Listen to the sound of nature, feel the atmosphere of zen, and enjoy a cup of traditional Japanese green tea in a beautiful bamboo garden in Houkokuji Temple, Kamakura.
Houkokuji Temple is a zen temple that was established in 1334, by Tengan Eko, a buddhist monk in the Kamakura period (From Houkokuji Temple homepage). In contrast with its long history, the temple itself is clean and the facilities around have a relatively modern look.
The first thing that would come into your sight as you enter the temple, is a traditional Japanese garden. The rocks and pebbles on the ground are organised so that they look like ripples on water. This is called karesansui（枯山水） in Japanese, and is often seen in gardens of temples and old Japanese houses.
The entrance to the bamboo garden is beside the temple itself. Visitors can pay 200 yen to enter the bamboo garden, or 700 yen for those who would like a cup of traditional Japanese green tea as well.
The forest can get quite dark at the bottom of the tall bamboos, but the sunlight shining through the bamboos creates a stunning atmosphere.
As you walk through the bamboos, you will find this building, where those who paid the extra entrance fee can drink green tea.
The traditional green tea is quite bitter compared to the tea that you can find in stores and restaurants, but this is the taste of the real green tea.
Beside the bamboo forest, near the entrance of the bamboo garden, there is also a Japanese garden. Again, the rocks and pebbles are formed like ripples, the karesansui.
The gardens are the best part of this temple, and is possibly one of the most beautiful places you can find around the area. The temple can be accessed by about a 15~20 minute walk from Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. Although there are several temples and shrines you can visit along the path to Houkokuji Temple, but if the walk is too long, you can also take a bus to the nearest bus stop. The location is somewhat far from Kamakura station, however, Houkokuji Temple is one of the most beautiful and unique temples, and is a must visit location if you are coming to Kamakura.
Homepage of Houkokuji Temple is here.