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Zentsūji

Zentsūji is a town with a strange mixture of Buddhist and military history. It’s the birthplace of Kūkai and Enchin.

Zentsūji

The town is located on a plain on the western side of Kagawa Prefecture. It’s home to no less than five pilgrimage temples, Nos. 72 to 76. The great priests Kūkai and Enchin were born here, Kūkai at Zentsū-ji Temple and Enchin at Konzō-ji Temple. Kūkai is regarded as the founder of the Shikoku pilgrimage, and he’s believed to join pilgrims in spirit. The temple on the site of his birthplace is a large complex with a tall and conspicuous five-storied pagoda. With its pilgrimage temples and the large Sanukinomiya Shintō shrine, the town has the atmosphere of a religious centre.

Zentsūji is also a military centre. After the First Sino-Japanese War ended in 1895, six new infantry divisions were raised by the Imperial Japanese Army, including the 11th Division headquartered in Zentsūji, with troops recruited from Shikoku. Its first commander was Lieutenant General Nogi Maresuke. During WWII, the Division’s Zentsūji base was the site of a grim POW camp for American soldiers captured in the Pacific. Today the base is used by the Ground Self Defence Force, and you can see tanks and other military vehicles parked in its grounds. Many of the original Meiji and Taishō period military buildings remain in use, including the red-brick armoury, the former headquarters, and the retired servicemen’s hall.

Picfair_Zentsu-ji_photos

Reminders of Zentsūji’s history going back earlier than Kūkai’s time remain in the form of numerous ancient kofun burial mounds dotted around the base of Mt. Ōsayama, a popular hiking spot. Another good place for hiking is Gogakusan, a group of five mountains of various heights.  

Information

Name in Japanese: 善通寺

Pronunciation: zentsūji

Address: Zentsuji, Kagawa

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