Meigetsu-in temple is a rather small temple in the northern part of Kamakura. However, especially in June until the beginning of July it becomes very popular with tourists. Why? Because at this time of the year hydrangeas are blooming all over the temple grounds. Let’s take a closer look to this temple and explore it together!
History of Meigetsu-in
The Meigetsu-in(明月院) temple was established in 1160 by Yamanouchi Tsunetoshi as a memorial of his father Toshimichi who died one year before on the battlefield. This time the temple was called Meigetsu-an. In 1256 Hojo Tokiyori then decided to build a temple called Saimyoji on this ground. This later became part of the new Zenkoji temple which was founded by Tokiyori’s son.
1380 Uesugi Norikata was requested by the shogun to promote Zenkoji temple by constructing more buildings. The area got enlarged and more sub temples were built. In this time Zenkoji temple was at the top place of the ten big Buddhistic temples in the kanto region. The Meigetsu-in was acting as one of the daughter temples meanwhile.
After Meiji Restauration in 1867 Zenkoji was removed and only the Meigetsu-in was left in the area. Today it belongs to the kencho-ji school of the rinzai zen sect; Kencho-ji temple is just a view minutes away by foot.
What to see at Meigetsu-in
One of the highlights of the temple is the main hall (hojo) with its round window facing to the inner garden. It is a unique photo spot and when it is crowded you even need to line up for this. The inner garden is famous for iris flowers, however, it is rarely open for tourists and you need to pay an extra fee.
A little bit up from the main hall you can find the founders hall (soyudo) which enshrines the temple’s founder. Right next to this the yagura cave is located, a tomb which is considered as one of the largest of this kind in the Kamakura area. Inside you can see different statues and even the grave stone of Uesugi Norikata. This place should also be the memorial place from 1160. At another area of the temple ground you also find the grave of Hojo Tokiyori.
Because of the kanji used for Meigetsu-in the temple is known as the moon temple. And because Japanese people associate the moon with a rabbit pounding rice cake on it, you can find some rabbit theme statues around the temple grounds. They even have real rabbits inside a cage.
Furthermore you can find a stone garden, a small bamboo groove and a tea house at Meigetsu-in.
But coming to the main beauty of the temple area: Ajisai! Ajisai (紫陽花) is the Japanese word for hydrangea and right after the beginning of rainy season they start blooming everywhere in their blue, violet and white colors. You can find them in every corner of Meigetsu-in. It is really beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Because of this the temple is also known as Ajisai Temple or Hydrange temple.
The Meigetsu-in temple is located around 10 minutes by foot from Kita-Kamakura station. It is daily opened from 9 am to 4 pm, however, opening times are extended in June from 8.30 pm to 7 pm. The entry fee is 300 yen, but while the ajisai viewing time you have to pay 500 yen. Find the Japanese website here.