Reviews of bucket-list-worthy things to do all over the world

Kamakura’s Hase Temple

“Templed-out” is a term that I saw over and over again as I researched my 14-day trip to Japan. Tourists use the term to describe the experience of having visited so many shrines and temples that they begin to find themselves underwhelmed. Determined not to let that happen to my friend and me, I carefully picked and chose just a few exceptionally interesting temples and shrines to visit during our trip. Kamakura's Hase Temple (Hasedera) was one of them.

My friend and I visited Hase Temple during a day trip from Tokyo to Kamakura. After a wonderful nature hike and a visit to the Great Buddha of Kamakura, we took a short walk, through a small town, to Hase Temple.
We paid the entrance fee of 300 yen each and entered the multi-tiered grounds.

First, we climbed some stairs to visit the collection of hundreds of small Jizo statues placed by parents mourning the death of their unborn or stillborn child. The stone statues were arranged in long, dramatic rows. The smallest statues were along the top and the larger ones were along the bottom, providing a forced perspective. Some were covered in moss and looked like they’d been there for decades while others were pristine. The statues were interesting to look at, but their meaning was not lost on me, especially when I saw a somber young couple stop to say a prayer.
We made our way up some more stairs to an upper level of the grounds where we entered Kannon-do Hall to see Hase Kannon statue. The statue is 30-feet high, gold-painted, and 12- headed (11 little heads and one main one). For me it wasn’t nearly as intriguing as I’d imagined it would be. (Photographing the statue is not allowed.)

We emerged into the daylight and noticed a queue. I asked an attendant why people were queuing. He said that they were waiting to see the hydrangeas. It turns out that, in addition to a cherry blossom season, Japan has a "hydrangea season." In June and July, many different varieties of hydrangeas bloom all over Japan. Hase Temple has a particularly beautiful display. We joined the queue. 

After a few minutes, we began to ascend a path that zigzagged up a hillside covered in hydrangeas in different shades of blue, lavender, and pink. It was like something out of a fairytale.
The views of the flower-covered hillside with portions of the Hase Temple grounds in the background and a view of a distant beach and ocean were lovely. 
In the lowest level of the Hase Temple grounds, we ducked into Benten-kutsu Cave. The cave is dedicated to Benzaiten, the sea goddess. Once inside, I felt like I’d been transported seaside. The walls of the cave dripped with condensation. The first room was dark and eerie, with candles glowing and imposing images carved from the cave walls.  
We crouched down and duck-walked into a smaller cave. Inside a claustrophobic pocket, we found tiny statues laid out along every flat surface.

Although Hase Temple was one of the first temples that we visited, it had so many interesting sights, especially with Hydrangea Path (in June and July), that even if it had been the last one that we visited, we certainly wouldn’t have felt “templed-out.”

I did this in 2013 in Kamakura, Japan.

Jen (California, USA)

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