Jizoji Temple Tokushima, 地蔵寺
Jizoji, temple number five of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, is only two kilometers from the previous temple of the 1,200 kilometer pilgrimage, Dainichiji, and less than 11 kilometers from the start of the pilgrimage at temple number one, Ryozenji.
Jizoji is often visited on a short day's walk to the first set of temples for people who want to get an experience of this increasingly popular, famous, ancient pilgrimage in Shikoku.
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 route.
Jizo-ji was founded by the monk Kukai, more famously known by his posthumous name of Kobo Daishi, who is the focus of this pilgrimage.
Directed by Emperor Saga in 811, Kobo Daishi carved a tiny, two inch high statue of Jizo which is enshrined here. Later in the 9th century another monk, Jokan, carved a larger statue and placed the original statue inside it.
Jizo is one of the most popular deities in Japan. Of the 88 temples on the Shikoku pilgrimage six have a Jizo as the honzon, the main enshrined deity.
There are statues of Jizo everywhere in Japan, most often with a child-like appearance as he is most commonly associated with protecting children and travellers, however the form of Jizo enshrined here at Jizoji is known as Shogun Jizo, and is often depicted wearing armour, and therefore was popular with samurai as a protector of warriors. The temple, like so many others in the area, was burned to the ground during the rise to power of the warlord Chosokabe Motochika at the end of the 16th century.
Most of the current buildings date from the early 18th century and are listed as Important Cultural Properties. The entrance gate has some nice, colorful carvings, and the guardians within are unusually colorful too.
An 800 year old gingko tree is growing in the courtyard, but the most interesting part of the temple is the U-shaped hall behind the main temple buildings called the Rakando.
Rakan, sometimes referred to as arhats, were disciples of the historical Buddha who attained nirvana, though the definition has changed through time and within different Buddhist traditions.
In Japan you will often find 500 rakan, often small stone statues, with the feature of each having a distinctly different face, and so it is said that you will not fail to find at least one who reminds you of someone you know.
The rakan statues here are unusual in that they are life-size, carved in wood, and painted, though there are nowhere near 500, probably more like 200, and that number includes the last part of the gallery that also has similar statues of Bodhisattvas rather than rakan.
The three wings that make up the U-shaped building are called the Miroku wing, the Amida wing, and finally the Daishi wing, and each wing also has a statue of the named figure.
The statues were carved by two priests in the 18th century and moved here later. The original Rakando burned down in 1913 and the current building dates from 1922. If you are walking the pilgrimage path then you approach the temple from the rear and come to the Rakando first.
Jizoji Temple Access
5 Hayashihigashi, Itano-cho
Itano-gun, Tokushima 779-0114
Tel: 0886 72 4111
Jizoji is a five minute walk from the Rakan bus stop on buses bound for Kajiyahara from either Itano Station or Tokushima Station.
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