Engakuji Temple was established in 1282 to commemorate those who gave their lives fighting off the Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281. It quickly became one of Japan’s key Rinzai Zen temples, a position it still holds today.
It is also popular among locals and travelers as a place to enjoy the deep red of the autumn maple leaves, and is frequently crowded in early December when the trees are in full flush.
Engakuji Temple is a one-minute walk from JR Kita Kamakura Station, one stop north of JR Kamakura Station on the JR Yokosuka Line.
Engakuji was founded in 1282 by the regent Hojo Tokimune
Zen meditations are held on Sunday mornings
In autumn the Japanese maples in the temple grounds turn a deep red, making it a top spot for leaf-peeping
Parts of the temple have been designated National Treasures by the government, including the Shariden Hall where the Buddha’s ashes are said to be enshrined. The temple bell, a massive example cast in the 14th century hangs near the gate. The Shozoku-in building has stood since the founding of the temple and is still utilized for its original purpose, to train monks.
Given the temple’s importance and ongoing role within contemporary Buddhism, it isn’t surprising that not all areas are open to the public. The Shariden Hall is only open on the first three days of the year, but gaining access is difficult due to the enormous crowds who come there to pray. For the rest of the year, visitors have to make do with glimpses from afar.
Go early Sunday morning to participate in the Zen meditations held here (5:30-6:30 a.m., April through October and 6 a.m.-7 a.m., November through March). Note that the meditation is held in Japanese.