In less than an hour train ride from Tokyo, you can visit the ancient city of Kamakura. Kamakura became the political center of Japan when Minamoto Yoritomo started the very first Shogunate military government in 1192. It is situated in the Sagami bay, with very rich blessings from the sea, along with the mountainous areas north, east, and west of the bay. The bay and mountains served as a natural fortress to protect the Kamakura government from enemies, and Kamakura prospered as the first city run by a Shogun government.
Engakuji Temple in Kamakura is one of the most prestigious Zen temples in Japan. Founded in 1282 by the ruling regent Hojo Tokimune, it was established to pay respect to the soldiers who had fallen in the invasion attempt by the Mongols in 1274 and 1281. Hojo Tokimune built this temple to spread the Zen teachings and to also bring peace to the spirits of both Japanese and Mongol soldiers. Tokimune invited Chinese priest Wuxue Zuyuan, 無學祖元 (J., Mugaku Sogen; 1226–1286), to serve as the first priest of this temple.
The temple maintains the classical Chinese Zen monastic design, with a Sanmon (Mountain Gate), Butsuden (Buddha Hall), Hojo (Abbot’s Quarters), Yokushitsu (Bath House), Tosu seki (Toilet foundations), and Sodo (Meditation Hall). The temple is also valued for its status as the oldest example of Tang Chinese-style architecture left in Japan.
The Engakuji temples is very active in spreading the teachings of Zen to the people, and they have Zen meditation sessions open to the public everyday from 6:00 am to 7:00 am, as well as Saturday sessions from 1:20-2:20 pm (for beginners) and 2:40-3:40 pm (for repeating practitioners) and Sunday sessions on the first, third, and fifth Sundays form 8:00 am.
Engakuji temple is a favorite among people in Tokyo to enjoy the autumn foliage. You can enjoy all different colors – red, orange, yellow, and brown at its peak. The dark green moth in the temple precincts will allow you to enjoy the autumn leaves even after they have fallen, which is another way of enjoying the foliage.