The Bamboo Temple with a beautiful bamboo grove
At the end of the 12th century, political rule by the military class took root in Kamakura and lasted until 1333. In the Kanto region at Kamakura, which was the capital city longer than Tokyo, even now retains many historical buildings giving an air of the old capital. In the background of those times, Hokoku-ji is a Zen temple belonging to the Kencho-ji school of the Rinzai sect that was built in 1334, after the demise of the Kamakura shogunate. Also known as the Bamboo Temple, it has attracted many tourists on weekends as a famous place with a beautiful bamboo garden forest.
Once you pass the sanmon gate, head for the Hon-do main hall while viewing the beautiful moss garden. In the back, the famed bamboo grove of Hokoku-ji unfolds before you. The large grove is amazing with 2000 splendidly maintained bamboo stalks soaring up into the sky. If you walk on the narrow path along the forest, you’ll forget the hustle and bustle of the city through the chirping of small birds and the scent of the bamboo, and there will be a heartfelt serenity. There is a teahouse in the bamboo grove where you can enjoy a cup of matcha tea while leisurely looking at the garden. You will want to savor the tea as it is served on a tray made in the Kamakura-bori style, a type of traditional handicraft of Kamakura as you also enjoy it with your eyes.
Historically speaking, the Rinzai monk Tengan Eko established the teahouse Kyukoan as a place of study on the site which was the beginning for the temple, where he spent a quiet life as he indulged his taste in poetry. In addition, it was also the family temple for the Ashikaga clan. The Ashikagas were the ruling nobles in Kamakura for 90 years but were defeated in war, and with Yoshihisa Ashikaga committing ritual suicide at the temple, Hokoku-ji was the final stand for the Kanto Ashikagas before their time in history ended.
This is a temple of the Zen world and tragic stories during troubled times. But its beauty continues to live on even with the passage of time.
Zazen sessions on Sunday morning
If you have an interest in Zen Buddhism, why not take part in a session of zazen (seated Zen meditation) on Sunday morning? Held every Sunday morning from 7:30 a.m. at the Kasho-do Hall, the Sunday Morning Zazen Session is welcome to everyone. Wear loose comfortable clothing if you are participating. The sessions can be quite rigorous so please prepare yourself accordingly. Stressing punctuality, it is necessary to come early since entering midway through the session isn’t allowed.