Ryozenji Temple - Main Gate
Ryozenji Temple is the first temple in the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Shikoku Pilgrimage (in Japanese Shikoku O-Henro)
is associated with all the temples that Monk Kobo Daishi Kukai
visited or founded when he was training in Shikoku Region. This temple can be easily reached by a fourty minute bus ride from the JR Tokushima Station. The bus stops right in front of the main gate but on a busy high way, so please make sure that you are careful while crossing the highway to walk into the temple.
Most pilgrims who do this circuit, take the bus to this temple and then walk to most of the other temples that are part of the Tokushima Prefecture.
As you enter the temple, there are a couple of shops which sell all the items you need for the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
Ryozenji Temple Seal
These include the Stamp Book (Nokyocho), Sedge Hat, the pilgrimage dress and a walking stick with a bell etc. There is an english book with the title "Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide", that I highly recommend you buy it. It helps you guide through the rest of the pilgrimage.
The temple is affiliated with the Shingon Sect of Japanese Buddhism and the main deity here has been carved by Monk Kobo Daishi. The temple itself predates Monk Kobo Daishi, as it was founded by Monk Gyoki (688-749 AD).
Monk Kobo Daishi "Kukai"
Monk Gyoki was one of the original preachers of the Japanese Buddhism and was the founder of the short lived Hosso Sect of Japanese Buddhism. But Monk Gyoki had a large influence on the origination and promotion of Buddhism in Japan and one of the first to encourage the idea of Ryobu-Shinto (combining "Kami" of the Shinto religion as a deity in Buddhism). Monk Gyoki had built and founded many temples in Japan with the help from the Emperor Shomu Tenno, most famous of them all is the Todaiji Temple in Nara Prefecture.
Monk Kobo Daishi had visited the temple in the early 9th century during his travels in Shikoku and was responsible for carving the main deity in the temple. The temple has been repeatedly destroyed in fires but has been rebuilt many times. Most of the original carvings and statues around the temple however have survived these destructions. In addition to the main worship hall there is also "Daisho-Do" dedicated to Monk Kobo Daishi. Most pilgrims take the blessings of Monk Kobo Daishi at the Daishi-Do before continuing with their pilgrimage.
Here is a video of this historical temple.
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