Hase Kannon is a towering statue of Kannon (a future Buddha) that gives its name both to the temple which houses it (Hase-dera) and to the surrounding area (Hase) in Kamakura. According to legend, the statue was one of two crafted from a single massive camphor tree in 721 in another Hase, far away in Nara, before being cast into the sea and eventually washing ashore here in 736. The temple was established that year to accommodate the statue of the merciful Kannon.
On the 1,300th anniversary of the 721 crafting of Hase Kannon, we paid the temple a visit.
The familiar red paper lantern at the gate of Hase-dera has been replaced by this celebratory golden version.
In the garden beyond the gate, a dragonfly rests on a lotus bud.
Kikyo, known in English either as balloon flowers or bell flowers. The sheltered bell flower at the center doesn’t know the ballooning time of day.
And showy lilies.
Benzaiten (aka Benten), the goddess of water, the arts and everything else that flows, is well represented at Hase-dera.
Here she is again, playing the biwa lute in the Benten-kutsu cave…
… and here, dedicated miniatures of the same image, dripping with dew.
But if you are at Hase-dera on Kamakura’s Seven Lucky Gods circuit…
… Daikokuten, the god of whatever it is one’s heart desires, is the deity to whom you’ll want to report.
Hase-dera is set into the face of a hill. To see Hase Kannon, we must ascend the hill from the garden at sea level via steps.
The first terrace on the ascent is home to the countless statues that have been dedicated here over the years in the name and image of Jizo, the beloved guardian of children and the souls of children lost.
On the next terrace, the Kannon-do hall, viewed here from beneath the belfry. The hall has been rebuilt, restored, and rebuilt again many times over the centuries.
The exquisite 9.2-meter, eleven-headed Kannon statue stands at the back of the Kannon-do. The wooden statue has undergone numerous repairs and changes over the centuries, most notably in 1342 when it was first coated with gold leaf. Photography is not allowed inside the hall…
… so let us instead share this, a smaller eleven-headed Kannon statue, carved at the turn of the seventeenth century. This statue was formerly venerated in the temple hall but is now exhibited in the splendid new Kannon Museum, where photography is allowed.
This is the original temple bell, cast in 1264.
This is the rinzo rotary repository of sutras in the Kyodo, the Sutra Hall. One rotation of the repository is said to be the equivalent of reciting all the sutras held therein, so quite a big time saving to be made here.
Sympathy for the demon? Jikokuten puts his foot down.
There is an observatory with tables, chairs and vending machines on the Kannon-do terrace, but it’s possible to ascend still further to an upper platform. This is the view from the top over Hase.
We’re looking towards Zushi, Hayama and, in the distance, the tip of the Miura peninsula.
The way up is the way down. That’s the roof of the Sutra Hall in the foreground, with the Kannon-do hall and belfry beyond.
Our visit is complete. Congratulations and thanks to the Hase Kannon.
May the Jizo be with you.
Text and photos by Alex Hendy, TJJ ONLINE, The Japan Journal, Ltd.