Sunday, June 11, 2023

Kinoshita-an, Seikenji, Ichinotani-an, & Gokurakuji. Four Temples on the Shodoshima Pilgrimage.


Late afternoon on Christmas Day, 2015, day 2 of my walk around Shodoshima Island on the Shodoshima 88 temple pilgrimage, and I take the ropeway down from the top of Kankakei Gorge.

I share the ropeway down with a French family, and they offer me a ride in the taxi that is waiting for them at the bottom, ….. I'm tempted but decline gracefully. From here it should all be downhill.

Once I get back to where I started up to Sekimondo I find a footpath that goes straight down rather than having to walk along the road which winds back and forth, saving me about a kilometer. The path comes out at the big dam above Kusukabe and then I enter the outskirts of the small town.

I have a bit of trouble finding the next temple but a little old lady points me in the right direction. Number 19, Kinoshita-an, is a small hermitage but I am beginning to appreciate the unpretentiousness of these small establishments. They are very welcoming and completely lacking in ostentation. Compared to other hermitages, this one is actually quite large. It enshrines a statue of Yakushi Nyorai the "Medicine Buddha"

Another kilometer and I'm in the middle of an urban area and I find number 21, Seikenji, a somewhat larger temple with some curious sculptures in the park next door.

The honzon is a Fudo Myoo,  and the temple legend claims it to have been founded by Gyoki in the 8th century. It was burned down in 1899 and reconstruction was given support by the Crown Prince who visited Shodoshima in 1907.

The stone sculptures were by Hiroshima artist Aki Sora, but I can find no other information about them.

The afternoon becomes golden as the sun rushes towards the horizon. I cut back up a little valley and find the next temple, number 17 Ichinotani-an, snuggled against the hillside. It's another small hermitage.

The honzon is another Yakushi Nyorai that survived a landslide here in 1976. It was nice to see another Fudo statue.

According to the map the next temple is down the valley then around and up the next little valley over, about one and a half kilometers, but signs at Ichinotani-an point to a footpath that goes through the woods. Once again the route for walking pilgrims is much shorter than for those driving. I passed this line of statues, and according to the current google streetview they are no longer there. 


The last temple of a very long day was Gokurakuji, number 16, and was quite impressive being reached across a bridge that spanned a wide pond in front of the temple.

It is said the temple was located at the foot of  Mount Kamikake but was moved to this location, said to be a site where Kukai spent time, in the early Edo Period. The honzon is an Amida Nyorai, The current main hall dates back to early Meiji.

It had a decent garden. By now the valley was in shadow and it was cooling down quickly so I headed straight down to the main road to catch a bus back to my minshuku as the sun dipped below the horizon across the sea. A long day filled with great sights and nice weather.


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