with lovely traditional architecture and an exquisitely manicured garden) but for one thing.  Hidden behind the main structure and accessible via an entrance to the left of the main hall is an enchanting and beautifully maintained bamboo grove made up of 2,000 bamboo trees.  It is this feature that attracts most of its visitors and was one of the reasons I have, for a long time, been wanting to come along and check it out.

The first thing we came across after walking through the Temple Mon (gate) was one of the things I love about Japanese temples.  Their beautifully and painstakingly maintained gardens.

Absolutely peaceful, serenity at it's best!  Moving off the the left, we headed up some steps

and arrived at the main temple hall.

Just off to the right was the bell tower with it's beautiful thatched roof.

Also nearby were these.

Now, from what I can gather, these are Gorinto, or 5 tier grave marker.  They are grave markers, or memorials for those who have passed away. (If I am wrong about this, could one of my Japanese readers please correct me!)

We went to the ticket gate and bought our tickets to get into the bamboo grove area (200 yen, or 500 yen if you want to enjoy some green tea in the tea house located in the grove) and headed in.

Absolutely incredible.  The silence was only broken by the rustling of the bamboo trees in the breeze.  As you can see, there were other people there, but it was not a problem as everyone was there doing the same thing, taking in the stillness and quietude of the place.  It was one of the more beautiful and peaceful places that I have been to in 7 years of living in Japan.

Unfortunately we had to leave though as we still had another place to check out, so reluctantly we made our way out of the bamboo

and headed for the exit.

Now the temple does have a few rules, so please take note of these so as not to spoil this wonderful experience for others (especially the part about the selfie sticks....).

I'm going to finish this post here and then start working on part 2 within the next couple of days.  I hope my photos are able to do justice to the beauty of Hokokuji.  I highly recommend getting there if you visit Kamakura (a weekday is better so as to avoid the crowds).

Thanks again for reading.  Please leave a comment below (especially if I am wrong about the Gorinto) and please share the blog with anyone who you know would be interested.

See you next time.


  1. Beautiful gardens, and your photos are lovely. I too love pork buns. I thought they were a chinese food. Love, Mum.

  2. Hi Mum, glad you like them! You are right, they are a Chinese food, but Japan has added their own touch to them just like we did with the meat pie I guess.