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Mikuro and Shinmei Caves

Caves where the young Kūkai, founder of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, made a rough home.

Mikuro and Shinmei Caves

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 lived and attained spiritual enlightenment in the Heian period, about 1,200 years ago. He changed his name to Kūkai from his birth name Mao after being moved by the sky (“kū”) and the sea (“kai”), the most striking features of this part of Shikoku.

Kūkai’s ascetic practice involved sitting facing the planet Venus which appears on the western side of Muroto. The claim that Kūkai attained enlightenment in these caves was made by the novelist Shiba Ryōtarō in his book kai the Universal: Scenes from His Life. However, Shiba didn’t bother to visit Muroto, so he didn’t know that Venus can’t be seen from the Mikuro and Shinmei caves. More serious scholars believe that Kūkai used the Mikuro cave, which includes the kanji for “kitchen”, as a base, while commuting some twelve kilometres to a seat on the western side called Fudōiwa, which you can still visit today.

The Mikuro and Shinmei caves are low and dark. Inside are some simple stone altars. From inside the caves, you can still see the sky and the sea as Kūkai would have seen them. Falling rocks are apparently a hazard, and a half-hearted barrier has been installed to prevent the incurious from entering.


Name in Japanese: 御厨人窟・神明窟

Pronunciation: mikurudo shinmeikutsu

Address: Murotomisakicho, Muroto, Kochi Prefecture 781-7101

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