Hokoku-ji Temple (Bamboo Temple) is located roughly 25 minutes on foot from JR Kamakura Station in Kamakura, Japan. It is a peaceful temple that is most known for its bamboo garden. The scale of this bamboo garden is not as large as the famous one in Kyoto, Arashiyama, but it gives very peaceful feeling that calms anybody who visits. For those who want to embrace a Japanese temple experience near Tokyo, this is a great temple for a day-trip out of Tokyo.
Welcome to Hokoku-ji Temple
Hokoku-ji Temple is located on the western side of JR Kamakura Station, away from the beach. For those who enjoy walking around and getting some exercise, it is roughly 25 minutes on foot from the station, an easy comfortable walk on flat land. During spring, it would be a great walk from the station where you are likely to enjoy warm spring weather with colorful flowers blooming. If you decide not to walk, you can always rent a bicycle or take a bus to the temple.
The admission fee is 200 JPY (1.75 USD) and those who wish to have matcha, traditional green tea with sweets, you pay an extra 500 JPY (4.40 USD) to get a full experience at the Hokoku-ji Temple. Like many temples around Japan, this temple was carefully designed to be beautiful with man-made crafts and nature. Thus, if you have little extra time, it is definitely worth paying 500 JPY (4.40 USD) extra to enjoy a peaceful moment with some traditional Japanese green tea.
Hokoku-ji Temple as the Bamboo Temple
Many people visit Hokoku-ji Temple for its beautiful bamboo garden. Because of its beauty, the temple is sometimes called the Bamboo Temple. The bamboo garden is located behind the main hall where everything is so peaceful and quiet. Many travelers start taking photos once they get here, but please be aware that the temple prohibits using a tripod or a selfie stick, so please be respectful of the space when you visit. If you decide to have matcha, you will be sitting facing this beautiful bamboo garden. The often bitter taste of matcha may taste sweeter in front of this incredible scenery.
Enjoy the seasonal flowers at the temple
As well as the beautiful bamboo garden, this time of the year, late winter to early spring, the temple has beautiful seasonal flowers, such as camellia, flourishing right next to the bamboo. Camellia is considered a symbol of beauty in Japan and at Hokoku-ji, you get to see both red and white camellia flourishing at this very moment. In addition, plum trees are slowly blooming, which come before the time of cherry blossoms. In March and April, you will be greeted by various types of beautiful seasonal flowers at Hokoku-ji so pay attention for seasonal flowers at the temple.
Experience Zen meditation at Hokoku-ji
There are a few temples around Kamakura where you can experience zazen, Zen meditation practice. At Hokoku-ji, you can also practice Zen meditation on Sunday mornings starting at 7:30 am or the 2nd or 4th Saturday evenings starting at 6:30 pm. It is free and open to public, so if you want to truly experience Japanese temple and Buddhist culture, you may like to give it a try.
If you are interested in participating, you are advised to arrive 15 to 20 minutes before the practice begins. You do not need to make a reservation, but if you are a group of 10 or more, you need to call ahead. During winter to early spring, it can be pretty cold because there is no heater, so make sure to dress warmly since you have to take off your coat/jacket. The temple provides hakama, a traditional formal skirt, but you will be sitting, so you need to come in a comfy stretchy bottom that you can wear under the hakama. If you have never done it, you do not need to worry! Hokoku-ji staff will teach you from the beginning.
Forget your busy city life at Hokoku-ji Temple
From the beautiful bamboo garden to an experience of zazen, Hokoku-ji Temple is a great place if you are tired of a hectic city life and needing to put yourself in a peaceful and calm state of mind. Even without an experience of zazen, spending some time inside the bamboo garden makes you feel like you can clear your mind and relax.
Hokoku-ji Temple is also close to other temples such as Sugimoto-dera and Myoren-ji, thus it might be a fun trip to visit other surrounding temples and see what each of them is about.
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