The Old Nichiren Sect Temple in Kamakura
Myohon-ji is a Buddhist temple of the Nichiren branch located in Kamakura, in Kanagawa prefecture in Japan. Its history is directly linked to the Kamakura shogunate and dates back to the 13th century. Despite an easy access from the city’s JR station, the temple is often neglected by tourists.
Hiki Yoshimoto encountered monk Nichiren and swore allegiance to him, just after his clan was annihilated by the Hojos. He offered the former Hiki clan’s estate in the heart of Hikigayatsu Valley, and built a temple dedicated to the Nichiren Buddhist school in 1260.
The Hiki clan mausoleum
Four main monuments are awaiting discovery in Myohon-ji:
- The main hall Soshi-do, dedicated to the founder and the largest of the temple’s complex, standing at the end of the main alley,
- Niten-mon gate, characterized by its vermilion color and the statues of Nio, the guardian deities residing in its two sides,
- The bronze statue of monk Nichiren, built in 2002,
- The cemetery at the edge of the enclosure, entombing the Hiki family, including Minamoto no Ichiman (1198 – 1203) and more recently admiral Kamimura Hikonojo (1849 – 1916).
From April to August, the surroundings of the temple are brimming with blooming bringing joyful colors to an almost monastic and very quiet visit. The place is enjoyable for its quietness, far from the tourists usually flowing in Kamakura.
Behind the temple is an access to Gion-yama walking trail that goes into the nature and crosses the surrounding hills. It is one of the shortest hikes of the city, and connects Yagumo-shrine and Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu shrine (with a last part on the road) in about one hour of a pleasant walk, with occasional beautiful vantage points of the bay and Mount Fuji 🗻 on good weather days.
Joei-ji, the secondary temple
On the road to Myohon-ji from the station, an other small temple of the Nichiren sect makes an interesting visit: Joei-ji. The beautiful gate at the entrance is ornamented with the Buddhist sect emblems, the orange blossom named Tachibana which is also the family crest of the Minamoto clan.
Joei-ji was nicknamed Botamochi-dera, the "temple of the peony mochi". The legend has it that an old woman offered a red bean paste rice cake to Nichiren who was on his way to be executed. This gesture of gratitude allowed him to be spared afterward. Therefore, on every September 12, this good fortune deed is celebrated with handings of the famous mochi rice cake at the temple.