Santuario Zeniarai Benten - Kamakura
last update: November 15, 2021
The Zeniarai Benten Shrine (銭洗弁天) is one of the most popular Shinto shrines in Kamakura, inside which there is a famous spring of water, with which many visitors wash their money. According to an ancient belief, these waters are in fact able to multiply money. The shrine is dedicated to the worship of the Shinto deity Ugafukujin, but also of the Buddhist goddess of Indian origin Sarasvati, known in Japanese as Benzaiten. It is one of the few remaining temples in Japan that combine elements of the Shinto and Buddhist religions.
Hours and fees
- Admission:: free
- Opening hours: 8:00-16:30
- Closing days: none
- Other useful information: -
All the details about the Zeniarai Benten Shrine of Kamakura
Legend has it that Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147–1199), first of the shōguns of the Kamakura period, on the day of the Snake in the month of the Snake, dreamed of the deity Ugafukujin
, a kami whose symbol is a snake with a human head. The kami pointed to the site of a spring of miraculous water
that gushes from the rocks around Kamakura and Minamoto was able to find the spring and build a shrine dedicated to Ugafukujin. Based on the legend, a sign would indicate 1185 as the year the shrine was founded. In reality, however, historians struggle to find traces of the existence of a sanctuary dating back so far, and the foundation of the sanctuary may be much more recent. The source of water inside the shrine has, on the contrary, very ancient origins, as well as the tradition of washing money in the hope of multiplying it. This was born in 1257, when the then shogun of Kamakura Hōjō Tokiyori
came here to wash his money, recommending that the faithful do the same. Since then people began to imitate him and the tradition has been handed down from generation to generation for about 800 years, reaching up to the present day.
Guide to visit the Zeniarai Benten Shrine
The main entrance used by visitors is today a very fascinating tunnel dug into the rock, with a large torii and two illuminated lanterns on the sides. However, this tunnel was only dug in 1958. Until then, the only entrance (still existing today) was on the other side, at the end of an impervious path.
the entrance to the tunnel leading to the shrine
This shrine has several characteristics that make it special and in some ways also very unusual. The place is first of all set between rock walls that make it invisible from the outside, even more so before the current tunnel with which visitors reach the shrine was dug. Inside there is also the Okugū
(奥宮), a cave dedicated to Ugafukujin and Benzaiten where the water from the spring flows and where the faithful can wash their coins and banknotes by placing them in special baskets. The baskets can be picked up at a dedicated counter and after making a small offer. Nowadays it is essentially a commercial activity with which the shrine finances its activities. However, watching these scenes live, and why not participate by washing your money as per tradition, is a very interesting experience.
the ritual of washing money
A final peculiarity of this temple is the presence of typically Buddhist
elements inside, such as some statues or the presence of purifying incense, despite being a Shinto shrine. This was the norm in Japan until the Meiji period, when Shinto shrines were forced to get rid of any Buddhist references. The Zeniarai Benten Shrine is one of the few that has retained its Buddhist elements.
the inner courtyard of the temple with purifying incense
How to get to the Zeniarai Benten Shrine of Kamakura
This shrine is located in an isolated area of Kamakura city, about 1.5 km west of Kamakura station
. It can only be reached on foot, in about 20 minutes (part of the route is slightly uphill), or by taxi.
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