Hōkai-ji (宝戒寺), formally known as Kinryūzan Shakuman-in Endon Hōkai-ji (金龍山釈満院円頓宝戒寺), is a Buddhist temple of the Tendai school located in the Komachi district of Kamakura. It is also known as Hagidera (萩寺) as it is famous for the vast number of bush clover (hagi) blooming in its gardens in September.

Hōkai-ji is even more renowned for enshrining some 870 members of the Hōjō clan who under the last regent Hōjō Takatoki (北条高時, 1303-1333) ended their lives in the nearby Tōshō-ji (東勝寺). Tōshō-ji was the former Hōjō family temple that was destroyed in 1333 when Nitta Yoshisada (新田義貞, 1301-1338) and his pro-imperial resurgents attacked Kamakura and effectively ended the Kamakura shogunate.



Hōkai-ji was founded in 1335 by Ashikaga Takauji, the first shōgun of the Muromachi period, by order of Emperor Go-Daigo to placate the spirits of the fallen Hōjō. Yoshisada had attacked Kamakura by landing a superior force of mounted samurai at the southern beaches of Kamakura. Despite fierce resistance, the Hōjō forces were unable to withstand the onslaught. Takatoki assembled his clan members, including women and children, at Tōshō-ji, had the doors barricaded and set the temple on fire.

There, the samurai committed ritual suicide. Excavations conducted in the mid-1970s on the site of Tōshō-ji, about 200 metres southeast of Hōkai-ji, revealed roof tiles bearing the Hōjō family crest and other burned artefacts which indicate a major conflagration. While most of the area consists of residential buildings, the Takatoki harakiri yagura, a cave where the regent is said to have taken his life, and a gorintō (五輪塔), a five-tiered cenotaph, are still visible nowadays.



The location of Hōkai-ji was carefully chosen, as Komachi had been the former residence of the Kamakura regents. Enkan (円観 , 1281-1356), an eminent priest from Kyōto who had previously prayed for the demise of the Hōjō was installed as its founding priest. The temple was completed in 1353 under abbot Shokei-Yuiken but burned down in 1538. At the beginning of the Edo Period (1600-1867), the abbot Tenkan petitioned Tokugawa Ieyasu to put the temple under the protection of the shogunate.


The Hōjō family crest at the entrance to the temple.

The main object of worship is a statue of Jizō Bosatsu in the main hall (本堂 hondō). It was crafted in 1365 by Sanjo-Hoin-Ken-en (三条法印憲円), a famous sculptor from Kyōto, and holds a staff in its right hand and beads in its left. It is sedentary, about 91 centimetres in height and designated an Important Cultural Property. To its right and left are images of Taishakuten (帝釈天) and Bonten (梵天), in its front are statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld (十王 Ju-ō), Emma Daio (閻魔大王), and Hōjō Takatoki, among others. The main hall was built in 1932.


Jizō Bosatsu





The Taishidō (太子堂) is located on the right side right of the temple. "Taishi" refers to Prince Shōtoku, the regent for Empress Suiko who proclaimed Buddhism the state religion. Taishi Hall is dedicated to the memory of Prince Shōtoku whose statue is on display in the small hall. On 22 January plasterers, carpenters, and blacksmiths gather at the temple and hold a memorial service for the prince who erected seven famous temples in his lifetime, such as Hōryū-ji (法隆寺) in Nara and Shitennō-ji (四天王寺) in Osaka. The doors of Taishidō are emblazoned with the imperial chrysanthemum (see below).



Tokusō Daigongen (得宗大権現) is a shrine that was constructed on the temple grounds to pacify the spirits of the fallen Hōjō who according to legend haunted the area in the years after 1333. The shrine was rebuilt in 1992 and houses a statue of Hōjō Takatoki, the last clan leader and regent who was also the last to take his life. On 22 May each year, a memorial service is held for Takatoki in which his statue is carried to the Main Hall.

Tokusō (得宗) was the title held from 1256 to 1333 by the head of the Hōjō clan, who acted as shikken (regents to the shōgun) as well as de facto heads of the bakufu (shogunate) while the actual shōgun was nothing but a figurehead.


Tokusō Daigongen shrine

To the right of the main hall stands Kangitendō (歓喜天堂), Kangiten Hall, which enshrines a 152cm-tall statue of Kangiten, also known as Daishou kangiten (大聖歓喜天). Kangiten represents the elephant-headed Indian deity Ganesa, who is also sometimes called Nandikesvara, Ganapati or Vinayaka. It is depicted with two human bodies and two elephant faces that embrace each other. The rituals associated with Kangiten are secret and the statues are usually not on display. In popular belief, worship of Kanguten brings conjugal harmony and long life.


Hōkyōin-tō (宝篋印塔) is a memorial to the Hōjō who died at Tōshō-ji in 1333.

Tōshō-ji Temple (東勝寺)


Just a short distance from Hōkai-ji in Kasaigayatsu valley lies the site of the former Tōshō-ji, the family temple (菩提寺 bodaiji) of the Tokusō, the main line of the Hōjō. The temple was constructed in 1237 by Hōjō Yasutoki (北条泰時; 1183-1242), the third shikken (regent) of the Kamakura shogunate. It is very likely that the temple occupied the entire valley and that, based on its configuration and topography, it was not only conceived as a place of worship but as a fortress and last line of defence. In 1333, when Nitta Yoshisada attacked Kamakura, Hōjō Takatoki, his entire family and many followers, altogether 870 people, set the temple on fire and took their lives, ending the 150-year rule of the Hōjō and the Kamakura shogunate.


The location of the former Tōshō-ji

Excavations conducted in 1976, 1996 and 1997 revealed that the entire structure had burned down, as a 10-centimetre layer of coal and ashes covered all remains found in situ. The building was later reconstructed as a Zen temple and was listed in the Muromachi Period as the third of the ten most prominent temples of the Kantō region. It was given up in the Sengoku Period and later fell into disrepair.


The burial cave (北条高時腹切りやぐら Harakiri Yagura) of Hōjō Takatoki about 100 yards from the site of the former Tōshō-ji.


The site of the Hōjō Harakiri Yagura next to former Tōshō-ji Temple.


A memorial slab on the site of the Hōjō Harakiri Yagura

Links:


References:

  • Baldessari, Francesco, Kamakura: A Historical Guide, 2016
  • Mutsu, Iso, Kamakura: Fact and Legend, Tuttle 2012

Access:

A 15-minute walk from Kamakura Station (JR Yokosuka Line, Shōnan–Shinjuku Line).
Address: 3-5-22, Komachi, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0006; phone: 0467-22-5512, fax: 0467-22-5988.
Admission: open daily 08:00-16:30; 200 JPY (adults), 100 JPY (elementary and junior-high-school students).


Map: