Masako Hojo, who outlived all of her children
Jufuku-ji Temple, which had been built on the site of the Minamoto family’s residence, was established by Masako Hojo, the wife of Yoritomo Minamoto who had launched the Kamakura shogunate. Masako, who was the real power behind the shogunate, was called the “ama-shogun” (nun-shogun). Despite a strong image of her being a cruel and jealous wife, it is believed that she bore incredible suffering due to her children until her own death. She had two sons and two daughters, but there was a custom of children of high status being raised by nannies and not by the actual mother. The eldest son, Yoriie, was raised by the Hiki clan, and marrying a daughter of the Hiki, he became estranged from Masako. Through a power struggle between the Minamoto and the Hiki, he would later be assassinated. The second son, Sanetomo, would also be killed by Yoriie’s child at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine. After the murder of her daughter, O-Hime, by her fiancé, Masako lost her will to live, and became sick many times before ultimately committing suicide. Even her second daughter who was to have become Empress succumbed to a high fever.
The most beautiful temple path in Kamakura
The temple grounds have been nationally designated as a Historic Site but the only areas usually open to the public are the path spanning from the main gate to the Chuumon gate and the yagura tombs behind the main hall (horizontal graves). The 300m sando path, surrounded by tall trees and covered in moss, is a straight road lined with stones. It is said to be the most beautiful temple path in Kamakura. Turning left from the Chuumon and heading to the rear, there is a vast graveyard. Among the 30 caves that form the group of yagura, five-ring towers (gorinto) dedicated to Masako Hojo and her son, Sanetomo Minamoto exist, and prominent figures such as haiku poets and authors are laid to rest. At the main hall which is only open on special viewing days, a valuable 2.7m-high seated statue of the Shaka Nyorai is enshrined.