Engaku Temple is located in the town of Kamakura, in Kanagawa Prefecture. It’s accessible by the Enoshima Dentetsu line or the Japan Rail line from Fujisawa station. Kamakura hosts numerous temples, one of the most famous housing the Kamakura Buddha statue, one of the largest in Japan. Engaku temple is closest to the station, one of the first on your way to many others.
Engaku temple is hundreds of years old, built in the early 1200s by a Chinese monk. The temple grounds consist of several buildings, each purposed for different ceremonies and activities. Monks are still trained in and continue to practice the philosophy of Zen here to this day. After many years of training, the monks are ordained as priests and may stay at the temple or serve in other parts of the country. The temple buildings, though made almost entirely of wood, bare ornately detailed wooden carvings, uniquely tiled and arched roofs, and smooth wooden floors, many of which are covered in tatami mats. Windows open and doors slide away revealing meticulously designed gardens, framed by the doors and windows to be enjoyed in meditation and during tea ceremonies.
A tea ceremony is indeed offered here. For 1000 yen, visitors can partake as guests in the ancient tradition. A monk, skilled and practiced in the art, prepares the fresh matcha with painstaking attention to every detail, including the way he holds and lays each tool. The tea is then served with an accompanying seasonal sweet to each of the guests, who kneel in traditional Japanese style, known as seiza, on tatami mats. Each monk bows three times, once on his approaching the visitor, once upon kneeling before the visitor and placing the tea and sweet on the floor, and again upon leaving. The visitor bows three times in response to each gesture. After the tea and sweet have been enjoyed, the visitors are thanked by the monk who prepared the tea and are welcomed to admire the scroll, flower arrangement and implement at the front of the room, all selected to compliment the season and weather.