This information is being put together from many sources. In addition to my personal notes, a list of my resources can be found on the Pilgrimage Books & Papers page. The goeika and honzon mantra are from www.bekkaku.com. The links for each of the temple's honzon (main deity) go to an explanation of that deity on the Shingon Buddhist International Institute web site at www.shingon.org.
Because the characters in the name can be read in two ways, this temple seems to be known by both names, Taisanji and Ōyamaji. Located near the peak of Taisan (or Ōyama) Mountain, the trail head to the top is just west of Temple 4. When you come back down, you should find yourself back on the trail between Temples 5 and 6.
The temple was founded about 1470 years ago, before the time of Kūkai, and was an important temple for practitioners of Shugendō. Temple legends say that Kūkai did visit the temple at some time after its founding, but found it in disrepair and had to rebuild it.
There is a large painting in the temple that depicts a battle between Minamoto Yoshitsune and the Heike. It is said that Yoshitsune visited the temple before the battle at Yashima (in what is now Kagawa Prefecture) in order to pray for victory. Because he eventually did win the battle Taisanji has also come to be known as a wish granting temple. There is a tomb for Yoshitsune's horse in the compound near the pagoda.
Taisanji is known throughtout the province as a marriage temple. Because go en, in Japanese, can mean both 'good marriage' and 'five yen,' by throwing 5 yen in the offeratory box while offering your prayers it is thought that you are assured of having a good marriage or, if not already married, of finding a good marriage partner.
Legend states that the honzon was given to Kūkai by Huikuo, his master when he was studying in China. Sometime after his return to Japan, it is said that Kūkai gave the statue to this temple. There is also an important statue of Fudō Myōō in the hondō and a statue of Namikiri Fudō (Wave Calming Fudō) in a shrine at the peak of the mountain.
There is one other legend associated with this temple and it concerns the temples pagoda. About 400 years ago, the local warlord visited the temple for 21 days in order ot pray for power. As he returned home, he met a monster cow and killed it with one stroke of his sword. A little later, a statue of Jizō was found to have been cut in half and it was believed that this incident was Kannon Bosatsu's way of showing him how strong he had become. To commemorate these events, the warlord carried a nine-story stone pagoda from the bottom of the mountain to the temple where it still stands.
Most people seem to follow the road all the way up to the temple, but just below the peak you will see the old, and very worn, sanmon a few hundred feet off to the left of the road. If you want, you can walk the last bit to the top from the sanmon, but in doing so you will have to climb more than 250 steps.
Dōgakuji is physically located between Temples 11 and 16 but as you walk the trail it is located after Temple 12 and before the string of Temples 13 through 17. Most commonly, walkers visit Dōgakuji just after Shōsanji. From Dōgakuji they go to Temple 17 and then visit Temples 17 through 13 in reverse order. This seems to produce the minimum amount of backtracking.
According to legend, Dōgakuji is the site where Kūkai received his early schooling - from around the age of eight or nine until the time he left for the university in the capital. It is also where, later in life, he allegedly wrote the Iroha Poem. Although most scholars no longer believe that Kūkai is the author of the Iroha, the vast majority of people still give him that credit.
i ro ha ni ho he to
chi ri nu ru wo
wa ka yo ta re so
tsu ne na ra mu
u yi no o ku ya ma
ke fu ko e te
a sa ki yu me mi shi
ye hi mo se su
Although its scent still lingers on
the form of a flower has scattered away.
For whom will the glory
of this world remain unchanged?
Arriving today at the yonder side
of the deep mountains of evanescent existence,
We shall never allow ourselves to drift away
intoxicated, in the world of shallow dreams.
The Iroha is special because it uses all of the syllables of the kana syllabary, and uses each of them only one time. It was originally used to teach the kana to children but that isn't the case anymore. Now it is known more as a poem that expresses the Buddhist doctrine in the simplest possible terms.
As with so many of the other temples, this compund was burned to the ground by Chōsokabe and his army. The daishidō, built in the 16th century, was originally the hondō and was the only building to survive the destruction. The honzon in the current hondō is listed as a natioinal treasure.
According to one guidebook, the building to the right of the hondō is the Kankidō and is dedicated to sexual ecstasy, which, according to some, is akin to religious ecstasy.
There is a very small garden in the compound that is thought to have been constructed sometime during the Muromachi Period. Tradition says that the small spring in the garden is where Kūkai dipped his brush while writing the Iroha poem. For this reason, local children collect and use this water when writing important calligraphy as using this water is thought to increase your skill with the brush.
Unfortunately i didn't know they were there, so didn't see any of them, but a guidebook says that there is a corridor containing the "88 principal images of the Shikoku Pilgrimage." I'm not sure if that means paintings or statues of the various honzon, but i suspect statues. The guidebook also says that there is a shed in the compound which contains the "20 principal images" of the bangai temples. Again, i suspect they mean statues. Lastly, there is an alcove somewhere that contains the principal images of the 33 temples included in the Saigoku Pilgrimage on Honshū.
I didn't see this either, but the same guidebook says that the temple has a figure of a sleeping Kōbō Daishi covered in a quilt. This is a reminder of the story associated with Eitokuji, Bangai Temple 8, where Kūkai was forced to sleep under a bridge one night after being refused a place to stay by all of the local residents.
Jigenji is the okunoin of Temple 20. It is located between Temples 19 and 20 but on a mountain far enough to the west of both that a visit will require a day of its own. Lodging is available at the temple so one option is to walk there and spend the night before continuing on to Temple 20 and beyond.
According to legend, Kōbō Daishi came to Jigenji when he was 19 years old and used esoteric prayers and rituals to conquer a dragon that had been causing the local inhabitants problems. After conquering the dragon he sealed it in the wall of a cave and carved the statue of Jūichimen Kannon Bosatsu which now serves as the honzon.
The Daishidō is located in the building you see as soon as you enter the compound. The Hondō, however, is loocated a little further up the mountain. To get there, follow the paved path/stairs you will find to the left of the compound. It takes about 10 minutes to get up to the top. The cave in which Kōbō Daishi sealed the dragon is located near the Hondō and you must wear a white gown (available at the nōkyōjo) if you want to enter. According to Don Weiss, they charge an entrance fee of ¥1,000.
The cave has three chambers, with the third being about 100 meters from the entrance. Those who are able to reach it (and the passages get progressively tighter as you go deeper) are thought to pass a spiritual test. If you succeed you will have destroyed any evil spirits that reside in you. In addition, being able to pass through the particularly narrow passage into the innermost chamber assures you of an easy childbirth, success in examinations, health, wealth, and/or general good fortune.
For what it's worth, i am 6 feet tall (182 cm) and weighed about 170 pounds (77 kg) the first time i was there and was told that i was too big to be allowed in. I have seen pictures of people in the caves since then and tend to believe that this is true. The passages are narrow and require you to crawl, at times, through very narrow fissures while twisting and contorting your body into incredible pretzel shapes. I read that guides are found in a shed near the Hondō, but i didn't see anyone there the last time i visited. Check at the main office by the Daishidō before going up if you are interested.
The honzon is thought to be effective for curing all types of diseases and for helping to bring about financial good fortune.
Saba Daishi is located between Temples 23 and 24 and is the last temple on the trail in Tokushima Prefecture. Even though the temple is known by everyone as Saba Daishi, it's official name is Yasakasan Yasakaji (The Temple of Eight Slopes).
Originally built by Gyōgi Bosatsu and founded by Kōbō Daishi. The honzon shows Kōbō Daishi holding a fish in his right hand because of the following legend.
Legend states that while walking the pilgrimage, Kōbō Daishi met a man leading a packhorse loaded with dried mackerel and asked to be given one but the man refused and walked away. Suddenly his horse stumbled and fell, stricken with colic. Remembering that he had heard of a great priest that was supposed to be in the area, and immediately realizing what had happened, he rushed back to find Kōbō Daishi to beg his forgiveness and to ask him to cure his horse.
When he found him, Kōbō Daishi gave him a pot and told the man to bring water from the sea. When he did, Kōbō Daishi performed a service over it and then told the man to make the horse drink it. After drinking the water the horse recovered almost immediately.
Kōbō Daishi again asked for one of the man's mackerel and this time received it. He carried it to the shore, placed it in the water, and said a prayer. When the man saw the fish come to life and swim away, he immediately knelt before Kōbō Daishi and vowed to dedicate his life to Buddhism.
Sadler notes in his book that the head priest told him that, while there had indeed been a small hermitage here, the priest had converted it into a full temple and gotten it included as a bangai temple after WWII.
The temple is located on the coast by the national park of Yasaka Yahama. As the name of the park implies, there are 8 slopes and 8 beaches, with Saba Daishi located between the 4th beach and the 5th slope.