Engaku-ji temple is an aesthetic and spiritual delight located in Kamakura City. It’s ranked second among the many temples dotted around Kamakura. During my visit I noticed three distinctions from other temples in Kamakura that make this temple so special.
First, Engaku-ji temple is set on an impressive slope in the Kita-Kamakura hills. The native forest trees create mini canopies in certain sections of the grounds. The location’s gradient makes the temple seem fortress-like, safeguarding inhabitants from external atrocities. Perhaps a formidable, intimating masterpiece was what ruling regent Hojo Tokimune had in mind when he founded Engaku-ji temple in 1282. After all, one purpose of the temple’s existence was to pay homage to Japanese and Mongolian soldiers who perished in the Mongolian offensive in 1281. The incline begins from street entry, which is a unique aspect of the temple. If you have a stair-phobia you may be inclined (get it?) to skip this place. Fortunately, Engaku-ji temple is so carefully laid out that you are often increasing altitude without noticing. Plus, it’s a spiritual place, so if you need ancillary motivation think of every step upward as one closer to heaven.
Second, Engaku-ji temple harbours an historic national treasure. The temple bell, or ogane, sits atop the highest point of the temple. It really is huge, and tolling it would be an incredible hassle. The tree trunk suspended by some sort of pulley system looks too cumbersome for someone of my stature, and upon release you would have to scamper like Usain Bolt before the reverberation knocked you into the wilderness below. I made a compromise and just stood for a couple of minutes imagining the bell tolling. The vista from the national treasure speaks for itself.
Thirdly, Engaku-ji temple offers an authentic tea and amakaze experience. Amakaze is a Japanese sweet, and tea is tea. I recommend you take advantage of the refreshments at the teahouse that overlooks one of the temple’s burial sites. I know, it sounds a little morbid, but the experience is oddly serene and pleasant. Bring a little extra cash because the teahouse fee is not included in the 300-yen admittance charge at the front gate.
Engaku-ji temple offers all of the famous Kamakura temple attractions: shimmering spring sakura trees, extravagant gardens and impressive buildings for worship. However, it’s the traits that set Engaku-ji temple apart from other Kamakura temples that make it wonderful. The beautiful forested hill, the temple bell (ogane), and the teahouse experience turn the visit into a spectacle.
|Address||Yamanouchi 409, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa-ken 247-0247|
|Access||[map]Yamanouchi 409, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa-ken 247-0247[/map]|
|Opening Hours||08:00 - 16:30 every day|
|Price Range||Adults 300 Yen|