Translated by Richard Perkins
Meigetsuin Temple, Kamakura - Japanese Aesthetics At Their Finest
Kita-Kamakura is the next station after Kamakura Station. In this area, there are many great places where you can experience Japanese culture, but we especially recommend Meigetsuin Temple, a place that is full of seasonal beauty.
Written by Naoko Matsumoto
Kita-Kamakura is the next station after Kamakura Station. For those who would like to enjoy Japanese culture, this is a charming city that doesn’t fall behind Kamakura in terms of history or beauty. Here, a number of historical temples and shrines, fashionable cafes, and stores selling miscellaneous items line the streets.
Out of all of these spots in Northern Kamakura, there is one spot in particular that we recommend to those who have yet to experience this city. That spot is the temple known as Meigetsuin.
The Japanese garden at Meigetsuin
It Was Originally Part of Another Temple?
Originally, Meigetsuin wasn’t its own temple. In the 14th century a larger temple known as Zenkoji was built in the same area. Meigetsuin was one of the temple buildings in the grounds there. Halfway through the 17th century Zenkoji was torn down, but for whatever reason Meigetsuin was preserved. It has gradually developed in the temple we can see today.
Not Just the Hydrangeas! - The Charm of Meigetsuin
When it comes to Meigetsuin, the beautiful hydrangeas are well-known. MATCHA has mentioned these flowers before in a previous article.
Believe it or not, but the hydrangeas here were planted after World War II. Throughout Meigetsuin’s long history, the planting of these flowers is something that’s relatively recent.
Hydrangeas were planted because they’re easy to care for. They became famous by slowly gathering attention over time from visitors around Japan. June is when the hydrangeas are in full bloom, which is when many tourists visit Meigetsuin. During the weekends in June, there are large numbers of people that fill the streets from the temple all the way to Kita-Kamakura Station.
Meigetsuin is a spot that we’d like you to visit, the hydrangeas here are very beautiful. Having said that, June is a time of year in Japan when it rains a lot. It may be a little bit difficult for a first-timer to Kita-Kamakura to view this area while holding an umbrella. For those who visit Kita-Kamakura for the first time, we recommend that you avoid visiting Meigetsuin in June.
At Meigetsuin you can enjoy plum blossoms in the spring and autumn foliage in the fall. It’s not just the flowers that bloom, in the grounds here the Meigetsuin yagura (*1) is also worth seeing. People who were part of the upper class are buried here, such as samurais and monks. The yagura here is the biggest in Kamakura.
*1. Yagura: a type of burial inside of a cave that’s made by digging into a wall. You often find these in Kamakura.
The Round Window - A Symbol of Japanese Aesthetics
Above all else, the round window here that’s also featured in the Meigetsuin pamphlet is the most noted part of this temple. You can’t help but be struck with wonder when looking at this window straight on. Many of the people who visit this temple take photos of that beauty.
Another unique way of enjoying Meigetsuin is by searching for rabbit items. Believe it or not, but throughout the grounds here you can see a number of rabbit related ornaments. In the name of this temple there is a hidden secret. ‘Getsu’ means ‘moon’ in Japanese. You might say that the moon is a symbol for Meigetsuin.
From ancient times in Japan, it’s been believed that rabbits live on the moon. This folklore comes from the same shapes on the moon's surface that gave rise to the 'man in the moon' stories overseas. The association of Meigetsuin, the moon, and rabbits continues to this day, so a number of rabbit ornaments have been placed throughout this temple.
The entrance of Meigetsuin
For those who’d like to comfortably enjoy everyday Kita-Kamakura, please visit Meigetsuin where one can enjoy viewing the beauty of Japan. To first-timers though, we recommend avoiding the crowded season in June.
Meigetsuin (The Hydrangea Temple)
Address: Kamakura, Yamanouchi 189
Hours: 9:00 - 16:00
Nearest Station: JR Yokosuka line - Kita-Kamakura Station
Access: A 10-minute walk from Kita-Kamakura Station
Fee: 500 yen
Phone Number: 0467-24-3437
Official Site: -