At the top of the hill separating Kamakura from Kita Kamakura stands Kenchoji Temple, often referred to as the first Zen temple in Japan (although this claim could be disputed by Jufukuji which was established some 50 years earlier).

The grounds of the temple seem to resonate a modern air, largely due to the overuse of asphalt, and the fact that most of Kenchoji’s original structures were destroyed by war and fire, and that the present-day structures were brought from other temples in Tokyo and Kyoto at much later dates.

However, the garden behind the Hojo is quite beautiful and is said to be the first Zen style garden in Japan (although some alterations have taken place over the years). It is known as the Shinji Ike (Heart Pond) as the water is in the shape of the Japanese character for heart.

In front of the main hall are 7 large Juniper trees which are said to have been planted by the founding priest Rankei with seeds brought from China, making them over 700 years old.

A recent addition to Kenchoji can be seen in the Hatto (lecture hall) where an impressive ceiling painting called ‘Unryu’ (Dragon in the Clouds) was commissioned for the 750th anniversary of Kenchoji in 2003.  Local artist Junsaku Koizumi spent 3 years creating the work.

Also of note is the bell just to the right of the Salmon, which was inscribed by priest Rankei at the founding of the temple. Considered too fragile for daily ringing, the bell is only rung on New Year’s eve for a total of 18 rings.

Official Website

Open Daily  8:30am to 4:30pm

Entrance Fee: ¥300 

 Address: Yamanouchi 8 Map