Ryūhō-ji (龍宝寺), officially known as Yokokusan Ryūhōji (陽谷山龍宝寺), is a Buddhist temple of the Sōtō Zen school. It is located in Ueki, Kamakura, southwest of Ōfuna Station and was founded in 1503 by Hōjō Tsunashige (北条綱成, 1487-1541), the adopted brother of Hōjō Ujiyasu and grandson of Hōjō Sōun. Off the beaten tourist paths of Kamakura, it is definitely worth a visit, in particular when combined with Ōfuna Kannon-ji.

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Hōjō Tsunashige originally founded the temple as Kōka-in (香花院) in nearby Sankyo (山居) and invested Taijo-Sōei (泰絮宗栄) as its first abbot. It was also called Zuiko-in (瑞光院) in reference to Tsunashige's dharma name (戒名 kaimyō). The area was under the control of the Go-Hōjō, who resided in Odawara and had been gradually expanding their territory until they controlled the provinces of Sagami and Musashi. One of their local rivals were the Miura, who held sway over the peninsula by the same name, just southeast of Kamakura. To contain the Miura, Hōjō Sōun (北條早雲, 1432–1519) established Tamanawa Castle, a formidable fortress that in the course of its short history was attacked five times but never fell. Sōun installed his son Ujitoki (北条氏時) at Tamanawa Castle who was succeeded by Tsunashige.

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The thatched Sanmon Gate dates back to the late 17th century.

Hōjō Ujikatsu (北条氏勝, 1559-1611), the fourth castellan, moved Zuiko-in to its current location and dedicated it to his predecessor, Hōjō Ujishige (北条氏繁). Eventually, Ujikatsu renamed the temple Ryūhō-ji (龍宝寺), derived from Ujishige's posthumous name, Ryūhōjiden-Daiōeikō-Daikoji (龍宝寺殿大応栄公大居士) and established it as the family temple of the Tamanawa-Hōjō.

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Tamanawa Castle was one of several branch castles of Odawara. When Toyotomi Hideyoshi laid siege to Odawara Castle in 1590, Ujikatsu and his troops repelled several attacks. They were determined to continue their resistance, so Tokugawa Ieyasu dispatched one of the priests of Ryūhō-ji by the name of Ryōtatsu (良達) to convince Ujikatsu to avoid further bloodshed and give up. Moved by the words of the priest, whose temple the Hōjō troops had held in the highest esteem, Ujikatsu surrendered to Ieyasu and was later bestowed land in Tomisato (富里, modern-day Chiba Prefecture).

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The stone monument next to Sanmon Gate displays the characters 禁葷酒 (kin-kunshu), which - following Mahayana traditions - denies entry to those who smell of sake or garlic.

In 1951, the entire temple compound, except for the Sanmon Gate and the belfry, burned down. The temple was rebuilt in 1959.

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The main hall of Ryūhō-ji has an image of Shaka Nyorai (釈迦如来) and his attendants Monju Bosatsu (文殊菩薩) and Fugen Bosatsu (普賢菩薩) along with the mortuary tablets of successive Tamanawa castellans and Minamoto no Sanetomo (源実朝, 1192-1219).

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The vast temple complex consisted of a classic set of seven structures but was later reduced by fires and battles.

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The Main Hall of Ryūhō-ji.

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The image of Shaka Nyorai (釈迦如来).

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Arhat statues made of bisque porcelain displayed in the Main Hall.

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The grave of Hōjō Tsunashige and a cenotaph of the Tamanawa Hōjō clan.

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Ishii (石井) House​


On the right-hand side, just behind the Sanmon Gate, lies an old farmhouse that once belonged to a member of the Ishii, a warrior family from the sixteenth century that later served as village headmen.

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The farmhouse dates back to the late seventeenth century and features thick mud-plastered walls with only a few doors and small windows. Several agricultural artefacts are displayed in front of the house. Unfortunately, the house hasn't been open to the public for many years.

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References:

  • Baldessari, Francesco, Kamakura: A Historical Guide, 2016
  • Cooper, Michael, Exploring Kamakura, Weatherhill 1979
  • Mutsu, Iso, Kamakura: Fact and Legend, Tuttle 2012

Access: A 10-minute walk from Ōfuna Station on the Tōkaidō Line, the Shinan Shinjuku Line, the Yokosuka Line, the Negishi Line, the Ueno-Tokyo Line, and the Shonan Monorail. It is located not far from Ōfuna Botanical Garden, on the right side of the road after passing through the tunnel north of the garden.
Address: 129 Ueki, Kamakura, Kanagawa 247-0073; phone: 0467-462-807.
Admission: free.
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