Meigetsuin, “Bright Moon Hermitage,” is known as the Hydrangea Temple of Kamakura. The temple was originally founded in 1160 by Yamanouchi Tsunetoshi for the repose of the soul of his father, Yamanouchi Toshimichi, who died the previous year in the Battle of Heiji. It is the site of a yagura which legend holds to be Toshimichi’s resting place. Reliefs on the wall depict Shaka Nyorai, Taho Nyorai and the 16 Arhats, while the large gravestone, added 220 years later, is for Uesugi Norikata, who greatly expanded the temple under the direction of abbot Misshitsu Shugon.
Nowadays, though, the temple is known for the view of the garden from the main hall through a circular window, and for ajisai — hydrangea.
The temple, just an hour’s train ride from Shinjuku, overflows with visitors in late May and early June as the hydrangea bloom. The line to enter the temple grounds soon backs up as far as the Kita Kamakura train station, turning the 10-minute walk into a wait of 40 minutes or longer.
For those with the patience (and sunscreen) to wait it out, the reward eventually comes.