Tōkasan Jōmyō Zenji (稲荷山浄妙寺) is one of the Zen temples in Kamakura that belong to Kenchō-ji Temple of the Rinzai sect. Originally founded soon after Minamoto no Yoritomo's arrival in Kamakura as a temple of the Tendai school, it later turned to Rinzai Zen and grew fast under the Ashikaga when Jōmyō-ji had some 20 subtemples. It is the fifth temple of the Kamakura Gozan (鎌倉五山), the five temples that make up the "Kamakura Five Mountains", and among them the only one that has not been founded by a member of the Hōjō family.



Jōmyō-ji was founded in 1188 by Ashikaga Yoshikane (足利義兼, 1154-1199), a retainer of Yoritomo, under the priest Taikō Gyōyū (退耕行勇, 1163–1241). Gyōyū hailed from Sakawa (modern-day Odawara) and studied Shingon Buddhism at Tsurugaoka Hachiman Temple. In 1199, he became a disciple of Eisai to study Rinzai Zen and took over Jufuku-ji Temple (寿福寺) after Eisai's death.



Originally named Gokuraku-ji, a Tantric temple of the Tendai school, Jōmyō-ji converted to Zen Buddhism when Geppō Ryōnen, the founder of Kenchō-ji, became its head priest in 1253. The temple was renamed in 1321 with imperial permission. It is said that "Jōmyō-ji" was based on "Jōmyōjiden", the posthumous name of its sponsor Ashikaga Sadauji (足利貞氏, 1271-1331), the father of the future shōgun Takauji.


The hon-dō, the main hall, of Jōmyō-ji

According to the Taiheiki, a chronicle from the 14th century, Ashikaga Tadayoshi, Takauji's younger brother and rival, lived and died at the Jōmyō-ji, allegedly poisoned by his older brother. The temple started declining after Ashikaga Mochiuji (足利持氏, 1398–1439), the fourth Kantō kubō, had been defeated by shogunal forces dispatched from Kyōto. Kamakura and its temples had fallen into obscurity after Takauji moved the capital to Kyōto and would never regain their former glory and political importance.





Jōmyō-ji is famous for its tea house, the Kisen-an (喜泉庵), which was rebuilt in 1991, along with a small but pretty rock garden (枯山水, karesansui). Visitors can enjoy a cup of matcha (reservations required).



Near the temple, cemetery are the ruins of Kumano Daikyū-ji (熊野大休寺), Ashikaga Tadayoshi's family temple, built on the grounds of Tadayoshi's former residence. The yagura are the only relics preserved of Daikyū-ji. Yagura are artificial caves that held either tombs or cenotaphs of notable families, in this case, Tadayoshi's grave who was buried at Daikyū-ji.



Adjacent to the cemetery lies a picturesque restaurant that belongs to Jōmyō-ji, the Ishigama Garden Terrace.

Access:

10 minutes by Keikyu bus or a 20-minute walk from JR Kamakura Station (Yokosuka Line, Shōnan–Shinjuku Line).
Address: 3-8-31 Jōmyōji, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0003.
Admission: open 09:00-17:00.


References:

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

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