Meigetsu-in Temple (明月院)

Meigetsu-in Temple is a Buddhist temple belonging to the Kencho-ji School of the Rinzai Sect located in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Its honorific mountain prefix is Mt. Fukugen. The principal image is Sho Kannon, the kaiki (founding patron) was Norikata UESUGI and the kaizan (first chief priest) was Misshitsu Shugon. It is famous for its hydrangeas and is also known as 'Ajisai-dera' (The Temple of Hydrangeas).

Origin and History

Meigetsu-in Temple was founded by Yamanouchi Uesugi family progenitor and Kanto Kanrei (Shogun's deputy in the Kanto region) Norikata UESUGI, who invited Misshitsu Shugo to serve as head priest. The temple was founded before Norikata's death in 1394.

According to temple legend, Meigetsu-in Temple began as a hut named 'Meigetsu-an' that was built in 1160 by Tsunetoshi SHUDO to pray for the soul of his father, Toshimichi, who died in the Heiji War and that this was later restored by Norikata UESUGI but the prevailing theory claims that he was the actual founding patron.

Meigetsu-in Temple was a sub-temple of the larger Zenko-ji Temple which was closed at the beginning of the Meiji period so that Meigetsu-in Temple is now all that remains.

The origin of Zenko-ji Temple dates back to Tokiyori HOJO, fifth Shikken (regent to the shogunate) of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). Tokiyori constructed a private Buddha hall at his residence and named it Saimyo-ji Temple but this closed after his death. His son, Tokimune HOJO, invited Lanxi Daolong to serve as head priest and restored this temple which he renamed Zenko-ji Temple.

Meigetsu-in Temple is now famous as 'The Temple of Hydrangeas' and becomes extremely busy during the flower season. It was not long ago that hydrangeas were planted at the temple and were planted for the reason that 'it makes maintenance easier' but they gradually became a well-known attraction. In addition to hydrangeas, the temple is also known for its flowers that continue to bloom all year round and its beautiful autumn leaves.

Precincts

The temple precincts contain one of the Ten Wells of Kamakura, 'Kame no I,' and a cave named 'Meigetsu-in Yagura' dug in the side of a large rock (the small pagoda within is thought to mark the grave of Norikata UESUGI).
On February 9, 1984, the entire precincts were designated National Historic Site as 'Meigetsu-in Keidai.'

Cultural Properties

Wooden statue of Shigefusa UESUGI (Important Cultural Property)

A portrait statue similar in appearance to the Tokiyori HOJO statue at Kencho-ji Temple. Deposited at the Kamakura Museum of National Treasures.

Molded statue of Tokiyori HOJO: A rare example of a molded portrait statue dating from the Kamakura period.

Access

Take the train to Kita-Kamakura Station on the JR Yokosuka Line and walk for 10 minutes.

Take the Enoshima Electric Railway to 'Meigetsu-in' and walk for five minutes.