Sometimes I almost forget how much beauty there lies on my doorstep. Recently one day, tired of stewing in my own juices, but with ‘nowhere to go’, I decided on impulse to go and sit in a temple.
Only five minutes by bicycle from my house, and with a mere ¥200 ticket entry charge, I decided on Jōchiji, the ‘fourth most important Zen temple in Kamakura’, founded in 1281, and a true haven of peace and quiet. With only four people in the temple and grounds aside some workers, I found myself gradually sinking into an almost trance-like state of tranquillity, ‘below reality’, as though I were cooling into another realm.
While the more impressive temples – which I equally love: the main Engaku-ji at Kitakamakura station is said to have in its possession an actual tooth of the Buddha – a national treasure, may be more frequently visited, even during this period, the lesser known ones are practically empty. I have always loved the entrance to Jōchi-ji, and in fact, four years ago, after being stuck inside for weeks after knee surgery, the first place I went to outside of the house was the grounds of this temple I feel for some reason particularly attuned to. A Japanese neighbour drove me down, and we just sat and talked and took in the quiet atmosphere.
At the centre of the complex is a wooden house. On this particular day, the shōbu irises had just opened, and the onlookers, almost unmoving, sat in silence, some training their camerallenses on particular flowers. I watched a temple priestess slowly closing shoji doors; the scene felt like a living painting.
The sun was starting to go down.
After absorbing as much as Jochiji as I could, I cycled to another temple in the centre of Kamakura whose name I can never remember.
I was the only person there.
I stayed a while; bought some incense from the inner sanctum, and left.