Hase-dera (長谷寺), often called the Hase-kannon (長谷観音), is a Buddhist temple in Kamakura, famous for its wooden statue of Kannon that sits more than 9 meters tall. Although legend states that the temple was established in the early 700s, documents found at the temple suggest that temple began to flourish during the Kamakura period some 500 years later.
The temple sits on a hill overlooking the city and Yuigahama (a beach and former battleground) far below. But tucked beneath the temple is a cave that stretches into the hill, dotted with small statues of Benten and guarded by a larger statue of Benzaiten, the personification of wisdom. Benzaiten (弁才天 or 弁財天) is a Japanese Buddhist goddess who originated from the Hindu goddess Saraswati. She’s often depicted holding a biwa (琵琶, a Japanese lute) while Saraswati holds a vīṇā (वीणा, its counterpart from the Indian subcontinent). ⛩