Excerpt taken directly From the Hasedera Temple web site:
The Origins of Kamakura’s Hasedera Temple
According to legend, in 721 AD the pious monk Tokudo Shonin discovered a large camphor tree in the mountain forests near the village of Hase in the Nara region. He realized the trunk of the tree was so large that it provided enough material for carving two statues of the eleven-headed Kannon. The statue he commissioned to be carved from the lower part of the truck was enshrined in Hasedera Temple near Nara; the statue from the upper half (actually the larger of the two) was thrown into the sea with a prayer that it would reappear to save the people. Fifteen years later in 736 on the night of June 18, it washed ashore at Nagai Beach on the Miura Peninsula not far from Kamakura, sending out rays of light as it did. The statue was then brought to Kamakura and a temple was constructed to honor it. Since time immemorial, Hasedera Temple has been known as the 4th station among the 33 holy places in the Kanto area.
When I planned my trip to Kamakura, Japan, I thought that the Big Buddha would be my favorite sight on the trip. Much to my surprise, the Hasedera Temple outshone all other sights! The story (above) helped tell the history of the temple and created a mysticism around its founding.
Photo credit: Hasedera Temple
Jizo is one of my favorite bodhivisattvas and is linked to unborn children, expectant mothers, and travelers. Jizo-san is everywhere in Japan and is often wearing caps and bibs to represent children. Sometimes people will even offer small toys at the sites of his statues. Jizo-san was present at Hasedera Temple.
Kannon is another of my favorite bodhivisattvas. She is said to be compassionate and listens to the pain of all people. A 30 foot tall sculpture of Kannon was present at Hasedera. She is covered in gold leafing. I took a photo, and later saw the ‘no pictures’ sign…(my bad)
Outside of Kannon-do hall, ema were available for expectant mothers. I purchased one and said a prayer for friends in America.
The final hall was actually not a hall at all, but a cave. It was here that I learned about Benten (Benzaiten) who is the female goddess associated with the 7 lucky gods. She is very busy as the: River Goddess, Water Goddess, Bestower of Language and Letters, Goddess of Wealth and Good Fortune, Patroness of Music Poetry Learning and Art, Defender of Nation, Protector of Buddhist Law and all around B A D A S S. The cave had multiple carvings of Benten.
Upon leaving I had the opportunity to post an Ema and I chose to do so honoring many of the awesome women in my life.
Along the paths are a couple of pretty famous (to Japan) statues that tourists take pictures with. I didn’t want to miss out!
Hasedera has additional buildings, gardens, and a pretty overlook of Kamakura, making its grounds relatively large. If you ever make it to Kamakura, I’d say start your trip here so as not to miss out on this amazing temple!