Gokurakuji Temple, Tokushima 極楽寺
The Shikoku Pilgrimage consists of 88 temples around the island of Shikoku, and to visit all of them involves a journey of about 1,200 kilometres. However, the first six temples, located in Tokushima, are close enough together so that even visiting them on foot, the traditional way to do the pilgrimage, they can easily be visited in a single day, and is quite popular among people who want the flavour and experience of the pilgrimage but lack the time or inclination to try the whole thing.
Gokurakuji is located in the Naruto district, north of Tokushima city. Naruto was the port that provided the closest access to Shikoku from Koyasan, and so it became known as the starting point of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
Temple number two, Gokurakuji, is a mere one kilometer from the first temple, Ryozenji. Gokuraku Temple - gokuraku means Pure Land, or Paradise - was like most temples on Shikoku burned down during the wars of the 16th century.
Gokurakuji is classified as a National Treasure. Legend says it was founded by Gyoki in the 8th Century and that Kobo Daishi carved the main statue of Amida Nyorai, though historians place both much later. A legend says that a woman who had miscarried many times did the pilgrimage in reverse and when she arrived at Gokurakuji was finally able to give birth and since then the temple has gained a reputation as a place to pray for easy childbirth.
Gokurakuji has a nice gate containing some fine Nio guardians, and the gardens are quite pleasant. A huge Japanese cedar believed to be over a thousand years old and according to legend planted by Kobo Daishi himself, is known as Chomeisugi, the 'cedar of long life', and is prayed to for longevity. Also of note is a large slab of marble carved with the Buddha's footprints. Gokurakuji belongs to the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism with its headquarters in Koyasan, the famous mountain temple complex south of Osaka.
Gokurakuji Temple Access
12 Hinoki-dannoue, Oasacho, Naruto, Tokushima 779-0225
Tel: 088 689 1536
Gokurakuji is a 15 minute walk from Awa-Kawabata Station on the JR Kotoku Line or a similar walk from Ryozenji. Awa-Kawabata Station is 20 minutes from Tokushima Station.
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