Hashikura-ji Temple is the head temple of the Shingon Omuro Buddhist sect. It’s located at 600 m on the steep southern slopes of the Sanuki Mountains at the narrow end of the Yoshino River rift valley. Accessed by a winding path and a cable car, a narrow metalled road also allows small vehicles to reach the top.
The temple complex is distributed over a large area of the mountain on stone platforms in the forest, linked by long flights of steps. The buildings themselves are in various styles, all extravagantly ornamented with wood carvings. Since the temple is often hidden by cloud, the stone is cloaked in moss, and the place has a thoroughly mysterious atmosphere.
The temple is closely associated with Konpira Shrine located on the northern side of the Sanuki Mountains, in Kagawa Prefecture. Before the separation of Shinto and Buddhism in the first year of the Meiji period, Hashikura-ji was called Konpira-no-In, and the two religious institutions exchanged principal images. The sacred image of Hashikura-ji is Konpira Daigongen, which is never unveiled and hasn’t been seen by successive head priests. Even now, when exchanges between the shrine and the temple no longer take place, Hashikura-ji continues to follow the customs of amalgamated Shinto and Buddhism. Consequently, worshipers at the main hall may either clap in the Shinto manner, or make an offering in the Buddhist manner, according to their faith.
The Mt. Hashikura cable car goes from the bottom of the mountain to the priest’s residence. There are just under 600 steps in the precinct. The temple is located in the Hashikura Prefectural Natural Park, and is celebrated for its cherry blossoms and autumn leaves, but aside from these touristic aspects, the temple is also seriously engaged in the preservation of esoteric Buddhism. Every morning and evening (6:30 and 18:00) a Goma fire offering has been conducted since the temple was established. Conducting this daily for centuries is an extraordinary achievement.
The temple is associated with chopsticks (the ‘hashi’ of its name). Local legend has it that a tengu who inhabited the region brought the chopsticks he used during the Konpira Shrine festival and dedicated them at this temple. According to folklore, Kukai sensed the spiritual possibilities of the mountain and climbed it in 828 during the Heian period. Then Konpira Daigongen appeared and swore to save everybody that uses chopsticks – which is to say, everyone. Kukai carved a statue of Konpira Daigongen himself and erected the first temple.
People dedicate their children’s first eating utensils at Hashikura-ji, which are burnt in a big fire offering on August 4. Celebrants then walk barefoot over the ashes. The celebration of Setsubun, the beginning of spring, has been practiced since ancient times, and the ceremonies last beyond midnight. Notwithstanding the late hour, many worshipers stay for the duration, and people send money and amulets from around Japan as offerings.
Most of the temple was destroyed by fire in 1677 and 1826 in the Edo period. The buildings that can be seen today were mainly built at the end of the Edo period, after the last fire.
Despite its association with Kukai, Hashikura-ji isn’t one of the eighty-eight pilgrimage temples, although it is No. 15 of the 20 bangai associated temples.
We know a pretty tough, 13 km walk that starts at Hashikura-ji and heads into Kagawa Prefecture.
Name in Japanese: 箸蔵寺
Pronunciation: hashikura ji
Address: Shuzu, Ikedacho , Miyoshi, Tokushima 778-0020