A QUIET PLACE

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.

16 Comments

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16 responses to “A QUIET PLACE

  1. Tara C

    This is gorgeous, thank you! I would spend hours just sitting in such a peaceful place. I’m wondering though, do they charge ¥200 to everyone or just visitors? I would think regular practitioners could enter for free.

    Do you know if the one tall black statue is a buddha? Some of the other images on one of the altars look like lamas, not buddhas. Very interesting to compare to the Tibetan Buddhist temples I’ve seen, much more sober, compared to the riotous colours of the Tibetans. But that’s what I’d expect.

    • I am very bad with facts, details, history…. I just submerge myself in the scenery. But two dollars strikes me as very reasonable for upkeep etc .

      There are apparently 65 temples in Kamakura so I might try one I have never been in before soon.

      Buddhist places of worship I have been to in other countries – Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, are more golden and flower-filled. In Japan the wood blends in with the nature around it: more austere. I find it very soothing.

  2. What beautiful photos! Just looking at them gives me a sense of peace. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is not my intention, but it strikes me this evening coming back to today’s piece that this would make quite a nice final post.

    • Hanamini

      I’m glad it’s not your intention. No final post, please….Lovely post, very natsukashii. I used to go into temples for respite from the Tokyo hubbub. My local was Kameido Tenjin for a while, which was not often quiet, being famous for its wisteria. There was a little visited one near an overpass-highway, Chokokuji, that never had anyone but priests in it. Silence amid the high-rises and cool shade. So many of these everywhere, offering respite. Your photos are particularly beautiful. You’re spoiled for choice with the surrounding greenery there in Kamakura too. Thanks!

      • I thought I would share the calm. Temples are nice in Tokyo too but you can never quite forget the surrounding concrete. In Kitakamakura especially, I love how the edges of each temple blends naturally into rock and the mountains. There is something palpable here.

  4. Robin

    I’m feeling very, very mellow after scrolling slowly through these.

    In places like this, with layers of things to experience, I naturally tend to ignore the factual stuff — which entity is represented by which statue, the history in any kind of numerical sense of detailed dates or chronology except in the very broadest terms (X-hundreds of years old/ago is good enough), names of people and their significance — and just absorb what presents itself to the eye and feel whatever there is to be felt; appreciate the specific kind of beauty in each thing or grouping or scene.

    I think that’s why I have almost never joined a guided tour of anywhere. All those words just keep me from direct experience and my own imaginings and emotions and blisses.

    • I feel like this is me talking.
      I am identical.

      I just intuitively absorb and enter the ions of the space.

      • Robin

        It leaves far superior memories, that’s for sure. We are THERE. All that other stuff just gets in the way.

      • Sometimes I do chastise myself for my sheer indifference to all the dates and details of samurai battles and clans ( yawn: power struggles ), but like you I prefer osmosing and sensing out atmospheres with my antennae.

  5. Please no final posts. There have been more than enough sad things this year and your posts have always been something to look forward to.

  6. Thank you for the gorgeous photos. You have perfectly captured the green tranquility and calmness of the Zen temple. Loving the grinning Hotei with his finger and belly worn shiny from people rubbing them to improve their luck. The bright blooms peeking out of lush leaves. Whorled and moss covered trunks next to the rigid lines of man made structures. Quite the contrast to the Hindu temples of South Asia where statues of deities are daubed with scarlet sindoor powder, grimy with soot from constantly burning stubs of devotional incense, floors covered in saffron-colored marigold petals, and the occasional blood stain from animal sacrifices. Amazing to me how ancient temples are so alive with the distinct energies they seem to crystallize, be it serenity and silence or the fiery passion and inevitable gunge of being human.

  7. These photos have transported me to what looks like a true bastion of peace and tranquility. These two temples would be my go to places daily, if I lived close to them. I wish we had something like that here, but alas we don’t, just the requisite Baptist church, which is not my cup of tea.

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