Kenchoji: Kamakura's ichiban Zen temple
One thing you're sure to notice in Japan is the myriad ranking systems for very particular categories. But when you explore the grounds of Kenchoji (a 10-minute walk from Kita-Kamakura station), it's easy to see how the place earned its top position among Kamakura's 5 great Zen temples. The Buddha Hall holds one of my favorite statues, a bit roughed up but only earning more character with age. Be sure to check out the dragon painting on the ceiling of another hall. Reserve enough energy to climb the stairs up into the forested hills behind the temple to Hansobo shrine. If you're lucky, a view of Mt. Fuji will be your reward.
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Hansobo Shrine: A view worth the climb
If you walk to the back of Kencho-ji (Kamakura's #1 Zen temple), look for a small road on your left that leads to Hansobo Shrine. The road will wind it's way toward a path under torii gates and then up stone staircases to Hansobo shrine (protected by curious winged, long-nosed or beaked Tengu Shinto gods). Breathe in the view of Kenchoji's grounds below, the blue ocean meeting the horizon, and maybe (fingers crossed!) Mt. Fuji. If you're the hiking type, you can catch the ten-en hiking course by continuing up the mountain on the (steep!) forest trails behind Hansobo. (See the link for a small map)
Japan, 〒247-8525 Kanagawa-ken, Kamakura-shi, Yamanouchi, 8