Kamakura Visitor's Guide

Tourist spots

Tourist spots

Gokurakuji Temple


Gokurakuji is the only Shingon Ritsu temple in Kamakura. The Shingon Ritsu school is a branch of a denomination of the dominant Japanese esoteric Buddhist sect (i.e., Shingon), which experienced tremendous growth and a penetration of the six schools of Nara Buddhism during the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, a period during which the efforts by Eison 叡尊 (1201-1290) at Saidaiji 西大寺 and Kakujō 覚盛 (1194-1249) at Tōshōdaiji 唐招提寺 to restore the vinaya tradition in Japan resulted in increased sectarianism. Gokurakuji was initially built in 1259 by Hōjō Shigetoki (1198-1261), who was the third son of Hōjō Yoshitoki (1163-1224), the regent of the Kamakura shogunate, and head of the Hōjō clan. Soon after the establishment of Gokurakuji, Ninshō Shōnin (1217-1303) was invited to serve as the first head monk. He erected seven main buildings in the temple compound and built many sub-temples. He also ordered the building of medical clinics, which provided medicated baths and nursing care for the injured and those with infectious diseases, especially leprosy. Moreover, he established animal clinics for sick and injured horses and cattle. In addition to his contributions to social welfare, throughout his lifetime, he labored for the public good by building a river-spanning bridge and expanding road networks and improving the supply of water. Ninshō Shōnin died in 1303, and in 1328 Emperor Godaigo 後醍醐天皇 (1288-1339 r. 1318-1339) posthumously bestowed upon Ninshō Shōnin the distinguished Buddhist title of Bodhisattva in recognition of his great achievements. Although Gokurakuji has suffered numerous disasters since its construction in the thirteenth century, the prosperity it enjoyed during its heyday is indicated by a herb bowl and a giant mortar used to grind enough tea for a thousand servings, both of which remain today in the temple's possession.


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3-6-7 Gokurakuji, Kamakura City
9:00 - 16:30 (treasure house: 10:00 - 16:00)
(The treasure house is open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday during 4/25 - 5/25 and 10/25 - 11/25) Admission: ¥300
[Spring] Yoshino cherry tree, Japanese wisteria
[Summer] Hydrangea, lotus blossom
[Autumn] Cluster amaryllis, sasanqua
[Winter] Plum, daphne
Special Events: Viewing the Sakyamuni (April 7 - 9), grave tower for the founder Ninsho Bosatsu (April 8)
Activities: Ceremonial tea and traditional incense smelling training
Public toilet
Photography is prohibited
A 2--minute walk from Enoden Gokurakuji station.

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