Dainichiji Temple, Tokushima 大日寺
At about 1,200 kilometers, the whole pilgrimage is obviously too much for most visitors, though the number of foreign pilgrims making the journey on foot or by bicycle is increasing.
However, the first group of about six temples at the beginning of the pilgrimage, are close enough together that they can easily be visited in a single day and so provide a popular taster of the whole pilgrimage.
Dainichiji is the first temple that is away from the main road that runs along the north bank of the Yoshino River in Tokushima Prefecture. Located up a narrow valley a couple of kilometers north of the main road, if you are walking then this is the first time you leave the paved road and take to a footpath.
It is believed that Kobo Daishi founded the temple and carved the statue of the main deity, Dainichi Nyorai, the Great Sun Buddha, who for over a thousand years was considered to be equivalent to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu.
It is the main Buddha of Shingon Buddhism, the sect founded by Kobo Daishi, and the temple belongs to the Shingon sect. Dainichiji is a fairly small temple. The gate has no Nio guardians but is topped by a bell tower.
There is no pagoda, nor any gardens to speak of and really only two buildings, the Hondo (main hall) enshrining the main deity, Dainichi Nyorai, and the Daishi-do, enshrining Kobo Daishi, the focus of the pilgrimage.
However there is an enclosed corridor linking the two buildings and in it there are some rather delightful statues. Most of the statues are of Kannon, 33 in total, donated to the temple in the 18th century, and they are quite lovely and diverse, probably representing the 33 Kannon statues that are the focus of another ancient pilgrimage the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage in the Kansai area.
There is also a nice Benzaiten statue, but probably the most unusual is of a deity called Shomen Kongozo. Brilliant blue, with wild hair and six arms, this wrathful deity has a complex history including Daoism and Tantric Buddhism, and is known for his power to protect against disease. The three monkeys on the base point to his connection with the Koshin faith, also focussed on disease protection.
Dainichiji Temple Access
5 Kurotani, Itano
Tokushima 779 0113
Tel: 0886 72 1225
Dainichiji is about a 30-40 minute walk from the Rakan bus stop near temple five, Jizoji.
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