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Jorakuji

Official Name Zokusenzan Jorakuji {Pronounced zok-sen-zan joe-rak-gee}
Religious sect Kenchoji school, Rinzai (Zen) Sect, Buddhism
Founded in 1237
by Tokimune Hojo {toh-kee-moo-neh hoh-joe}
Founding priest Gyoyu Taiko {gyo-you tye-koh}
Main object of worship Statue of Amida {ah-me-dah} Trinity
Address 8-29, Ofuna 5-chome, Kamakura, Kanagawa 247-0056
Area size 5,200 square meters
Location 1,100 meters southeast of Ofuna Station or 1,300 meters northwest of Kita-Kamakura Station
Time needed to get there 15 minutes from Ofuna Station or 20 minutes from Kita-Kamakura Station
Admission Free (open yard)
Phone number 0467-24-3437
Restrooms Not available

Historical Overview



The Temple is located not in the center of Kamakura, but on its outskirts near Ofuna Station. It was originally erected in 1237 by Yasutoki Hojo (1183-1242), the Third Hojo Regent, to propitiate the soul of his mother-in-law, and called "Awafune Mido" {ah-wah-foo-neh me-doh} or Awafune Hall. (Mido is a hall in which Buddha statues are enshrined). The town name Ofuna is said to originate in Awafune. Yasutoki was one of the most capable Regents in the Hojo regime and known as a powerful and influential leader. In 1221, for example, Emperor Gotoba (1180-1239) in Kyoto tried to topple the Kamakura Shogunate. As a military commander, Yasutoki successfully led his forces and defeated those of the imperial court. It is called Jokyu {joe-K'yoo] Disturbance. While in regency, he set up the Council of the State whereby important matters were decided after consultation among all the council members. He also systematized the code of Samurai, the first one ever promulgated. Historians say that throughout the 100-year Hojo regime, the era ruled and managed by Yasutoki (and Tokiyori) was most stable and prosperous.

After Yasutoki's death, Tokiyori Hojo (1227-1263), the Fifth Hojo Regent and a grandson of Yasutoki, ordered to bury his grandfather in the Temple. At the same time, the Temple changed its name to Jorakuji taking Yasutoki's posthumous Buddhist name "Joraku-in". Several years later, a Chinese Zen priest Doryu Rankei (1213-1278), the founding priest of Kenchoji, came to Kamakura at the request of Tokiyori. Priest Rankei stayed in Jufukuji at first, but Tokiyori invited the great Zen master to the Temple and asked him to preach Zen teachings. Naturally, it converted the denomination to the Rinzai Zen from the Shingon sect (some say from Tendai sect). Priest Rankei had been assuming the chief priest position of the Temple until Kenchoji was founded in 1253. Quite a few local priests gathered here to study this new school of Buddhism and the Temple flourished.

Being nominated as the chief priest of Kenchoji, Priest Rankei had to leave the Temple. With this close association between the two temples, however, the chief priest of Kenchoji held concurrently the chief priest post of the Temple in later days.

Founding priest Gyoyu Taiko (1163-1241) was born in present-day Kanagawa Prefecture and learned Shingon sect Buddhism at his early age, but later began to study Rinzai Zen under the guidance of Priest Eisai Myoan {a-sigh myo-an} (1141-1215), the pioneer of Rinzai Zen in Japan. Priest Taiko was the second chief priest at Jufukuji after Priest Myoan and well known as the founder of Jomyoji as well as Toshoji, both Zen temples. (The latter does not exist). At the time the Temple was founded in 1237, Priest Doryu was not in Kamakura yet. Priest Taiko was requested to be the founding priest instead.

The Temple's structures consist of : Gate roofed with thatch, Butsuden (Buddha Hall), Hondo (Main Hall), Priest's Living Quarters. The copper-roofed Butsuden was repaired in 1991. Hondo, together with the priest's living quarters, were rebuilt rather recently in 1970.

Right in the center of the temple ground, there stands an old, half-rotten stump of a huge gingko tree. According to the Temple, it was planted by the founder himself.


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