Jōchi-ji Temple (浄智寺, the "Temple of Pure Wisdom"), officially known as Kinpōzan Jōchi-ji (金宝山浄智寺) belongs to the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism. It is located in Kita-Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, and is a branch temple of Engaku-ji. It is the fourth temple of the Kamakura Gozan (鎌倉五山), the five temples that make up the "Kamakura Five Mountains".


The peculiar Chinese-styled Shōrō-mon (鐘楼門) restored in 2007. No stairs are leading to the second floor. The windows are in the Katōmado-Stil (火灯窓), the copper bell dates back to 1340.

Jōchi-ji was built around 1283, but the exact circumstances of its establishment are unclear. Officially, it was founded by Hōjō Munemasa (北条宗政, 1253-1281), the third son of the fifth regent, Hōjō Tokiyori (1227-1263), and Munemasa's son, Hōjō Morotoki (北条師時, 1275-1311). As the temple was completed in the year of Munemasa's death, it seems likely that his wife Hōjō Masamura (北条政村, 1205-1273), and his younger brother, Hōjō Tokimune (1251–1284), played a role in the construction of the temple.


Next to the small stone bridge lies the Kanro-no-i (甘露ノ井, Well of Sweet Dew), one of the ten Famous Wells of Kamakura (鎌倉十井, jussei).

Curiously, three monks are mentioned as founding priests: Nanshu Kōkai (南洲宏海/南州宏海, also known as Shin’o Zenji, 真応禅師, ?–1303), who was considered too young to be given the honourable position, his Chinese master Daxiu Zhengnian (大休正念, Dàxiū Zhèngniàn; jap. 大休正念, Daikyū Shōnen; 1214–1289) and Daxiu's master Wuan Puning (兀菴普寧/兀庵普寧, Wùān Pǔníng; 兀菴普寧/兀庵普寧, Gottan Funei; ?–1276) who had been invited to Japan by Hōjō Tokiyori, but returned to China in 1265 and actually passed away before Jōchi-ji was completed.


The gate behind the Kanro-no-i has an unusual inscription: 寶所在近 (Hōsho Zaikin, or "The treasure you are looking for is next to you").

Until the 16th century, hundreds of monks used to live at the temple to receive training and instructions, but none of the original structures has survived. The few buildings that remained intact over the centuries were all destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923.


The main building (仏殿 Butsu-den) of Jōchi-ji called Donge-den (曇華殿) shown above contains the Go-Honzon, wooden statues of the three Buddhas of Time (三世仏 san-sei-butsu): Amida Nyorai, Shaka Nyorai and Miroku Nyorai. The statue of Shaka dates back to around 1370, the other two to the 15th century. To their left is a statue of Bodhidharma, to their right two statues of the priests Nanshu und Daikyū (see photo below). The rear part of Donge-den contains a statue of Kannon Bodhisattva (Bosatsu).


At the height of its prosperity, Jōchi-ji had eleven sub-temples and some 500 residents, not counting in the monks. It is recorded that 224 of its monks participated in the 13th memorial service for Hōjō Sadatoki in 1323. Although the temple was destroyed by fire in 1356, it was still relatively large when Kantō kubō Ashikaga Mochiuji returned to Kamakura in 1417 and stayed two months at the temple. His son, Ashikaga Shigeuji also lived at Jōchi-ji in 1449.


The Shoin (書院), the drawing or study room, with its thatched roof was built in 1924.

With the decline of Kamakura in the 15th century, the temple fell into disrepair. Only eight buildings survived the end of Edo Period but most of them were destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. Today's monastery was, for the most part, rebuilt in the early Shōwa period.


Jōchi-ji owns two important statues which are currently kept at the Kamakura Museum: a sitting Jizo Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Ksitigarbha-bodhisattva) from the late Kamakura Period (1185-1333), an ICA, which is on regular display at the Kamakura Museum (鎌倉国宝館 Kamakura-kokuhokan), and the Idaten (Skanda), one of Buddha's many guardian deities known as a swift-runner. Legend asserts that he runs so fast that he was able to catch the thieves who stole Sakyamuni's ashes. Statues of Idaten are often installed in kitchens or priests' living quarter of Zen temples.


Two remarkable old trees grow in the vicinity of Donge-den: a Kōya-maki (Japanese umbrella pine, Sciadopitys verticillata) allegedly one of the oldest trees in Kamakura, and a Hakuunboku (白雲木, White Cloud tree, Styrax obassia) which only blooms for one week at the beginning of May. Behind the temple is a picturesque garden with a small grove as well as yagura, graves carved into the stone with small tombs or cenotaphs, with a statue of Ugajin (宇賀神) and another one of Hotei (布袋尊).


Hotei (布袋) is the god of fortune, the guardian of the children, patron of diviners and barmen, and also the god of popularity. He is usually depicted as a fat, smiling, bald man with a curly moustache.


A mobile coffee shop in front of Jōchi-ji.



  • Baldessari, Francesco, Kamakura: A Historical Guide, 2016
  • Mutsu, Iso, Kamakura: Fact and Legend, Tuttle 2012


An 8-minute walk from Kita-Kamakura Station (JR Yokosuka Line, Shōnan–Shinjuku Line).
Address: 1402 Yamanouchi, Kamakura, Kanagawa 247-0062; phone: 0467-22-3943.
Admission: open daily 09:00-16:30; adults 200 JPY, children 100 JPY.
Next article in the series 'Kamakura Travel Guide': Ennoji Temple
Previous article in the series 'Kamakura Travel Guide': Tōkeiji Temple