Nestled under the steep slopes on the eastern tip of the Muroto Peninsula are two caves, the Mikuro and Shinmei caves where the young Kūkai is said to have attained spiritual enlightenment. This claim was made by the novelist Shiba Ryōtarō in his book Kūkai the Universal: Scenes from His Life. However, one of the conditions for the ritual that Kūkai used to seek enlightenment is that the practitioner must face towards the planet Venus in the night sky. The trouble is that Shiba didn’t bother to visit Muroto, so he didn’t know that Venus can’t be seen from the Mikuro and Shinmei caves because they face in the wrong direction, and the plateau above them makes it impossible to see the low-hanging planet.
However, on the western side of Muroto at Cape Gyōdo near Kongōchō-ji Temple is a large rock above the sea, which directly faces Venus. Nearby are several small caves where Kūkai would have sheltered temporarily from inclement weather. Serious scholars believe that Kūkai used the Mikuro cave, which includes the kanji for “kitchen”, as a base, while commuting some twelve kilometres to his rocky seat some 1,200 years ago. He changed his name to Kūkai from his birth name Mao after being moved by the sky (“ku”) and the sea (“kai”), the most striking features of this part of Shikoku.
The site is the okunoin, or inner sanctuary, of Kongōchō-ji Temple. A museum of Kūkai’s life will open nearby in January 2021.
Fudōiwa means “immovable rock”, but ironically, it does move. The whole of the Muroto Peninsula is subject to uplift, and the coast where Kūkai sat is significantly higher than it was in the Heian period. It’s an attractive and evocative spot with twisted pine trees and an awe-inspiring view of the vast Pacific.
Name in Japanese: 不動岩 空海修行地
Pronunciation: fudō iwa kūkai shugyō chi
Address: Moto Ko 2746, Muroto, Kochi 781-7107