Yesterday I wrote about my trip to Kamakura for fish custards and Disney character lattes. Before these two glorious food/drink endeavors we did something a little more zen. We went to the Hōkokuji Temple.

The Hōkokuji Temple is, from my past temple experiences, lightly traveled but well worth the visit. It’s out of the way from downtown Kamakura hidden behind houses and down a couple backroads.

There’s a free parking lot with five spaces outside the temple. Down the street it looked like there was a paid parking lot. We were lucky and grabbed the last spot around 9:15AM.

Walking through the gates you go down a path. The path is bordered by zen gardens, rocks, trees and moss.

Gates outside of Hōkokuji Temple

Gates outside of Hōkokuji Temple

Up the path you reach the temple. Look at it with awe. You can pray if you’d like.

Hōkokuji Temple

Hōkokuji Temple

To the left of temple is “Reception”, a small building where you check-in. Now you have to make a decision. You can enter for ¥200 or enter and have green tea for ¥700. I highly recommend doing the tea. If you’re traveling all that way spend the extra $4.

Passed the building we walked through the coolest, zennist (is that a word?) bamboo forest. There’s a path through it made of large flat stones. The path leads to a building in the middle of the forest. Here you give the ladies your tickets and pickup your green tea. There are benches covered in red cloth with ledges in front of them for your tea.

Path in Bamboo Forest

Path in Bamboo Forest

The tea comes on a wooden plate served in wooden bowls on top of intricate papers with two sugar candies in the shape of flowers. My sister-in-law and makeshift tour guide explained that’s it’s customary to put one of the candies on your tongue, spin the bowl three times in your hands then once the candy dissolves take a drink of the tea. Continue to drink the tea with or without the candy until it’s gone.

Green Tea in Kamakura Bamboo Garden at Hōkokuji Temple

Green Tea in Kamakura Bamboo Garden at Hōkokuji Temple

There’s maybe 3oz of tea. I’m not huge into tea but can understand and respect a good beverage. The tea is very good but can be bitter if you’re not used to that kind of taste.

After tea we continued to walk through the forest and around the back of the temple. There were stone statues and other gems hidden in the forest.

Moss-Covered Statues in Bamboo Forest at Hōkokuji Temple

Moss-Covered Statues in Bamboo Forest at Hōkokuji Temple

Most of the temples I’ve been to are packed with Japanese and foreign tourists. This one only had our group and maybe three other small groups of (I’m assuming) Japanese tourists. The tea and forest make it my favorite temple outside of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.

– Josh