Japan Temples & Shrines: Kumadaniji Temple, Tokushima 熊谷寺
Kumadaniji Temple is the 8th temple on the famous Shikoku Pilgrimage of 88 temples. It is 4.2 kilometres from the previous temple, Jurakuji, and 21.2 kilometres from the starting point of the pilgrimage at Ryozenji.
Kumadani means "Bear Valley" and the temple is the first on the pilgrimage located up a narrow valley away from the open river plain.
Before reaching the temple however one comes to the impressive Sanmon, or main gate, standing alone some distance from the temple proper.
Built in 1687 and a tad over 13 meters high, this gate is considered the finest among all the 88 temples of the Shikoku pilgrimage. Housing a pair of Nio guardian statues, legend says that at one time a band of robbers lived in the upper storey.
The path from the main gate towards the temple is lined with cherry trees. As you arrive at the car park and temple offices, on the right is a large pond with a very small island connected with a bridge with a torii in front. This is a shrine to Benten, the Shinto-Buddhist goddess often associated with water.
From here the first structure you come to is the Tahoto, Shingon-style two storey pagoda, dating to 1774. From here steps led up towards the Main Hall and Daishi Hall.
There are numerous statues along the way, as well as lots of maple trees as well as more cherry trees. Part way up there is a second gate to pass through and the two statues housed within are very intricately painted.
Another flight of steps then lead up to the Main Hall and Daishi Hall. All the temples on the pilgrimage will have a Daishi Hall as well as the main hall, as Kobo Daishi is the focus of the pilgrimage.
There was a disastrous fire here in 1927 and both halls burnt down. Reconstruction was halted during the war years and they were not completed until 1960. The main deity enshrined in the Main Hall is a Thousand-Armed Kannon, reputedly carved by Kobo Daishi.
According to the legend, he was practicing austerities in the mountains nearby when the deities of the famous Kumano Shrines in Wakayama appeared in front of him and gave him a small, gold statue of Kannon. It is said that Kobo Daishi placed this small statue inside the life-size Kannon statue he carved.
Kumadaniji Temple Access
185 Donari-maeda, Donari-cho, Awa-shi, Tokushima 771-1506
Tel: 0886 95 2065
The nearest public transport is the Nijonaka bus stop on buses that run between Tokushima Station and Kamojima Station. From the bus stop it is about a 50 minute walk.