Kamakura was Japan’s capital for more than 100 years beginning in 1192 and is filled with shrines and temples. It is also here that the Great Buddha statue is found. My friend Yvonne and I walked around the Kamakura area one sunny Saturday and on our way to the Great Buddha we stopped of at Hase-Dera temple.
Hase-dera is one of the great Buddhist temples in the city of Kamakura and famous for housing a massive wooden statue of Kannon.
The statue is one of the largest wooden statues in Japan, with a height of 9.18 metres and is made from camphor wood and gilded in gold. It has 11 heads, each of which represents a different phase in the search for enlightenment.
Because it was a Saturday the temple was quite crowded so I stayed out of the interiors of the shrines and the main temple. I am very claustrophobic and huge crowds in small confined spaces scare and I always end up getting a panic attack or just freaking out a bit.
Hase-dera temple has beautiful gardens and I had a great time walking through these. The garden is filled with flights of steps as the garden is laid out in terraces.
Along the flights of steps leading to the Main Hall are countless Jizo statuettes made of stone. They are called Sentai Jizo, meaning literally ‘one thousand Jizo’. Historically, parents came to Hasedera to set up these statues in hopes the deity would protect and watch over their children.
These statues are much less monumental in size but had a far greater visual impact than the huge Kannon statue. Today, though, the Jizo statues represent the souls of miscarried, stillborn or aborted children. Jizo is believed to be a guardian deity of children, both alive and dead, including stillborn babies and aborted fetuses. Grief-stricken parents who lost children dedicate the statuettes and pray that the god may protect the poor little ones wandering in the netherworld. Usually, the parents offer dolls and baby clothes to the statuettes.
The temple is famous for its hydrangeas, which bloom along the Hydrangea Path in June and July, the main reason we visited on a busy Saturday. Most of the temple garden was filled in blue hydrangea blooms and hundreds of people walking around taking photos of these blooms. It was very crowded so we before long we left and walked up to the Daibutsu.
Kamakura is famous for the Great Buddha Statue (Daibutsu) which dates from 1252. This Buddha stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple and originally located inside a large temple hall. However, the temple buildings were destroyed multiple times by typhoons and a tidal wave in the 14th and 15th centuries. So, since 1495, the Buddha has been standing in the open air.
This 37-foot-high bronze Buddha is the second largest statue in Japan. The Great Buddha is seated in the lotus position with his hands forming the Dhyani Mudra, the gesture of meditation. With a serene expression and a beautiful backdrop of wooded hills, the Daibutsu is a truly spectacular sight.
From a distance it didn’t look that big. It was only when we got close up that we were amazed by the actual size.
Japan is filled with really amazing statues and temples and I just loved exploring them!