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5 Spots Representing the Shikoku Pilgrimage

The temples of Shikoku are considered to be the 88 places for pilgrimage in the area. The whole course measures up to about 1,460km and is very difficult for tourists to accomplish visiting all of them. Here are some of 5 of the most prominent temples.

What is the Shikoku Pilgrimage?

The Shikoku Pilgrimage refers to following the footsteps of the Buddhist monk Kukai, who is the founder of Shingon Buddhism. This trail includes 88 sacred temples in Shikoku. Each person has his or her own reasons for pilgrimage, may it be for health, better fortune, to pray for the repose of a dead loved one, or to find one's self. Each sacred place has its own assigned number, but you may decide on your own which to go first, how many to go to, and how much time you spend there.

1. Ryozen-ji (Tokushima)

Official Name: Jikuwazan Ichijoin Ryozen-ji
This is the starting point of the sacred places, represented mainly by the statue of Buddha that's the principal object of worship. The inside of the main temple offers a majestic atmosphere provided by several lanterns. The painting of the dragons on the ceiling also provide a striking view. Upon entering the Deva gate, you will find the Kannon, a Buddhist deity, that's known for matchmaking which is meant to benefit people when it comes to love and work. Furthermore, you may also find attire and canes suitable for the pilgrimage journey at the stalls by the main temple. Please stock yourselves with the necessary equipment before going on your journey.

1. Ryozen-ji (Tokushima)

126 Aza-Tsukahana, Oasa-cho Bando, Naruto-shi, Tokushima

2. Mandara-ji (Kagawa)

Official Name: Gahaishizan Enmyoin Mandara-ji
This temple, which is number 72 on the list, is the most historical among the Shikoku sacred places, having been built in 596. The temple was supposedly built under a different name, but its name was changed accordingly after it was erected as a Buddhist temple by Kukai. This temple serves mainly as veneration to Dainichi Nyorai (the Dharma body of Buddha), but there are also Mandara pictures, which shows a visual scheme of Buddha, Bodhisattva, and other enlightened minds. The pine tree planted by Kukai himself about 1,200 years ago stood here, but was trimmed down due to insects. Due to this, the trunk of the tree was carved into a statue of Kukai and was renamed "Kasamatsudaishi." The statue was then placed where the original tree stood.

Kasamatsu Taishi

2. Mandara-ji (Kagawa)

1380-1 Yoshiwara-cho, Zentsuji-shi, Kagawa

3. Ishite-ji (Ehime)

Official Name: Kumanosan Kokuzoin Ishite-ji
This is the 51st temple in the pilgrim course and is situated near the famous Dogo Hot Spring. You may find many stores in the area lined up selling souvenirs and many tourists come to visit in addition to the people on pilgrimage. There are many things to see here such as the Deva gate, which is a national treasure, as well as the main temple and the three-storied pagoda, which are all considered as important cultural properties. You may also find a Hariti (goddess of childbirth and conception) at the dome called "Kariteimo Tendo."

National Treasure Deva Gate

3. Ishite-ji (Ehime)

2-9-21 Ishite, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime

4. Zentsu-ji (Kagawa)

Official Name: Gogakusan Tanjoin Zentsu-ji
This temple stands at the birthplace of Kukai and is 75th on the list. The precinct itself is divided into two spacious parts, the east and west, and is filled with many parts worthy of seeing. The principal image is the Bhaisajyaguru (Buddha that cures sickness) located at the main part of the main temple, followed by the Okudono of the Miei hall containing self-portraits of Kukai, and Homotsukan (a treasure hall) keeping various temple treasures considered to be important cultural properties that are open for viewing. This temple would require a bit of slow time for visiting.

4. Zentsu-ji (Kagawa)

3-3-1 Zentsuji-cho, Zentsuji-shi, Kagawa

5. Kakurin-ji (Tokushima)

Official Name: Ryujuzan Hojuin Kakurin-ji
Kakurin-ji is the 20th temple and is situated in Tokushima. It is considered to be a difficult spot to reach as it is located at an altitude of 550m. The name of the temple was derived from the legend of how Kukai the Buddhist monk trained at this mountain and saw how a male and female crane spreading their wings to descend onto an old cedar tree to protect a small, golden Kshitigarbha (Bodhisattva who looks after children). Kukai was overjoyed by this sight and decided to carve a 90cm statue of this, with a 5.5cm golden Kshitigarbha as the principal image.

5. Kakurin-ji (Tokushima)

14 Aza-Washigao, Ikuna, Katsuura-cho, Katsuura-gun, Tokushima

The temples listed above are all sacred places located in Shikoku. For those of you interested, please give this pilgrimage a try!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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