Thursday, August 4, 2022

Iwayaji Temple 45 on the Shikoku Ohenro


Iwayaji, temple 44 on the Ohenro pilgrimage in Shikoku, is located among towering cliffs and spires of rock high in the mountains of Kumakogen in Ehime.

The surroundings are what I would consider a  classic shugendo environment, and any similar -looking places I have ever seen have all been yamabushi sites. I subscribe to the theory that much of the Shikoku pilgrimage is based on a series of Yamabushi training areas that became linked.

When I met a young priest I commented to him how jealous I was of the location of his home, clinging to the base of the cliff with great views down and across the mountainous countryside.

According to the story, when Kobo Daishi visited here he found a female hermit already living here. He carved two statues of Fudo Myo, one is the honzon in the main hall, and the other is enshrined higher up the mountain in the Okunoin. Because of the snow I decided against climbing up to the Okunoin.

A fire destroyed all the main buildings in 1898. The Kokuzodo, a small structure below the main shrine on the path up, and the Niomon, a little distance from the main temple at an older entrance, both survived and date back to the 18th century.

The current main hall was built in 1927, and is unusually smaller than the Daishido which was built in 1920. The Daishido is registered as an Important Cultural Property because it applarently incorporates numerous western elements into its traditional temple architecture.

There are numerous caves in the area that were used by the ascetics. A ladder leads up to one with a wooden platform where a small structure, the Hokke Sennindo, used to be. From here the views are remarkable.

Below the main hall is an entrance into a narrow 10 metre deep cave with an altar and several statues.

Next up some photos of the Fudo Myo statues and carvings here.

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