The Hase Kannon Temple or Hasedera, located on a hill in Kamakura with a sweeping view of the sea, is home of a giant statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. According to tradition, the site of the temple was chosen by Kannon herself.
History of Hasedera
The remarkable Kannon statue at Hasedera was made from a single piece of camphor wood in the 8th century. According to legend, it was one of two images made from a huge camphor tree. One of the images was kept in Hase, near Nara, while the other was cast in the sea to decide for itself where it should be worshipped.
The image drifted for 300 miles before washing up on shore. But its first stop was evidently not the chosen place, as it brought bad luck or illness to everyone who touched it. Thrown back into the sea, it eventually reached Kamakura. Here there were no ill effects, so Hase Kannon Temple (named for the statue's "birthplace") was built to give it a permanent home.
What to See at Hasedera
Housed in the Kannondo (Kannon Hall), the gilded wood statue of Kannon is more than 9m (30 feet) high and is the tallest wooden image in Japan. It has 11 heads and each face has a different expression, representing Kannon's compassion for all kinds of human suffering.
The Kannondo also contains the Treasure House, which has artifacts from the Kamakura, Heian, Muromachi, and Edo periods.
Another statue housed at the Hasedera is of Amida, a Buddha who promised rebirth in the Pure Land to all who chant his name in devotion. Housed in the Amidado (Amida Hall) beside the Kannondo, it was commissioned by Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-99) on his 42nd birthday, which is considered an unlucky year for men.
Along the steps to the Kannondo are statues of a much less monumental size but perhaps greater visual impact. All around are rows of small statues of Jizo, the guardian deity of children. Historically, parents came to Hasedera to set up these statues in hopes the deity would protect and watch over their children.
Today, though, the Jizo statues represent the souls of miscarried, stillborn or aborted children. Some of the statues are dressed in bibs, hand-knitted caps and sweaters. More than 50,000 Jizo statues have been offered here since the war, but the thousand or so currently dipslayed will remain only a year before being burned or buried to make way for others. Jizo statues can be purchased on the temple grounds.
The temple grounds include an attractive garden and pond, with bamboo water fountain and stone lanterns. Near the pond is the Bentendo, a small hall that contains a figure of Benten (or Benzaiten), a Shinto goddess of feminine beauty and wealth.
Next to the Bentendo is the Bentenkutsu, a small cave with candle-lit sculptures of Benten and other minor gods.
The terrace next to the temple's main buildings provides an excellent view over Kamakura and out to sea. Nearby, a small restaurant offers Japanese sweets like mitarashi dango (rice flower dumplings in a sticky sauce made of sugar and soy) as well as small meals and beverages.
Hasedera is about a 10-minute walk uphill from the Daibutsu or a 5-minute walk from the Enoden Railway Hase Station.
Quick Facts on Hasedera
|Names:||Hase Kannon Temple · Hasedera|
|Dates:||statue: 8th C|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||35.312473° N, 139.532960° E|
|Hours:||daily 8am to 5:30pm (to 4:30pm in winter)|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Hasedera|
Map of Hasedera, Kamakura
Below is a location map and aerial view of Hasedera. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.