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 distances between temples comes from the Japanese maps in Shikoku Henro Hitori Aruki Dōgyō Ninin. 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.
2. About each temple's goeika: there are variations between books on the goeika for various temples. I don't know if they have changed over the years or if different groups and/or sects have different accepted versions. Just beware that you may find differences, depending on the book you take the information from.
2. About each temple's goeika: there are variations between books on the goeika for various temples. I don't know if they have changed over the years or if different groups and/or sects have different accepted versions. Just beware that you may find differences, depending on the book you take the information from.
The first step of a four-step process — the awakening of faith. Some henro are devout Buddhists and for them having faith is a given. There is nothing to awaken. Other henro consider Buddhism an integral part of their culture but may have no religious leanings. For these henro, faith may be something that needs to be shaken awake, but it won't take much effort as the faith is already there, lying dormant just below the surface of their everyday superficial lives.
Then there are henro like myself. Buddhism isn't a part of my culture. I was raised in a country where Buddhism is considered different, where not believing in God is considered just about as bad as not believing in Money. For us outsiders, this first step is a look inside. A time to ask 'Awakening the faith in what?'
Are the next 1,400 km about faith in Kōbō Daishi? Or, about faith in ourselves. Faith in our ability to complete what we are about to start? Faith in our ability to persist and endure? Faith in our ability to open up enough to learn from the island, the temples, the people, and the experience as we walk day after day for the next several months?
I wish they had simply called this province the Dōjō of Awakening. This is the key, in my opinion. Simply being awake. Most of us aren't when we first get here. And, you can't proceed to the second step until you have at least awakened. Awakened to the possibility of doing something different. Awakened to the possibility of learning something different. Awakened to the possibility of possibilities.
|Distance to Previous Temple: ---||Distance to Next Temple: 1.2 km|
Ryōzenji is about a half-hour's bus ride from the bus terminal in the center of downtown Tokushima City. The bus stop where you get off is conveniently located directly in front of the temple and is, appropriately enough, called Ryōzenji Mae. The street outside the temple and directly across from the sanmon is lined with minshuku and shops all for use by henro.
It is said that Ryōzenji was founded by Gyōgi (668-749) in the 8th century on the orders of Emperor Shōmu. Even though scholars don't think Gyōgi ever came to Shikoku, more than thirty of the temples claim him as their founder.
Kōbō Daishi came here in 815 and, while here, had a vision of Shaka Nyorai preaching the Lotus Sutra on Vulture's Peak (Ryōjusan). To commemorate the vision he carved the honzon and gave the temple its name.
Like so many of the other temples on Shikoku, the temple was burned down in the 16th century by Chōsokabe Motochika, the daimyō of Tosa Province, during the Tenshō Era, 1573-1592. It was burned down again in the 19th century — i'm assuming during the violent reaction against Buddhism at the beginning of the Meiji Period. The present temple was rebuilt in 1964.
The honzon here is famous among local high school students for promising academic success at the university. Besides the statue of Sakyamuni, there are statues of Dainichi and Amida in the temple, also said to have been carved by Kōbō Daishi. There is a large koi pond in the temple courtyard with a statue of Kōbō Daishi looking on.
Henro can purchase all of the supplies they need for the pilgrimage (nōkyōchō, kongotsue, sugegasa, hakui, etc.) in either of two stores, one next to the parking lot in front of the temple and one inside the hondō at the back of the compound. Morning services (otsutome) and a setting-off ceremony used to be held in the mornings starting at 5:30 am, but i recently read somewhere (i don't remember where) that these services are no longer held.
Even though all of the other temples on the henro trail have one or another legend associated with it, number one does not. When Oliver Statler asked about this, he was told that just being called number one was sufficient. Being considered the first was enough to draw people to its compounds. A legend apparently wasn't needed to ensure its prosperity.
Of course, you don't have to start here. Ryōzenji doesn't have to be the first temple you visit. In fact, for many henro it isn't the first. Many henro start at the temple closest to where they live and make the circle from there. But, because it is close to the port where you land when you come from Wakayama-ken and Mt. Kōya, because it is close to where you would end up if you brought a bus or ferry from ōsaka, Kobe, and Kyōto, this is where the majority of people have always started. For the vast majority of us, this temple will always be thought of as the first.
Be sure to visit the "German House," about ten minute's walk from the temple heading towards Temple 2. (see my journal for more information on this)
|Distance to Previous Temple: 1.2 km||Distance to Next Temple: 2.5 km|
The temple was said to have been founded by Gyōgi in the 8th century but historical evidence seems to point to its construction during the Kamakura Period (13th century). In either case, it is classified as a National Treasure.
According to legend, long ago, it was difficult for fishermen in Naruto Bay to catch enough fish to earn a living because the bright light from the honzon's halo reached all the way to the Bay and frightened the fish. To prevent this, the local fishermen built a small artificial hill between the bay and the image in order to block the light. Therefore, the temple came to be known as the Sun Light Mountain (Nisshōzan).
On either side of the honzon are statues of Sakyamuni and Yakushi Nyorai. In the courtyard, in front of the temple, is a thousand-year-old cedar tree known as the Cedar of Long Life (Chōmeisugi), supposedly planted by Kōbō Daishi. It is believed that if you pray while touching it you will be granted a long life.
The cedar tree is now popular among women for easing childbirth The temple has come to be known as the Fudasho of Anzan (the temple which grants an easy childbirth) and is dedicated to pregnant mothers.Legend states that a pregnant woman from ōsaka who had miscarried several times set off on the pilgrimage to find Kōbō Daishi in order to ask for his help with her current pregnancy. She walked the pilgrimage in reverse order (counter clockwise) and he appeared to her just as labor pains were beginning, here at Temple 2. With Kōbō Daishi's help, the woman gave birth to a healthy child. There are numerous statues of Jizō found here, all donated by women who have come to pray for a safe birth.
Temple 2 was also burned down in the wars that ravaged the countryside in the 16th century. The temple buildings are now fairly new and in the process of expansion. A great many books state that, throughout the pilgrimage, the temples with the newest buildings and the most opulent displays are inevitably those dedicated to childbirth.
Note the large marble carving of the Buddha's footprints at the base of the stairs to the daishidō.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 2.5 km||Distance to Next Temple: 4.9 km|
The temple was founded by Gyōgi in the 8th century and originally called Konkōmyōji. It was renamed Konsenji (Golden Well Temple) by Kōbō Daishi when a golden stream of water sprang out of a well he dug by thrusting his staff into the ground. (This particular legend — of Kōbō Daishi digging wells — is found throughout both Shikoku and Japan) The hondō was burnt to the ground by Chōsokabe and his armies in 1582 and rebuilt during the Tokugawa Period. Gyōgi is also credited with carving the honzon.
Frederick Starr makes note of crutches left at the temple by people who have been miraculously cured. He also notes two square cloths at the wash basin that are held up by four pegs but allowed to sag in the middle. These are for the relief of women who have died in childbirth. Henro pour water on them, thus cleansing the women's souls so that they may attain enlightenment.
In the temple yard is a large (4 ft by 2 ft) stone called the Benkei Stone and the tomb of Emperor Chōkei, a 14th century emperor of the southern court. Legend states that Benkei (a legendary 12th century warrior priest and bodyguard for Yoritomo Yoshitsune) lifted the stone to demonstrate his strength when he and Yoshitsune stopped here in on their way to a battle on Yashima Island.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 4.9 km||Distance to Next Temple: 2 km|
Temple 4 is set far back into a mountain valley on the north side of the Yoshino Plain and this is the first taste of searching for a temple off the main roads. Kōbō Daishi founded the temple and named it for the Dainichi Buddha. He also carved the its tiny honzon of Dainichi (Mahavairocana Buddha). For the past thousand years, the temple has been repeatedly destroyed and reconstructed. In the 17th century, it was rebuilt by a monk named Matsu. Hachisuka, the Daimyō of Awa Province, paid respect to, and worshipped at, this temple.
In the corridor between the hondō and the daishidō are 33 statues of Senju Kannon Bosatsu plus several other Japanese and Chinese historical figures.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 2 km||Distance to Next Temple: 5.3 km|
Kōbō Daishi founded the temple on the order of Emperor Saga in 821. Originally the honzon was a small, two inch, statue of the Jizō Bosatsu of Victory but this was later replaced by the priest Jōkan (the 13th century renovator of the temple) to the present statue of Enmei-Jizō Bosatsu of Longevity. Contrary to the typical gentle image of Jizō, this depiction is that of a warrior.
As with other temples, Chōsokabe's armies burned this temple down during the 16th century wars that ravaged the island.
Of interest in a large U-shaped hall on the hill behind the hondō which houses 500 statues of Rakan (Arhats), each with a different expression on its face. The statues were carved by two priests in the 18th century and collected here at a later date. Enter the building in the Miroku wing, pass through the Amida wing (the center of the 'U'), and then work your way around to the Daishi wing, where the statues are representations of Boshisattvas instead of Arhats.
Frederick Starr calls this temple Jizōdera. He also tells us that Gongen of Kishu Kumano appeared to Kōbō Daishi when he came here and gave him spiritual inspiration for carving. Starr spent the night here and was feted both at supper and at breakfast the next morning.
If you are going up to Bangai Temple 1, the trail up starts here between Temples 5 and 6.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 5.3 km||Distance to Next Temple: 1 km|
The temple was originally founded by Kōbō Daishi on the site where he brought forth a curative hot springs in the valley of Anraku, one mile north of its present location. Legend states that Kōbō Daishi struck his staff into the ground and brought forth the hot spring and the people then built it into a bath with curative powers.
Kōbō Daishi also carved the statue of Yakushi Nyorai which serves as the honzon. The temple was burned to the ground in a battle long ago and was rebuilt at its present location. The present hondō was built of concrete after being destroyed by a fire in 1955.
In the 19th century a Chinese who had been shipwrecked on the island dedicated a huge wooden sign inscribed with the name of the honzon in gratitude for his having been saved. The temple preserves an image of Miroku Bosatsu, dated 1126.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 1 km||Distance to Next Temple: 4.2 km|
Kōbō Daishi carved he honzon of Amida Nyorai when he founded the temple in the 9th century in Jūraku Valley. The temple complex was, at one time, very large but many buildings were burned down in a large fire in the 16th century (blamed on Chōsokabe). The present hondō was rebuilt in the Meiji Period.
One of the temple's antique treasures is a tea cup which once belonged to a general named Yukimura Sanada, one of Toyotomi's warriors in the 16th century. There is a large double tree, called the 'parent and child pine' in the compound with the larger of the two trunks dating back about 300 years.
Starr translates the name of this temple as the Temple of Ten Paradises, but says that paradise has ten joys. Starr is asked to speak briefly to the school children at a nearby primary school. It was a holiday and there was a cold wind blowing, but about 400 students were marshaled into the school courtyard to hear him speak.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 4.2 km||Distance to Next Temple: 2.4 km|
Temple 8 is set back in a valley and its sanmon is considered to be one of the finest of all the temples on the pilgrimage. It was built in 1688 and, while he discounts the story, Statler tells us that a band of robbers were once thought to have lived in its second story.
The temple was founded by Kōbō Daishi. While he was engaged in esoteric practices here, the Shintō kami of Kumano presented him with a tiny statue of Kannon Bosatsu. Kōbō Daishi placed this statue, along with another relic, in a large statue of Senju Kannon Bosatsu which he had previously carved in the valley of Akagatani. More temples are devoted to Kannon on this pilgrimage than to any other deity.
On at least one occasion the Daimyō of Awa Province was known to have visited this temple (during the Tokugawa period) for a moon viewing party with his warriors. The hondō burnt down in 1928 and was rebuilt 13 years later in 1941.
The temple gate (Sanmon) is considered to be the finest of all 88 fudasho temples. Also noteworthy are the belfry tower (Tahōtō), the priest's residential quarters (Hōjō), and a pond on the temple grounds.
Frederick Starr states that in ancient times the temple was deeper in the valley, but Kōbō Daishi transferred it to its present location.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 2.4 km||Distance to Next Temple: 3.8 km|
The temple was founded by Kōbō Daishi and its honzon is the only surviving example of a reclining Buddha (Nehanzō) on the Shikoku pilgrimage. In fact, it is rare in all of Japan. It was carved by Kōbō Daishi and survived a 16th century fire that destroyed the temple when it was located in nearby Hochiga valley (Chōsokabe's work, of course). After the fire, the temple was rebuilt in its present location. Another fire in the 19th century again destroyed everything except the belfry.
The honzon is locally popular for healing and curing illnesses of the feet and the waist.
Frederick Starr notes that this temple is also called Hakudasan (White Snake Mountain). He also notes that in olden times the temple was eight cho deeper in the valley.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 3.8 km||Distance to Next Temple: 9.8 km|
To get to Temple 10, you turn off the main road and walk up a very narrow lane that is packed with minshuku and shops catering to the henro. You can buy lodging, food, henro accouterments, religious items, and beautiful nōkyōchō. The nōkyōchō sold here, though, are not the books that most henro carry, but incredibly beautiful scrolls and large, 1' x 3', sheets that you frame and mount on the wall. Wholesalers buy these nōkyōchō, drive to all the temples for their stamps, and then resell them throughout the country.
Kōbō Daishi founded the temple here in honor of a girl he met while performing religious activities at a hut on the mountain. Legend states that during the seven days that he engaged in religious practices, the girl supplied all his needs and spent the rest of her time patiently weaving cloth.
After the seven days, Kōbō Daishi asked the girl for a piece of cloth to make new leggings. When she gave it, and then willingly, and without hesitation, offered more so that he could make anew robe, he asked her how she came to be there.
The girl told him that she was the daughter of a court lady who had been caught up in a palace intrigue in the capital and was pregnant with the child of a banished husband. The mother prayed to Kannon for the birth of a girl at Kiyomizudera (in Kyōto) because a girl would be protected from the repercussions of the scandal. After the girl was born, Kannon appeared to the mother and warned her to take the child and flee to Shikoku.
Moved by her story, Kōbō Daishi carved a statue of Kannon for her. When it was finished he ordained the girl as a nun and cut her hair. As soon as the girl became a nun, she became enlightened and assumed the form of Kannon herself. Kōbō Daishi took the statue up the mountain, founded this temple, and enshrined the two statues.
Because of this legend, the temple is also know as Tokudozan (The Mountain of Ordination) Kanjōjo (Temple of Abhiseka). The legend has made it popular with women.
There are 330 steps on the path up to the hondō. Although twice destroyed by fire, the temple has managed to preserve many treasures, including sutra manuscripts. The supporting statues in the hondō are Fudō Myōō and Bishamonten.
While walking in this area, Frederick Starr was stopped on the road and treated to tea, cakes, and sake. He was also given a copy of the Tokushima Mainichi which had an article about him with his picture.
Starr noted that the climb up to Temple 10 is via 330 stone steps and that the climb to the pagoda is up still even more steps. He tells the story of how Kōbō Daishi asked the girl for a piece of the cloth, which she gave with no questions and no sign of regret. When asked why she so willingly gave it, recognizing her high blood, she told how her parents had died while she was still young and that she had come at the guidance of the Buddha which she received in a dream. Therefore, Kōbō Daishi ordained her and she become a nun in order to save all persons.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 9.8 km||Distance to Next Temple: 12.9 km|
The temple was founded by Kōbō Daishi and it is said that he carved the statue of Yakushi as well (even though the date written on it is 1148 and the name of the carver is written as well). The honzon is considered a National Treasure. Although the temple complex has been destroyed by fire numerous times, the honzon has always escaped damage. Hence, it is a popular object of worship for those who desire to escape disaster.
The temple was converted to Zen Buddhism during the Tokugawa period and last rebuilt in 1860.
Starr notes that he spent the night at a nearby inn and was shown a townsman's personal library of 5000 volumes in a two story European style wooden structure. The books consisted mainly of Japanese history, local history, and archeology.
Starr also notes his having heard of two German captives who had, apparently, been detained in this town (see my journal in Week 1 for more information on this). There were about 20 books in German and English in the library he visited which may have been donated by the two captives. He was told a story of how one of the Germans was hired to take care of the animals, but grew tired of the job and ungratefully left to find employment elsewhere.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 12.9 km||Distance to Next Temple: 25.3 km|
The first of the pilgrimage's mountain temples, Temple 12 is located at 800 meters (2,640 feet) and is considered one of the pilgrimage's nansho. As soon as you leave the compound at Temple 11 you start the long climb up. While the views from the trail are spectacular, just when you think you get to the top of the highest ridge, you realize that you have to drop all the way back down into the town in the next valley and climb back out the other side. Since you haven't been on the trail all that many days at this stage, this is definitely a tiring day and you will feel as if you earned this temple when you arrive in the compound in the early part of the afternoon.
Legend has it that En no Gyōja (an ascetic wanderer who lived a generation prior to Kūkai, 634-701, and is claimed, incorrectly, to be the founder of Shugendō) subdued a fiery dragon here on the mountain and then founded the temple. A hundred years later, Kōbō Daishi returned to find that it was once again terrorizing the local inhabitants and was causing a great deal of damage to life and property in the area. As Kōbō Daishi ascended the mountain, the dragon's flames threatened to engulf him, but he extinguished them by forming the mudra of Turning the Wheel of the Dharma with the aid of Kokūzō Bosatsu. He was able to seal the dragon in a cave and carved two statues to guard the entrance. For this reason the temple is called Shōsanji. The mountain itself is called Marozan from the Sanskrit word for water (Vari) — subduer of flames.
Among the temple's treasures is a letter from Emperor Daigo. Also, on the summit of the mountain is a small stone sanctuary enclosing a statue of En no Gyōja which memorializes his victory over that trouble causing dragon.
Of interest is the tomb of Emon Saburō at a small shrine two miles down from the temple.
If you are walking to the Bangai Temples as well, don't go directly to Temple 13 from here. Go from Temple 12 to Bangai Temple 2 and then visit Temples 16, 15, 14, & 13 in reverse order. After Temple 13, go on to Temple 17. While this means that you will still have to backtrack a little, it is much less of a backtrack than going from Temple 16 to Bangai Temple 2 and then to Temple 17 which is what you would do if you visited them all in numerical order.
In 2005, i didn't skip Temple 17 after leaving Bangai Temple 2. Instead, after Bangai 2 i visited Temples 17, 16, 15, 14, and then 13 in that order, arriving at Temple 13 just before they closed for the night. The next morning, i left the henro trail (Whatever that means. See my comments in my 2005 diary on Tuesday, April 12) and just followed Highway 208 east. You'll turn on to another highway after a while, and then leave the main road to take a shortcut over a river and through a small housing development, but sooner or later you'll catch up with the henro trail again on the south side of Tokushima City. This worked very well and is what i recommend, but it assumes you can read Japanese well enough to follow the road signs and speak it well enough to ask directions as needed.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 25.3 km||Distance to Next Temple: 2.3 km|
Temples 13 through 17 are all in Tokushima City or on its outskirts, on the opposite side of the valley from where you were walking when you visited the first 10 temples. As you approach Temple 13 (or Temple 16 if you are coming from Bangai Temple 2) the traffic and noise once again become a nuisance.
Like Temple 4, this temple is also called Dainichiji. It was founded by Kōbō Daishi in accordance with an oracle he received from Dainichi Nyorai while performing a goma ceremony here. Until its destruction by fire in the 16th century (probably the work of Chōsokabe and his men), it was associated with the Ichinomiya Shintō Shrine, across the street. The two were officially separated during the persecution of Buddhism at the beginning of the Meiji Period. The current restoration was built in the later part of the Meiji Period.
There are two statues of Dainichi here, one carved by Kōbō Daishi and the other carved by Gyōgi. The one by Gyōgi is housed in the shrine across the street.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 2.3 km||Distance to Next Temple: 0.8 km|
This temple has one of the most unusual courtyards of the entire pilgrimage. Where most courtyards are beautifully landscaped with gardens and ponds, this temple looks as if it was built on the surface of the moon. The compound was built on an uneven rock bed with not one flat spot throughout.
Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya Bodhisattva, the future Buddha) revealed himself to Kōbō Daishi here, so Kōbō Daishi carved a 2 foot 6 inch statue of him and founded the temple. Even though the temple has burned down from time to time, the statue has always escaped damage. Emperors throughout history have repeatedly patronized this temple.
Legend states that a wife carried her crippled husband five times around the entire pilgrimage, all the while praying to the Daishi for his help in curing the husband. On the sixth circuit, she and her husband swore that they would commit suicide if he wasn't healed by the end of that trip. When they reached Temple 14, the husband was healed and he and his wife walked the remainder of the pilgrimage together.
Many disabled and crippled people visit this temple to benefit from the honzon's healing power. Chopsticks are sold here as souvenirs. Called chōmeibashi, they bring longevity to their users.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 0.8 km||Distance to Next Temple: 1.7 km|
The temple was founded by Gyōgi and became the official temple of Awa Province on the order of Emperor Shōmu in 741. Gyōgi is also credited with carving the statue of Yakushi.
The temple was destroyed by fire in the 16th century by Chōsokabe and his armies. It was rebuilt in 1742 and converted to Sōtō Zen Buddhism at that time. Before this, it had been converted from Yogacara Buddhism (Hossōshu) to Shingon Buddhism by Kōbō Daishi.
There is one official state temple in each province, and these are: Temple 15 (Awa/Tokushima), Temple 29 (Tosa/Kōchi), Temple 59 (Iyo/Ehime), and Temple 80 (Sanuki/Kagawa).
There is one paper amulet sold here that you are supposed to stick on the walls of your bathroom to ward off termites and other bad luck.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 1.7 km||Distance to Next Temple: 2.9 km|
Some books say that the temple was built in the 741 by Emperor Shōmu as part of his attempt to promote Buddhism throughout the country. Kōbō Daishi came here in 816 and carved a life-sized Kannon statue, and then made it the temple's honzon. Other books simply attribute the temple's founding to Kōbō Daishi himself.
Statues of Fudō Myōō and Bishamonten serve as guardian deities to the Kannon honzon. These two statues, as well, have been attributed to Kōbō Daishi. In the temple courtyard, around the hondō, one can see many crutches which have been discarded by pilgrims who were cured by Kōbō Daishi.
In the temple grounds there is a picture of a 19th century woman on fire. Legend states that the woman, named Shiyo, caught fire while here at the temple. Fortunately, the fire was extinguished and she was saved. She realized that this was the Daishi punishing her for the sins of her youth, including beating her mother-in-law with burning sticks. Shiyo, herself, donated the painting to the temple in hope that this would help to keep others from repeating the same mistakes.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 2.9 km||Distance to Next Temple: 18.0 km|
The temple was founded by Emperor Tenmu and got its name from the time Kōbō Daishi dug a well with his staff to provide a water source for the local farmers.
The well is called Omokage no Ido (the well of the image) and located in a little hut in the middle of the temple courtyard. It is said that if you can see your face in the water you will have a good future. If you can't, you will meet with misfortune within a few years. But, so that this isn't an easy test, the well is in a dark room.
There are seven Yakushi statues which represent the avoidance of the seven calamities and the creation of the seven felicities. Each statue is five feet tall and was carved by Shōtoku Taishi (574-622), the son of Emperor Yōmei.
The temple burned down in both the 14th and 16th centuries and was restored in the 17th century. The present concrete hondō was designed and built in the 1970s.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 18.0 km||Distance to Next Temple: 4.0 km|
As you leave Temple 17 and head towards Temple 18, you finally leave Tokushima City and enter the countryside.
Gyōgi founded this temple on the orders of Emperor Shōmu and carved the statue of Yakushi as its honzon. At that time, Buddhist law forbid women getting any closer to the temple than the hill called Hanaori no Saka. Likewise, women were not allowed on Kōyasan or the mountain of Temple 12. In fact, women at the time were not allowed on any of the sacred mountains.
One hundred years later, Kōbō Daishi's mother, Tamayori, came to visit him while he was training here. For seventeen days he performed an esoteric rite at the temple gate. At the end of the seventeen day ritual, the ban against women climbing the mountain was lifted and Kōbō Daishi's mother was allowed to enter the temple precincts. Once she entered the temple, she shaved off her hair and became a nun.
Because Kōbō Daishi took care of his mother after she became a nun, the temple came to be known as Onzanji, a temple of gratitude to one's parents.
Frederick Starr says that Kōbō Daishi's mother's bones are buried here and that Kōbō Daishi carved the statue of himself in the daishidō.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 4.0 km||Distance to Next Temple: 13.7 km|
Gyōgi built the temple on the order of Emperor Shōmu. While the temple was being built, a white heron (shirasagi) landed on what is now called Shirasagi Bridge and this was considered to be a very auspicious sign.
The honzon, slightly smaller than two inches, was carved on 'jambuna' gold (enbudagon) by Gyōgi and installed here to pray for an easy delivery for Empress Kōmyō, Emperor Shōmu's wife. Kōbō Daishi carved a six-foot statue of Jizō that now enshrines the tiny statue carved by Gyōgi.
Legend states that, in the 19th century, a woman named Okyō came to Shikoku with her lover to escape the authorities. They had killed the man she had been a mistress to before she had met the man she was now with. To escape the authorities, they disguised themselves as henro and were following the other henro around the pilgrimage. When they reached the hondō of Temple 19, as she tried to ring the bell to start her prayers, Okyō's hair suddenly stood on end and got entangled in the bell's rope. After struggling, she got herself free but all of her hair, and part of her scalp, remained entangled in the rope, leaving her with the monastic tonsure. Taking this as a sign from Kobō Daishi, the couple both became devout Buddhists, she becoming a nun and he a monk. She lived the rest of her life in a small chapel owned by the temple and devoted her life to prayers while he became a temple laborer. Okyō's hair and scalp can still be seen at the temple in a little glass-encased shrine just off the walkway.
Like so many of the other temples, this one was destroyed by Chōsokabe and then later restored. The temple burned down again and was rebuilt in 1977.
In the compound is a small statue with a very shiny red face. It is a statue of Binzuru, one of the first sixteen disciples of the Buddha. He was a physician and came from a family of distinguished physicians. But, he loved to drink and this often caused problems. One day, a rich man came to the Buddha and asked him to overcome an evil spirit that had been afflicting his house. The Buddha couldn't go, so he sent Binzuru in his place, but admonished him to be careful and not to drink. Binzuru went and did, in fact find an evil spirit. He confronted it and, by proclaiming the Buddha's teachings, overcame it.
In thanks, the rich man threw a banquet and Binzuru, after holding out for a long time, broke down and had a drink in celebration. Not being able to stop after just one, though, he got drunk and lost his power over the evil spirit. The spirit returned and soon the house was suffering again. The Buddha became mad and kicked Binzuru out of his community but said nothing when he saw that Binzuru was still following him around and listening from outside.
When the Buddha died, he called Binzuru to his side and told him that he forgave him, but that Binzuru would never be allowed to enter Nirvana himself. He would always have to remain in this world to minister to the people. That is why you see his red-faced statue at many temples. People rub the statue and then place the hand they used over the part of their body that hurts.
As this was once the barrier temple for Awa Province, while here, henro should make a spiritual self-evaluation. Has your pilgrimage been worthy so far? Have you been living up to the obligations placed on you as a henro? Have you maintained your vows? If not, you should return to Temple 1 and start over again. Some stories say that those who are unworthy have actually been unable to enter the temple grounds.
If you are visiting the Bangai Temples as well, this is where you leave the trail to go up to Bangai Temple 3. You'll walk all but the last 4 km of the same trail you would to get to Temple 20, but instead of making the last turn to the left and climbing up to Temple 20, you continue straight and follow the road to Bangai Temple 3. In both 1999 and 2005, i found it the most convenient to spend the night at lodging as close as i could get to Bangai 3. In 1999 i stayed at the temple itself, but they have since closed their shukubō. In 2005 i stayed at the lodging Fureai no Sato: Sakamoto, about 4.5 km before the temple. I think its a Middle School that has been closed due to a lack of students and converted into a Minshuku. While not traditional in any sense of the word, it is clean and the service and food are very good.
After checking in about 2pm, or so, they let me leave my pack and gave me this map to get up to Bangai Temple 3. Insert map to B3 here. I got back with just enough time to take a bath before dinner. The next morning, it was straight downhill and back to the point where i turn uphill to Temple 20.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 13.7 km||Distance to Next Temple: 6.5 km|
While Kōbō Daishi was training at this temple, a small, 2", statue of Jizō appeared at the base of an old cedar tree guarded by a pair of cranes. To commemorate this, Kōbō Daishi founded the temple and enshrined the statue in a larger, three-foot, statue of Jizō.
The crane is considered a symbol of longevity and good fortune and its appearance is considered an auspicious sign. Emperor Kammu gave the temple the title of Imperial Office Temple (Chokugansho).
This temple is unique in Tokushima Prefecture in having escaped the ravages of fire over the years. The temple is located on a mountain at 550 meters (1,800 feet) and is one of the pilgrimage's six major Nansho.
Starr notes that the statue next to the honzon is that of Minamoto Yoritomo on a horse.
The climb to Temples 20 and 21 was, without a doubt, the hardest on the entire trip for me. At that time i had blisters on both feet, had managed to catch a terrible cold, and was, in general, feeling pretty darn bad. In addition, it is a long, steep climb up the trail from Temple 19 to 20, and to get to Temple 21 you have to drop all the way back down into the next valley and reclimb another trail straight up to the top of the next mountain. I was absolutely exhausted as i sat there at 21 wondering how i was going to find the strength to walk back down the mountain and to my minshuku that night.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 6.5 km||Distance to Next Temple: 11.7 km|
Kōbō Daishi performed the Gumonjihō (reciting the Mantra of Kokūzō one million times) at the age of 15 on the summit of Mt. Tairyū. He later built this temple on the same location on the order of Emperor Kammu. This is one of the few locations where we are certain that legend is correct, and that Kōbō Daishi did visit this mountain, because he wrote about it in his own words. Another legend states that the temple's name comes about because a miraculous image, guarded by a great dragon, appeared during Emperor Jimmu's (the first Japanese Emperor) unification campaign.
It took Kōbō Daishi fifty days to recite the Mantra of Kokūzō on the peak of this mountain. Yet, according to his writings, he was unsuccessful and didn't find the enlightenment that he was desperately searching for. He did, though,receive some spiritual encouragement from his experience and made a vow to go to Cape Muroto to continue his training.
There was a serious fire here in 1895, but the hondō, daishidō, and pagoda all escaped damage. Because Kōbō Daishi performed the Gumonjihō here (twice), a Gumonji shrine is preserved in the temple courtyard.
The temple is located at an elevation of 610 m (2,000 ft) and considered a nansho even though there is now a cable car which can take you to the top. If you walk, though, the trail is steep and tiring, although the scenery is beautiful.
Frederick Starr mentions a monument to Kōbō Daishi on the summit of the mountain. Starr also notes being in a fine room in the temple where there were several painted screens, one being 150 years old and containing paintings of the 53 stages of the Tokaidō. He also says that this is the only temple which was both founded by Kōbō Daishi and where he served as the head priest. Starr goes on to recount how Kōbō Daishi meditated and fasted here for 100 days despite the temptations of 'evil spirits' who masked themselves as a fair woman, a terrible dragon, and other forms (i.e., he performed the gumonjihō ritual). But he conquered the evil spirits and after the mortification practices he performed many miracles both for himself and his companions.
Starr was given a fuda while here which was called Kumano-no-gō. It is used when a contract is entered between two people. A bit of the paper is steeped in water and drank. After this, if one of the two people breaks the contract he will vomit blood. It can also be used to catch criminals as they will vomit blood if they drink water in which a bit of this has been steeped. Starr also notes that there is exorcism paper here as well.
Starr notes that he was up at 6 the next morning in order to attend a goma ceremony performed by the temple priest. He also notes a large limestone cave in the area filled with stalactites and a subterranean river. The area is honeycombed with these caves, among them the Dragon Cave. Henro come here to pray for rebirth and, since the cave has come to symbolize the womb, for fertility.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 11.7 km||Distance to Next Temple: 20.7 km|
The temple was founded by Kōbō Daishi, and the honzon is said to have appeared to through a cloud of five colors. The mountain is called Hakusuizan (White Water Mountain) because of the milky-white holy water which sprang up out of a well dug by Kōbō Daishi during the temples consecration.
The statue of Yakushi Nyorai was made by Kōbō Daishi. The temple is called the Temple of Equality because Yakushi saves all beings from disease, regardless of age, sex, rank, or race.
Consecrated water from this temple is supposed to be especially good for diseases of the eyes and is the same water in which Kōbō Daishi took a bath. Piles of crutches can be seen along the walkway to the temple, attesting to its curative powers.
|Distance to Previous Temple: 20.7 km||Distance to Next Temple: 75.4 km|
Statler says that this is one of the most popular temples on the pilgrimage, with half a million people visiting it each year. When you stop to think that the main pilgrimage season only lasts a little more than two months, you get an idea of how crowded it can get.
Founded by Gyōgi in the 8th century, this temple is known as the temple 'par excellence' for protecting yourself from the dangers of misfortunes (Yaku-yoke) due to your age. At the age of 42, Kōbō Daishi performed a great exorcism here to prevent public disaster. He also, on the orders of Emperor Heijō, carved statues of Yakushi and twelve other gods of the sun, moon, and stars to turn aside the dangers associated with his being 42 years old. The honzon is popularly known as the Backward-facing Yakushi (Ushiromuki Yakushi).
Since the time of Kōbō Daishi, emperors have often sent embassies here to pray and exorcise, and the temple has been under special government control.
It is believed that women at the age of 19 or 33, and men at the age of 42 or 61, are particularly prone to bad luck. The years of greatest danger are:
Women: 32, 33, and 61.
And, before you think you are safe in other years, for both men and women, the years of lesser danger are:
It is thought that you can turn aside ill fate (yaku) and bring good fortune by, in part, reciting the Mantra of Yakushi and placing a coin on each of the steps as you walk up the stairs leading to the temple on Yakuyoke hill (42 steps on the men's side and 33 steps on the women's side). The steps are said to contain 1000 consecrated copies of the Sutra of Yakushi, each character written on a pebble. The final climb to the hondō has an additional 61 steps, the worst age for both men and women.
The temple is also dedicated to the safety of sailors and the numerous model ships around the temple compound represent ships saved by the power of Yakushi.
The 28 pillars of the hondō represent the 28 astral deities. When the temple burned down in 1188, the honzon was seen to fly away to the distant hillside of Mt. Tamazushi. A new statue was carved when the temple was rebuilt, but during the dedication ceremony the original statue flew back. Both statues now sit in the temple, back to back.
Yakuōji offers a beautiful view of Hiwasa Bay and Hiwasa Castle from the viewing area around the pagoda. The small islands in the bay make for a great picture, but don't be fooled by the castle — i read that it was only built in the 1960s to attract tourists.
Bangai Temple 4 is on the road between Temples 23 and 24; you don't have to go out of the way at all. When you get to Sabase, you'll see signs pointing you to the right. Look for the signs to Sabase Eki (train station) because you turn right and walk right past the station, which is nothing but a platform and shelter.