After climbing up some steep steps, it may seem as though you’ve stumbled upon a small, boring temple, and you might think, “hmm… should have skipped this one.” But don’t give up and turn around–keep walking, and discover a gorgeous hillside world of emerald green, covered with tombstones and statues.
Tokei-ji also has an unusual history: it’s known as the Divorce Temple. Re-established in 1285 by the widow of Tokimune Hojo (and said to be founded by a woman called Mino no Tsubone in year unknown), it became a refuge for women seeking to flee difficult marriages. In exchange for temple service (originally three years of service, dropped to two years by Princess Yodo, daughter of Emperor Go-Daigo, 1318-1339), women could live safely away from their husbands, and, at the end of their period of service, receive a divorce.
Information from Kamakura: Fact and Legend, by Iso Mutsu. This is a fantastic guide to Kamakura’s temples and shrines, and is available on Kindle.