Full name: Zuirokuzan (瑞鹿山) Engakuji
Denomination: Rinzai sect (臨済宗)
Location: Next to the east side exit of Kita-Kamakura Station on the Yokosuka Line.
History: Under the patronage of Hojo Tokimune (北条時宗, 1125-84), the eighth regent, the temple was founded in 1282 for the repose of the souls of those who had died in the battles between Ｊapan and the Mongol or Yuan (元) dynasty of China.
The Mongol forces invaded the northern part of Kyushu Island in 1274. Fierce battles were fought and many lives were lost. Finally, a storm which later came to be called Kamikaze or the divine wind, wrecked their ships, and drowned countless soldiers and sailors who had been on board. After a second attempt failed in1281, the Mongols gave up their ambition to controll Japan for ever. They were regarded as hateful enemies, but death was an equalizer, so the souls of the foe received due respect.
The founding priest of Engakuji was Mugaku Sogen (無学祖元, 1226-86), a.k.a. Bukko Kokushi (仏光国師), invited from China by Tokimune. Sogen arrived in 1279 and served at first as the fifth head priest of Kenchoji (建長寺), and later, in 1282, presided as the founding priest of Engakuji.
The"Engaku" (円覚) in the temple name 円覚寺 is said to have derived from the fact that when construction work began in the grounds in 1277, a container was unearthed that held a scripture of the Engaku-kyo Sutra (円覚経). As for the"Zuiroku" (瑞鹿,"Lucky Deer") in the sango, 瑞鹿山, this was derived from the legend that when Sogen was giving his first sermon at the opening ceremony, a herd of white deer appeared unexpectedly and listened to him. This was thought to be a good omen. Associated with this legend is a shallow cave, Byakurokudo (白鹿洞), in the rear of the grounds.
Sogen was highly admired for his courage and self-possession. When he was in China, the Yuan (元) forces, in their attempt to conquer the Southern Sung dynasty (南宋), advanced into the area where Sogen had taken refuge in a temple called Noninji (能仁寺). When soldiers broke into the temple and threatened to slay him, he calmly composed a four-line poem. In it, he deplored how the world had become so small that there was no space to rest his staff and he said he found no pleasure in knowing that both the law and humans are simple nothingness.
He admonished the warriors to use prudence in drawing their swords and declared that should the soldiers behead a priest like him who sees that all is void, their action would amount to no more than brandishing a sword in the spring wind. The soldiers, it is said, withdrew in admiration.
(The invitation extended to Sogen in 1279 was due to an unexpected event. Tokimune, in 1277, had already started the construction of a new temple. The regent had asked Rankei Doryu (蘭渓道隆, 1213-78) at Kenchoji Temple to be the founding priest, but the sudden death of Doryu in 1278 brought the work to a stop until Sogen assumed the office in 1282.)
Records tell of the great size of the temple: in 1283 more than 250 people lived here, including 100 priests and the same number of officials and workers. The Engakuji Keidai Ezu (円覚寺境内絵図), an illustrated map of the temple made between 1330 and 1342, shows that the Somon Gate (総門), Sammon Gate (山門), Butsuden Hall (仏殿), Hatto Hall (法堂, built in 1323), stood in a straight line, similar to the Zen-style formation of temple structures. There were more than 40 sub-temples within the grounds.
Even after 1333 and the downfall of the Hojo who had supported the temple, Engakuji was able to maintain its prosperity under Muso Soseki (夢窓疎石, 1275-1351), who was trusted by Emperor Go-Daigo (後醍醐天皇, 1288-1339) and the Ashikaga family (足利). However, successive fires almost consumed the temple and it fell into decline from the Muromachi period (室町時代, 1336-1573) through the Edo period (江戸時代, 1603-1867).
In 1875, Imakita Kosen (今北洪川, 1816-1892) became the 202nd head priest and restored the temple to the status of one of the leading Zen training institutions in the Kanto region. In 1876, he became the first Chief Abbot of the Engakuji school of Zen Buddhism. Under Kosen, a number of eminent priests studied Zen here, among them Shaku Soen (釈宗演, 1859-1919) and Suzuki Daisetsu (鈴木大拙, 1870-1966). Soen became the 207th head priest of the temple and was very active. He was known even in America and attended the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Soen, Daisetsu, and other enthusiastic Zen priests played important roles in spreading Zen to the West.
Natsume Soseki (夏目漱石, 1867-1916), the famous novelist and scholar of English literature in the Meiji period (1867-1912), visited the temple and practiced Zen meditation. This visit inspired his novel, (門), The Gate, which was published in 1910.
Grounds and structures: The grounds of Engakuji once extended to the bus road running in front of Kita-Kamakura Station. The Kita-Gemon (北外門), the North Outer Gate, of the temple was located where a police box now stands, and the Minami-Gemon (南外門), the South Outer Gate, was located some 100 meters further south.
The road between the two gates was once called Medo (馬道) Horse Road, where even a daimyo (大名) lord had to dismount or step out of his kago (駕篭), palanquin. A roundabout road still remains beyond the raised ground to the west, and starts in front of the police box, running south some 100 meters.
The formal approach is via Gomabashi Bridge (降魔橋, Evil-Subduing Bridge) from the bus road. On the side of the bridge is a stone monument inscribed "大本山円覚寺," Daihonzan Engakuji. The temple gate approach bisects a pond called Byakurochi (白鷺池), literally, "White Egret Pond," and the area is designated a Place of Scenic Beauty by the government. Legend has it that the deity of Tsurugaoka Hachiman, in the form of a white egret (shirasagi or byakuro, 白鷺), led Mugaku Sogen to the pond and that was how it acquired the name, Byakurochi. Unfortunately, construction of the Yokosuka Line in 1889 reduced the pond to almost half its original size.
Beyond the pond and the Yokosuka Line tracks is a flight of stone steps leading up to the Somon Gate (惣門). A wooden plaque hangs on the beam of the Somon Gate, bearing the inscription 瑞鹿山, Zuirokuzan, the temple sango (山号), and the characters are in the handwriting of Emperor Go-Tsuchimikado (後土御門天皇, 1442-1500). The gate's wooden doors once belonged to the Outer Gate.
The massive Sammon Gate is beyond the stone steps lined with tall Japanese cedars. This gate, rebuilt around 1783, is two-storied and has a roof covered with copper. A wooden plaque under the eaves has the inscription 円覚興聖禅寺 Engaku Kosei Zenji in the handwriting of Emperor Fushimi (伏見上皇, 1265-1317), who at that time was already in retirement.
The Butsuden Hall (仏殿, Main Hall), beyond the Sammon Gate, is behind a stand of junipers. Rebuilt in 1964 after the original was destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the hall is constructed of reinforced concrete. Its actual design, though, is an exact copy of an old plan from 1573, making it worthwhile to take a close look at the structure and details. The writing on a plaque above the front entrance reads 大光明宝殿Daikomyohoden and is in the hand of Emperor Go-Kogon (後光厳天皇, 1338-74).
A seated statue of Hokan Shaka Nyorai (宝冠釈迦如来 Shakyamuni with a Jeweled Crown) in the center of the hall was made in the late Kamakura period (1185/92-1333). The attendants, Bonten (梵天) and Taishakuten (帝釈天), were made in 1692. On the ceiling is a painting of a dragon among clouds, Unryu no Zu (雲竜の図), painted by Moriya Tadashi (守屋多々志) under the supervision of Maeda Seison (前田青邨, 1885-1977).
A thatch-roofed hall Sembutsudo Hall (選仏堂), which was built in 1699 as a place of Zen meditation and a sutra repository, is to the left of Butsuden Hall. The Kojirin (居士林), also a structure for Zen meditation, stands next to Sembutsudo. It is open to the public. A Karamon Gate (唐門), also called Chokushimon (勅使門), stands on the raised ground beyond. The term karamon refers to a gate with a gently curved gable, kara-hafu (唐破風). Kara means China, and hafu means gable, but the style is of Japanese origin despite the use of the word kara. The gate carvings are elaborate and worth a close look.
The Hojo Hall (方丈), the head priest's living quarters, stands behind the gate, and beyond the hall is a garden with a pond formed in the shape of the character "心." The character is pronounced shin or kokoro (meaning heart), and a pond of this shape is called shinji-ike (心字池), "shin-character pond." In the Hojo Hall, temple treasures are displayed to the public in early November. Myokochi Pond (妙香池), is further up to the left. This has been designated a Place of Scenic Beauty by the government. On the bank beyond the pond is Kotogan Rock (虎頭岩), literally, "Tiger Head Rock.
Further up are several sub-temples: Shozokuin (正続院) with its Shariden Hall (舎利殿), Butsunichian (仏日庵), and Obaiin (黄梅院). All are worth visiting and are mentioned below in the section on sub-temples.
One of the notable features of Engakuji Temple is its bell, designated a National Treasure. It is located beside the Bentendo Hall (弁天堂) on the hillside to the right of the Butsuden Hall. The 2.6-meter-high bell was made by Mononobe Kunimitsu (物部国光), a caster, by order of Hojo Sadatoki (北条貞時, 1271-1311), the ninth regent, and is inscribed, 正安三年 (corresponding to 1301). The bell, typical of the Kamakura period, is the largest in the Kanto region. A waniguchi gong (鰐口), literally "crocodile mouth," that hangs in the belfry, has the inscription 天文九年 (corresponding to 1540) and is designated an Important Cultural Property by Kanagawa Prefecture. Bentendo Hall itself was built to commemorate a legend that says the bell was cast successfully, thanks to the divine protection of the Benzaiten on Enoshima Island.
The Sub-Temples, or Tatchu (塔頭)
It is said that there were as many as 41 sub-temples, but only 17 remain, most of which are not open to the public. The following six subtemples are introduced.
Shozokuin is situated to the left beyond Myokochi Pond. Immediately to the right behind the gate are a hall and subsidiary buildings, which served as a sub-temple for Mugaku Sogen, the founding priest.
The structures were transferred from Kenchoji Temple. In the same area are the Shariden Hall (舎利殿, a hall for the remains of Shakyamuni), designated a National Treasure; Kaisando Hall (Founder's Hall), which houses a statue of Bukko Kokushi (a.k.a. Mugaku Sogen); and a shumidan platform (須弥壇, a platform on which Buddhist images are displayed); and a hall for Zen meditation, Shobogendo (正法眼堂).
The original Shariden Hall was built in 1285 by Hojo Sadatoki (北条貞時, 1271-1311), but burned down in 1563. The present-day structure was once the Butsuden Hall of a convent, Taiheiji (太平寺), in Nishimikado (西御門), before being transferred to the present location. The structure is typical of kara-yo (唐様, literally, Chinese-style architecture), which is also called Zenshu-yo (禅宗様, Zen-sect-style architecture), and was introduced from China along with Zen Buddhism in the Kamakura period.
The Hall has a thick, shingled roof with elaborate rafters and brackets, finely-worked doors, transoms and windows, and is often described as elegant, splendid and feminine. The relic of Shakyamuni enshrined in this hall was supposedly presented by Noninji Temple in China during the Sung dynasty
Butsunichian is located next to Shozokuin on the same side. It is the mausoleum of Hojo Tokimune, the eighth regent, and later served as the mausoleum of the head family, tokuso (得宗), of the Hojo.
The Main Hall, built in the Edo period, houses three wooden statues: one each of Tokimune, Sadatoki, and Takatoki (高時, 1303-33, the 14th regent), all dressed as priests, along with a seated Eleven-faced Kannon statue. Within the courtyard are two other structures, one called Insokuken (烟足軒), the other Fukoan (不顧庵). A tea ceremony is held on the fourth day of every month to commemorate the day Tokimune died.
Keishoan is located immediately to the left from the Somon Gate. The hall, also called Juodo Hall (十王堂), is dedicated to Shosen Dokin (承先道欽). Statues of the Ten Kings in Hades, including Emma Daio (閻魔大王), are enshrined. A drill hall for Japanese archery is attached.
Shoreiin is situated to the left between Keishoan and the Sammon Gate and is dedicated to Shukuetsu Zen'eki (淑悦禅懌), the one hundred fiftieth head priest, who died in 1535. Originally, the sub-temple was called Fukanken (不閑軒). There is a peony garden within the grounds. Arishima Takeo (有島武郎, 1878-1923), a novelist, wrote the latter part of Aru Onna, (或る女, A Certain Woman), his best known novel, here. The graveyard is the resting place for some well-known personalities: Nakayama Gishu (中山義秀, 1900-69), a novelist, Kaiko Ken (開高健, 1930-89), a novelist and essayist, Shimizu Kon (清水昆, 1912-74), a cartoonist, Sada Keiji (佐田啓二, 1926-64), a film actor, and Tanaka Kinuyo (田中絹代, 1909-77), a film actress and director, to name only a few.
Obaiin is located at the end of a path that runs up toward the hills at the rear of the temple grounds. The structure was built for Muso Soseki by Hogai Koen (方外宏遠), Soseki's disciple. The Main Hall houses a wooden statue of Soseki and an image of Yakushi Nyorai (薬師如来). At the far side of the courtyard is Kannondo Hall, also called Buzando (武山堂), which houses a statue of Kannon brought from China. The garden is small but worth visiting because of the abundance of seasonal flowers and blossoms.
Kigen'in, dedicated to Ketsuo Zeei (傑翁是英), a.k.a. Butsukei Zenjin (仏恵禅師), is located on the hillside to the right from the Sammon Gate. References to Kigen'in are found in two novels: Haru (春, Spring) by Shimazaki Toson (島崎藤村, 1872-1943) and Mon, (門,The Gate), by Natsume Soseki. Both authors stayed here temporarily while writing their works. In Mon, Soseki vicariously confesses through the main character that he was unable to attain enlightenment.
Temple Treasures: Engakuji is a major repository of Buddhist treasures. These include items connected with Mugaku Sogen, the founding priest, and Hojo Tokimune, the founding patron, as well as paintings, sculptures, and objects used in Buddhist rituals. Old documents from medieval times, Engakuji Monjo (円覚寺文書, Documents of Engakuji Temple), are well known and designated Important Cultural Properties. Of similar design are a wooden seated statue of Bukko Kokushi, several paintings of the Five Hundred Arhats (五百羅漢), an incense burner, and letters by Hojo Tokimune. These treasures are not usually on display, but most of them can be viewed on November 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, when they are aired.
Full name: Shokozan Tokeiji (松岡山 東慶寺)
Denomination: Rinzai Zen sect
Location: The temple is situated some 200 meters south of Kita-Kamakura Station.
History: The temple was founded in 1285 by Hojo Sadatoki (北条貞時, 1271-1311), the ninth regent and the son of Hojo Tokimune.
The founding abbess was Kakusan Shido (覚山志道, 1252-1306), the wife of Tokimune. She was also called Kakusan Ni (覚山尼). She became a nun and entered this temple as the founding nun when her husband, Tokimune, took the tonsure.
A law called Engiridera-ho (縁切寺法temple divorce code) is credited to her. (However, another theory regarding the temple founding says that Mino no Tsubone (美濃局), the aunt of Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝, 1147-99), founded the temple, and later, Kakusan Ni re-established it as a Zen temple.)
In the olden days, a woman could not initiate a divorce unless her husband agreed, even though he might have been rough, violent, or inconsiderate. Thus, many women had to endure misfortune all their lives. To improve the situation, the temple was built so as to enable a woman to part from her husband on the condition that she stay here for three full years (later reduced to two) and observe the temple's rules to the letter.
As soon as a woman entered the temple she was questioned about her entire situation by temple officials, and then her husband, father, and brothers were summoned through the headman of their town or village. All the parties concerned were questioned within the temple. When all present agreed that the couple should part, the husband wrote an oath to the effect that they were no longer husband and wife. Because many women fled to the temple to escape husbands in hot pursuit, the temple came to be called Kakekomidera or Kakeiridera, literally, Run-in Temple.
After Kakusan Ni, other celebrated women succeeded to the position of abbess. The fifth abbess, Yodo Ni (用堂尼, ?-1396), was the daughter of Emperor Go-Daigo (後醍醐天皇, 1288-1339), and an elder sister of Prince Morinaga (護良親王, 1308-35), a.k.a. Moriyoshi. She is said to have entered the temple to pray for the repose of the soul of her brother, who was killed by Ashikaga Tadayoshi (足利直義, 1306-52). It was at this time the temple also came to be called Matsugaoka Gosho (松ケ岡御所).
The 20th abbess was Tenshu Ni (天秀尼, 1609-45), the daughter of Toyotomi Hideyori (豊臣秀頼, 1593-1615) and granddaughter of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉, 1536-98). In 1615, she retired here after Osaka Castle, her home, was destroyed by Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康, 1542-1616). (Earlier, in 1598, after Hideyoshi died, the Toyotomi and the Tokugawa became rivals for control of the country. The Toyotomi held themselves in Osaka Castle to fight off the Tokugawa, but eventually the castle was destroyed and many of the Toyotomi were killed. This was how Tokugawa Ieyasu brought about the unification of Japan.) In the Edo period, many women were granted refuge by the temple and the number, it is said, increased toward the end of the period.
The temple owned large tracts of land in the Edo period, including the present grounds of Kamakuragu Shrine in Nikaido (二階堂). As the tomb of Prince Morinaga was under the care of this temple, Kamakuragu Shrine was built in Nikaido in the Meiji period and dedicated to the prince.
In 1903, Tokeiji was converted from a convent to a temple under Furukawa Gyodo (古川尭道, 1872-1961).
Temple Grounds: At the corner of the approach is a gatepost with the characters 松ケ岡 (Matsugaoka), which is another name for the temple deriving from the sango, 松岡山 (Shokosan). The temple is also popularly known as Kakekomidera (駆け込み寺), "Refuge Temple" or Kakeiridera (駆け入り寺), "Run-in Temple", and, additionally, Engiridera (縁切り寺), "Divorce Temple."
By taking the approach lined with pine trees and a flight of stone steps, you will see a thatched Sammon Gate at the top. Beyond the gate to the left is a belfry. The bell, brought from Fudarakuji Temple (補陀洛寺), bears the era name 観応元年 (corresponding to 1350).
The Butsuden Hall, called Taiheiden (太平殿), is built in the hogyo-zukuri style (方形造り), four equal sides and a square roof with the four slopes meeting in a point at the top. The Hall possesses statues of Shaka Nyorai, Kakusan Ni, and Yodo Ni.
The Kannondo Hall, also called Suigetsudo (水月堂), houses images of Suigetsu Kannon (水月観音) and Shotoku Taishi (聖徳太子, 574-622). The former, made in the Muromachi period, has an elegant and delicate demeanor, and is designated an Important Cultural Property by Kanagawa Prefecture.
Further to the left is a treasure hall called Matsugaoka-hozo (松ガ岡宝蔵). Among the many fine items here is the statue of Sho Kannon (聖観 - designated an Important Cultural Property), made under the influence of Sung (宋) China, with decorative clay patterns on its robe.
Hatsune Makie Hitorimo (初音蒔絵火取母), also an Important Cultural Property, is a pumpkin-shaped incense burner with six rounded sides and is presumed to have been made in the Muromachi period.
Budo Makie Seibei-bako (葡萄蒔絵聖餅箱), a rare item related to Christianity, is a box for the sacramental wafer and is designated an Important Cultural Property. It is a cylindrical, gold-lacquered mother-of-pearl container with an exotic design. On the lid are the letters (IHS,( an acronym for Jesus, with a flower designed in the shape of a cross and three thorns symbolizing the Passion, all encircled by a halo.
Other objects are umpan (雲版) - a gold-lacquered box, a painting of Tenshu Ni, some old documents, and written oaths of divorce.
To the right on the hillside just after the treasure house is a library called Matsugaoka Bunko (松ガ岡文庫). It was built in 1941 and possesses materials related to the world-famous Zen Buddhist philosopher, Suzuki Daisetsu. It is not open to the public.
There are cemeteries at the rear of the grounds. One of them can be reached by taking the stone steps up the hillside to the right, and you will see tombs of successive abbesses: that of Tenshu Ni, the biggest in the center, and of Yodo Ni and Kakusan Ni in the caves behind. In another cemetery are the tombs of many celebrated persons: famous scholars, literary men and women, and business people.
Among them are Nishida Kitaro (西田幾多郎、philosopher, 1870-1945); Suzuki Daisetsu (鈴木大拙、philosopher, 1870-1966); Watsuji Tetsuro (和辻哲郎、philosopher, 1889-1960); Tamura Toshiko (田村俊子、novelist, 1884-1945); Nogami Yaeko (野上弥生子、novelist, 1885-1985); Takami Jun (高見順、novelist, 1907-65); Ota Mizuho (太田瑞穂、poet, 1876-1955); Nogami Toyoichiro (野上豊一郎、Noh scholar, 1883-1950); Maeda Seison (前田青邨、Japanese-style painter, 1885-1977); Kobayashi Hideo (小林秀雄、critic, 1902-83); Nakagawa Zennosuke (中川善之助、law scholar, 1897-1975); Iwanami Shigeo (岩波茂雄、founder of Iwanami Shoten Publishing Company, 1881-1946); Abe Yoshishige (安倍能成、philosopher and educator, 1883-1966) and Daimatsu Hirofumi (大松博文、 1921-78), to name only a few.
The Butsuden Hall that was once in these grounds was transferred to Sankeien Park in Yokohama. It was a typical, late-Muromachi Zen-style work.
Full name: Kinposan (金宝(or 峰)山) Jochiji
Denomination: Rinzai sect (臨済宗)
Location: Some 400 meters south of Kita-Kamakura Station
History: The temple was built around 1281. Its founders were Hojo Munemasa (北条宗政, 1253-81), the third son of Hojo Tokiyori, and Hojo Morotoki（北条師時, 1275-1311）, a grandson of Tokiyori. There were two founding priests, Gottan Funei (兀菴普寧, ?-1276) and Daikyu Shonen (大休正念, a.k.a. Butsugen Zenji 仏源禅師, 1215-1289), and one sub-founder, Nanshu Kokai （南洲宏海, a.k.a. Shin'o Zenji, 真応禅師, ?-1303）.
A story connected with these founders relates that when Munemasa died young, his wife had a temple built in his honor, appointing her late husband and her son, Morotoki, as its patrons, and inviting Kokai to be the founding priest. Kokai declined the honor, explaining that he felt himself too young and immature to accept it. Instead, he then asked his master, Shonen, to assume the position, but Shonen in turn passed the honor on to his own teacher, Funei.
Grounds and structures: The temple sits back about 50 meters from the main road. Greenery abounds within the precincts, which have the atmosphere of an old Zen temple. The area is designated a National Historic Site.
A weathered bridge spans a small, old pond, and to the left is Kanro no I Well (甘露ノ井), one of the ten famous wells of old Kamakura.
The Somon Gate is visible from here. A plaque on the gate bears the characters 寶所在近, hosho-zaikin. They were written by Mugaku Sogen and mean, in today's parlance, that the treasure one seeks is to be found nowhere other than in one's own backyard.
Beyond the Somon Gate and a flight of stone steps stands a two-story Sammon Gate. The structure is very rare because of the belfry on the second story, which contains a bell made in 1340.
Beyond the gate and to the right is the Butsuden Hall (仏殿), called Dongeden (曇華殿). Enshrined inside are three images of Buddha: Amida (阿弥陀), Shaka (釈迦), and Miroku (弥勒), who are believed to preside in the past, present and future worlds, respectively.
The temple is not so large now, but in its heyday it had eleven sub-temples and a large number of monks served here. Regarded as one of the five great Zen temples of Kamakura, it ranked fourth in prosperity.
Visitors are free to stroll around the grounds from the left side of the Butsuden Hall. Beyond the hall are many old trees, among which are koya-maki (高野槙) and hakuumboku (白雲木 or sarasoju, 沙羅双樹).
At the rear of the grounds is a stone statue of Hoteison (布袋尊), the god of Good Fortune, who is also one of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune in the Kamakura and Enoshima area.
The Seven Gods are Benzaiten (弁才天) at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Hoteison at Jochiji Temple, Jurojin (寿老人) at Myoryuji Temple (妙隆寺), Ebisu (恵比寿) at Hongakuji Temple (本覚寺), Bishamonten (毘沙門天) at An'yoin Temple (安養院), Daikokuten (大黒天) at Hasedera Temple (長谷寺), and Fukurokuju (福禄寿) at Goryo Jinja Shrine (御霊神社) in Hase. The Benzaiten on Enoshima Island (江ノ島) is also included among these Seven Gods.
The temple treasures are an image of Jizo Bosatsu dating from the Kamakura period (an Important Cultural Property), and a Letter of Solicitation (an Important Cultural Property) by Gyokuin Eiyo for the repair of Sairaian Hermitage (西来庵) at Kenchoji Temple. Both are presently on loan to Kamakura Kokuhokan (鎌倉国宝館).
Location: 0.2 kilometers north-east of JR Kikatamakura Station.
History: The shrine was originally called Gozu Tennosha (牛頭天王社) and was dedicated to Susanoo no Mikoto (素盞鳴命), a legendary deity in Japanese mythology. In the middle of the fifteenth century, Uesugi Norifusa (上杉憲房, 1467-1525) replaced the shrine with the deity of Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社) in Kyoto, and gave the new shrine the name Yakumo Shrine. In those days the Yamanouchi Uesugi family (山ノ内上杉), to which Norifusa belonged, and the Ogigayatsu Uesugi (扇ガ谷上杉) were vying for power in Kamakura-fu (鎌倉府). Norifusa allegedly had the shrine rebuilt in the hope of success in the power struggle and to prevent the spread of the plague.
Grounds and structures: On the top of a flight of stone steps stands a shrine dedicated to a tutelary deity of the Yamanouchi area.
Beyond the torii (鳥居), shrine gate, are four structures: Honden (Main Hall), Haiden (Worship Hall), massha (末社, subordinate shrine), and a repository for a mikoshi (神輿), portable shrine.
Behind the repository for the portable shrine is a koshinto-type (庚申塔) stone monument with the inscription "寛文五年" (corresponding to 1665) along with ten other monuments. It is well known because it is the oldest and the largest for its kind in Kamakura.
The shrine festival is held from the 15th through the 20th of July every year, in which the passage of the portable shrine has been restored. Formerly five men and two women, who wore masks (made in 1840) and costumes of those days, marched in a procession, but it is discontinued. Now these masks are on display on the roadside.
Seimei no Ishi Stone (清明の石)
Within the grounds of Yakumo Shrine is a large stone, around which one barely put one's arms. It is called Seimei no Ishi and is deified. The stone was transferred from a location nearby the Juodobashi Bridge (十王堂橋).
The "Seimei" in Seimei no Ishi derives from a celebrated ommyoji (陰陽師), an ancient fortuneteller, named Abe no Seimei (安倍清明, 921-1005), who lived in the Heian period. The ommyodo (陰陽道), literally, "the way of yin (being negative or passive, 陰 in Japanese) and yang (being positive or active, 陽 in Japanese)," evolved mainly in the seventh century after the introduction of the ancient Chinese theories of yin and yang and the five elements (wood, fire, earth, gold, and water) which compose the universe. According to this belief, the ebb and flow of yin and yang bring about all natural and social phenomena in the world. Even today, the date of a wedding or a funeral service, the start of construction for a new house and other important events are often decided in accordance with this theory of yin and yang.
Legend says that if people step on this Seimei no Ishi Stone unwittingly, their legs will become strong; but if the same thing is done knowingly, their legs or health will weaken. Local people have deified the stone, believing that it protects them from fire and any kind of disaster.