Meigetsu-in (明月院), or officially Fugenzan Meigetsu-in (福源山明月院), is a Zen temple of the Kenchoji branch of the Rinzai school, one of the three Zen sects of Japan. The temple, famous for its irises and hydrangea (紫陽花 ajisai) is also known as Ajisai-dera. Hydrangea bloom in Japan's rainy season (from mid-June to mid-July) which is also when most visitors descend on Meigetsu-in.

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History


In 1160, Yamanouchi Tsunetoshi built a memorial for his father Toshimichi who had died a year earlier during the Heiji Rebellion and called it Meigetsu-an, the Hermitage of the Bright Moon. Later in 1256, Hōjō Tokiyori (北条時頼, 1227-1263), the fifth shikken (regent) of the Kamakura shogunate, founded Saimyō-ji slightly northwest of present-day Meigetsu-in, a small temple where he spent the rest of his days studying Zen. Tokiyuri attained priesthood at the age of 30 and died only seven years later. His grave can still be seen on the temple grounds.

Tokiyori's son Tokimune (北条 時宗, 1251-1284) constructed a new temple called Zenkō-ji (西明寺), a vast complex that existed until the anti-Buddhist riots in the early Meiji Period. In 1380, shōgun Ashikaga Ujimitsu ordered Uesugi Norikata (上杉憲方, 1335–1394), a member of the Yamanouchi branch of the Uesugi clan, to expand Zenkō-ji by adding new buildings and subtemples. Meigetsu-an which served as Zenkō-ji's guest quarters was later renamed to Meigetsu-in and became a subsidiary of Zenkō-ji. The temple was abolished after the Meiji Restoration (1867), and only the Meigetsu-in remains to present day.

The main image of worship is Shō Kannon, a bodhisattva that embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

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Gesshoken tea house (お茶屋 月笑軒) at Meigetsu-in

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A small subtemple at Meigetsu-in

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The Main Hall (本堂 hondō) of Meigetsu-in

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Karesansui Teien Garden (枯山水庭園), a dry landscape garden at Meigetsu-in

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The Founder's Hall (開山kaisandō) was built in 1380 and enshrines a wooden sculpture of Misshitsu Shugon (密室守厳), the founder of Meigetsu-in and the fifth-generation dharma descendant of Rankei Dōryu (蘭渓道隆), the founder of Kencho-ji (建長寺).

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Meigetsuin Yagura (明月院やぐら) with 16 arhat (sculptures of people who have achieved nirvana). Yagura are caves dug into the rock.

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One of the Ten Wells of Kamakura, the Tsurubei-no-I (瓶の井).

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Jizō (地蔵) statues at Meigetsu-in

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A bamboo grove at Meigetsu-in

Access:

A leisurely 10-minute walk from JR Kita-Kamakura Station (Yokosuka Line, Shōnan–Shinjuku Line); follow the tracks on the left side (passing Engaku-ji), take a left turn at a small brook.

Address:

189 Yamanouchi, Kamakura 247-0062

Admission:

300 JPY (500 JPY in June when the hydrangea are in bloom), hours: 09:00-16:00 (June: 08:30-17:00)


References:

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

Map: