Hase-dera (Kamakura)

Hase-dera (長谷寺) is one of the great Buddhist temples in the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, famous for housing a massive wooden statue of Kannon. The temple is the fourth of the 33 stations of the Bandō Sanjūsankasho pilgrimage circuit dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten. The temple originally belonged to the Tendai sect of Buddhism, but eventually became an independent temple of the Jōdo shū sect.The statue is one of the largest wooden statues in Japan, with a height of 9.18 metres (30.1 ft), and is made from camphor wood and gilded in gold. It has 11 heads, each of which represents a different phase in the search for enlightenment. According to legend, the statue is one of two images of Kannon carved by a monk named Tokudō in 721. The camphor tree was so large, according to legend, that he decided that he could carve two statues with it. One was enshrined in Hase-dera in the city of Nara, Yamato Province, while the other was set adrift in the sea to find the place that it had a karmic connection with. It washed ashore on Nagai Beach on the Miura Peninsula near Kamakura in the year 736. The statue was immediately brought to Kamakura where a temple was built to honor it.The temple also commands an impressive view over Kamakura's bay and is famous for its hydrangeas, which bloom along the Hydrangea Path in June and July. The temple is built on two levels and also includes an underground cave. The cave, called benten kutsu cave, contains a long winding tunnel with a low ceiling and various statues and devotionals to Benzaiten, the sea goddess and the only female of the Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese mythology. Kaikozan Hase-dera is also part of the Kamakura pilgrimage circuit, also consisting of 33 sites, and is station 4 of the 33 temples of the Kantō Pilgrimage.Hase-dera website [English] : http://www.hasedera.jp/words/english/e1.html