Translated by Satomi Ohba
Kamakura, Hokokuji: A Secluded And Fascinating Bamboo Temple
Written by Ito Kentaro
Hōkoku-ji Temple is a fascinating, hidden spot found by Kamakura station. Known as the Bamboo Temple, this scenic spot is highly recommended for those wanting some inner peace.
A Fascinating Bamboo Temple
A beautiful temple stands in the midst of an ordinary residential area. The name of this temple is Hokoku-ji and it is known overseas as the Bamboo Temple. Some visitors may even say: "We come here for the Bamboo Temple!" And they have a very good reason for calling it such: what's truly special about this place is the Bamboo Garden behind the main temple.
It’s a bit far from the center of Kamakura; and it's not the easiest place to access. Therefore, there are fewer people here compared to other major tourist spots, so you can relax and enjoy yourself while visiting the temple.
Entrance to Another World
A 30-40 minute walk from Kamakura Station; it is far, and the route is complicated. Even locals would think twice about heading there on foot, some might simply shrug it off. It might not be long til you start to think: “Can’t we just go to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu instead?”
Hokoku-ji stands in the middle of a really ordinary residential area. "Is this really the right way?" will be the question in your mind just before you see the temple gates of Hokoku-ji.
Walk along the path to the main temple building.
"It’s smaller than I thought." Well, don’t let it be your final verdict! The beautiful bamboo grove is behind the main temple. The entrance to the garden is to the left of the main temple itself.
The Bamboo Grove
Upon seeing this stunning grove spread out before you, you may find yourself at a loss for words.
Look up, and above your head is a sky covered by rich bamboo greenery. If you are too focused on the sights above you, you just might trip on some bamboo roots which are spread out and hard to spot, so please be careful.
You’re not the only one gazing upwards either, although if you are lucky, you might have some time to yourself to appreciate the grove.
A Blissful Time in a Bamboo World
There is a tea house in the bamboo garden. You can drink great matcha tea and have some sweets if you pay 500 yen at the garden entrance. This fee is separate from the temple admission fee.
A certain calmness will settle upon you from the soothing sounds of the grove: the bamboo leaves gently rustling in the wind; the birds chirping in the distance; the soft echo of wind current in this quiet place.
Matcha is served on a Kamakura-bori tray, a traditional carving technique from Kamakura which has been made on gingko tree wood. This could be the best matcha I've ever had.
“...I’m glad that I came” I said to myself. All the complaints I had about the walk before were forgotten.
On a clear day, the sunlight shining through branches is mystic. On a rainy or cloudy day, the somber garden has a solemn air. The garden shows a different face each day so that in any kind of weather, you can situate yourself in a special atmosphere that you can’t find anywhere else.
Once you relax in the simple scenery of roughly 2000 bamboo, you might discover that you've gotten a bit tired from being surrounded by all the things in your everyday life.
The temple is not that big. If a lot of people were come to the temple, it would be so crowded that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the bamboo forest in peace. But luckily the temple is far from the central area, so the only people who come are the ones that think "I’m going there no matter what, even if it’s far from Kamakura Station!"
This remoteness may be the key to how Hokoku-ji's charm is preserved.
You can reach Hokoku-ji by bus as well, however, to fully enjoy the beauty of the bamboo grove at its best, it’s best to travel the “ordinary everyday roads” first. You just might better appreciate the mystic nature of this secret temple that way.
Address: 2-7-4 Jomyoji, Kamakura, Kanagawa
Closed: from 12/29 to 1/3
Other Languages: Japanese
Information in Other Languages: English pamphlets
Nearest Station: JR Yokosuka line Kamakura station
Access: 12 minute ride by Keikyu bus (#23 bus) from JR Kamakura station to Jomyoji bus stop, 3 minute walk from the bus stop
Price: Admission fee 200 yen, Matcha (with sweets) 500 yen
Religion: Buddhism, Rinzai Sect