Discovering Myōhōkekyōzan Ankokuron-ji

4335636747_e099fb5787_zMyōhōkekyōzan Ankokuron-ji  is a Buddhist temple of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism in Kamakura, Kanagawa, in Japan. Nichiren was a Japanese Buddhist priest of the Kamakura period (1185-1333). He was known for his devotion to the Lotus Sutra, and his belief that the ultimate teaching of Siddhārtha Gautama was the way to achieve true enlightenment.  It is one of three temples near the site in the Matsubagayatsu (Valley of Pine Needles ) where Nichiren’s hut supposedly stood.

Myōhōkekyōzan Ankokuron-ji. | Hidetsugu Tonomura

NichirenNichiren (1222 – 1282) was born as Zennichimaro. In 1260, he founded the sect bearing his name and wrote a treatise called Rissho Ankoku Ron (Treatise On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land) which concerned the proper way to approach politics and religion.

Nichiren wrote this historical document in a mountainside cave called Gohokutsu in the precincts of Myōhōkekyōzan Ankokuron-ji. It was in this place where he also preached his teachings and beliefs. The teachings of Nichiren were controversial for the times. His treatise brought about hostilities among the people. A cavern called Nanmenkutsu is located also within the temple precincts where Nichiren retreated when people banded and burned down his dwelling.

Depiction of Nichiren by Hasegawa Tohaku.

The stone lanterns near the gate of Ankokuron-ji were brought from one of the two Tokugawa funerary temples in Tokyo’s  Zōjō-ji. To the right of the temple is Goshoan or Small Hermitage where Nichiren wrote his historical document Risshō Ankoku Ron. An ancient tree that stands at the front of Goshoan is believed to have been planted by Nichiren himself from a sapling be brought back from Chiba. The main hall was rebuilt in 1963 after having been destroyed by a fire. Beyond the main hall lies the cemetery where Nichiro’s (one of Nichiren’s close followers) funerary pavilion is located containing his ashes. The Nanmenkutsu or the South-facing cave is where Nichiren, in 1260, retreated when people banded and burned down his dwelling.

4335637003_fae40fd87a_zThe statue of a white monkey in the cave commemorates his escaping the fire with the help of the monkey who led him to safety and fed him. The white monkey is believed to be the manifestation of the Buddhist god Taishakuten. A mountain path beyond the cave leads to the temple’s bronze Bell of Peace. Further along is a spot called Fujimidai where Nichiren used to visit everyday to gaze at Mount Fuji and where whole city of Kamakura can be seen.  Finally, down the stone steps is Inari Shrine where the samurai who served Nichiren is enshrined.

Temple facade. | Hidetsugu Tonomura

Myōhōkekyōzan Ankokuron-ji  is just one of the amazing sights to discover in Kamakura, a treasure trove of history and culture.