Meigetsu-in temple is all that remains of the great temple Zenko-ji, which fell into decline during the Edo period. Zenko-ji had been established in 1268 by Hojo Tokimune (the Eighth Regent of the Kamakura bakufu, who was also the founder of Engakuji) to hold memorial services at his father’s prayer hall. The site of Zenko-ji had been used by Tokimune’s father Tokiyori (the Fifth Regent) after he had stepped down from power at the age of 29 to devote himself to the priesthood under the leadership of Doryu Rankei, a Chinese Zen priest. Tokiyori had built a small prayer hall and named it Saimyo-ji.
Meigetsu-in came into being in 1383 during an expansion of Zenko-ji temple. Intended as a sub-temple, it was built by Norikata Uesugi (1335-1394), the Vice Governor of Kamakura. He appointed Shugon Misshitsu (d. 1390), a sixth generation disciple of Rankei, as the founding priest. “Meigetsu” means “The full moon” and was the family name of the Uesugi clan in Yamanouchi district of Kamakura.
As noted above, Megetsu-in is the only vestige of the Zenko-ji to survive, owing to a lack of sponsorship.