The great Buddhists temple of Hasedera in the city of Kamakura to the south west of Tokyo has one of the greatest prayer wheels (マニ車 in Japanese) that I have ever seen in Japan. Housed in its own protective building, the house is centered on a giant prayer wheel made in wood joinery itself housing tens of thousands of handwritten pray slips, visible when the little door in the walls and the wheel itself are open. On the 18th of every month the wheel may be turned by members of the public, but on other days ordinary people can still use the prayer wheels attached to the walls. Prayer wheels are common in Tibetan Buddhism where the act of spinning a wheel containing a prayer is considered having the same effect as saying the prayer itself. Naturally one spin on this wheel is worth several weeks of actual praying!
The other weekend I visited Yuigahama Beach in Kamakura City to the south of Tokyo. Despite the cold winds and the chilly temperature in the ocean there were lots of surfers – just as usual. It is always interesting to go down there with a longer lens, something you can’t really do in summer for obvious reasons. A curious gentleman crow tried to join but as any beach goes knows, one does not bring for to the beaches of Japan! The crows are not as bad, it is the kites circling above you are more worried about.
When I visited Hasedera temple in Kamakura city the main hall was undergoing renovation so I couldn’t get any good photos of it. Instead I spent the time in the vast temple gardens, full of statues, little shrines, jizo, trees, flowers and plants of all kinds. The temple is famous for the hundreds of peonies grown there, not in bloom when I was visiting though, but the kawazusakura, the plum trees and many others were.
The jizo statues of which you see so many in Japan are meant to placate the soul of children lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion. The smaller ones are placed here by the parents, and they remain for a year before being removed, symbolizing the rebirth of the soul.
An interesting detail is the Manjiike (卍池), a swastika cross shaped pond. In buddhism the symbol represents eternity, and in Japan it has the added meaning of 10 000, which symbolizes “everything, the universe, the alpha and the omega”.
Most likely founded in 736 A.D., the vast Hasedera Temple is today one of the main tourist attractions of Kamakura City to the south-west of Tokyo. Hasedera is one of the most important temples in a city that is famous for them. The temples main draw, apart from its scenic location is it’s masssive over nine meters tall wooden eleven-headed kannon statue. Due to a camera ban inside the temple itself I could not take any photos of it though. From the top of the temple grounds you get a pretty good view of the city and the beach.
According to the legend, a monk named Tokudo carved two statues out of a giant camphor tree in 721 A.D. One was enshrined in Nara and the other statue was set adrift in the ocean to find its own way to its home. Apparently it washed up in Kamakura and was carried up to the location of today’s Hasedera.
The temple is also famous for its many statues, jizo and impressive gardens. More photos to come!