Kannonji City in Kagawa Prefecture uniquely has two Holy Sites of Shikoku in one premise; Jin’nein Temple (the 68th) and Kannonji Temple (the 69th). These temples were originally a part of Kotohiki (Harp Play) Hachimangu Shrine founded in 703 by Priest Nissho, who had received a divine message from Hachiman Daimyojin with the tune of Japanese harp heard from a boat on the sea. Jin’nein was also built at this time as an attached temple to the shrine.
In the Daido era (806-809), Kobo Daishi enshrined Amida Buddha、which was Honjibutsu (Buddhist counterpart of the deity of the shrine) and designated the shrine as the 68th of the 88 Holy Sites of Shikoku. Then he carved Sho Kanzeon Bosatsu (Sacred Form of Kannon) and built the formal seven buildings of a temple in the nearby mountain, and named it Kannonji Temple, which was designated as the 69th.
Later in the Meiji period (1868-1912), when temples and shrines were separated according to the Shinbutsu Bunri policy of the national government, Honjibutsu Amida Buddha of Kotohiki Hachimangu Shrine was removed to Nishi-Kondo Hall of Kannonji Temple, which became the main hall of Jin’nein Temple; hereby two temples has been located in the same premise since then. Jin’nein temple is up the stone steps from Kannonji Temple.
Saigyo was a famous Japanese poet of the late Heian period (794-1192). Born to a military family in 1118, he started his careear as an Imperial Guard to retired Emperor Toba at the age of 18. He was a handsome young man, who was both a good warrior and a good scholar. He came to be known in the political circles of the time, but for some unknown reasons, he quit worldly life to become a monk at the age of 23. Later he took the pen name “Saigyo” meaning Western Journey.
He did not belong to any sect of Buddhism and stayed in a hermitage in a deep mountain to seek for enlightment through writing waka poems. Being attracted by the beauty of nature, he made his temporary hermitage in the suberbs of Kyoto and Nara including Mt. Ogurayama in Saga, Mt. Kuramayama, a holy mountain of Yoshino and Mt. Koya, the sanctuary of the Shingon Buddhism. He also made a number of trips to visit temples and shrines in Shikoku and Ise.
94 poems of Saigyo’s work are collected in “the Shin Kokinshu.” His other important collections of poems are “Sankashu (Mountain Home Collection),” “Sanka Shinchu Shu,” and “Kikigakishu.” He died at Hirokawa Temple in Kawachi province (present-day Kanan-cho in Osaka Prefecture) in 1190.
Tairyuji temple is located near the summit of Mt Tairyuji in Wajiki, Tokushima Prefecture. It belongs to the Koyasan Shingon sect. The temple is devoted to the bodhisattva Kokuzo Bosattsu (Akasagarbha) and is the 21st temple on the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
From ancient times, the temple was known as West Kouno. It is written in the 'Sangoushiiki' that in 793, the 19-year-old monk Kukai (Kobo Daishi) mastered the mantra of the Akasagarbha bodhisattva after 100 days of ascetic training at Tairyugatake.
It is believed that Tairyuji and Muroto played an important role in forming the beliefs of young Daishi.
The mountain may be called a spiritual place due to the density of the ancient Japanese cedar and cypress. The presence of buildings like the main temple, Daishido, Tahoto, Gumonido, Roumon, Gomado and Rokkaku-kyouzo also help create a magnificent ambience.
Growing around the temple throughout the four seasons are mountain flora such as rhododendron, hydrangea, maple and camellia, which provide a beautiful sight for travelers.
Yakuoji Temple is situated on Mt Iozan, and belongs to the Koya school of the Shingon sect. It is located at Hiwasa-cho, Kaifu-gun, Tokushima Prefecture. The temple is dedicated to the Medicine King Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru in Sanskrit).
The monk Gyoki, at the request of the Emperor Shomu, erected Yakuoji in 726 (Jinki 3). The temple was opened in 815 (Kounin 6), when Kobo Daishi carved the image of Yakushi Nyorai by order of the retired Emperor Heijo.
It is the 23rd temple on the Shikoku pilgrimage, and is also known as the temple for expelling evil. The temple’s formal name is Jigou Muryo-Jiin Iozan. This title indicates Buddhist concepts of infinite life and refers to the Medicine King, or the Medicine Buddha.
Yakuoji is regarded as the main temple of the Kouya school of the Shingon sect. Here, the emperors Saga and Junwa prayed to expel evil, while in the second year of the Karoku period, the retired Emperor Tsuchimikado stayed here. The Emperor Gosaga rebuilt the temple in the first year of the Kangen period and the prince Jinsuke had preached at the rebuilding ceremony of the temple.
Ryozenji is a temple belonging to the Koya school of the Shingon sect. The temple is dedicated to Gotama Siddhattha. It is the first temple on the Shikoku pilgrimage.
The Emperor Shōmu initiated construction of this temple after its inauguration by Gyōki Bosattsu in the Tenpyo period. In 815, Kōbō Daishi stayed here for 21 days and practiced his ascetic training. Later he invoked the creation of the 88-temple Shikoku pilgrimage. It is believed that during his training, he carved the Gotama Siddhattha figure, marking it as the first point on the pilgrimage. He founded schools that could teach the Taizoukai Mandala of the Dainichi Nyorai buddha in the Shikoku area. Each of the four regions of Shikoku was to establish schools of religion, training, Buddhahood and Nirvana.
He founded a total of 88 schools. Ryozenji was destroyed by fire at one point, but rebuilt and remains today a magnificent example of architecture.
Nowadays it is known as the starting point of the Shikoku pilgrimage. Throughout the year, it is crowded with pilgrims wearing the sedge hat and white costume of the henro.