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Temple 10, Kirihata-ji

The Temple of the Cut Cloth

Temple 10, Kirihata-ji

Kirihata-ji is temple No. 10 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro. It’s located high on the southern side of the Sanuki Mountains facing the Yoshino River in the Tokushima rift valley. The main gate is a considerable distance from the valley bottom, and the main temple compound is higher still.

What to see

The single-storey main gate stands at the entrance to the carpark. It houses two red guardians whose eyes are set disturbingly far apart. On a raised area to the left is a small Shinto shrine building. From the parking area, 333 steps lead up to the main hall, and a stone pillar informs visitors of the number of steps. About half-way up the steps is a level area with a building called the Kyōgijo where worshippers write the names of deceased ancestors on thin strips of wood and soak them in a basin of water, overlooked by stone figures. Next to this building is an impressive stone stele carved with a figure painted in blue. The steps continue steeply up from here.

In the main temple compound is the main hall facing the steps. To the right of that is the Daishi Hall and a bronze statue of Hatakiri Kannon holding a length of cloth and a pair of scissors, reflecting the founding story of the temple. The left of the main hall is the temple office and up some steps, the Fudō Hall. From here there’s a splendid view over the roof of the temple office to the mountains of the Tsurugi range. Up further steps is a two-storey pagoda called the Otō. It’s the only pagoda of its kind in Japan to have a square rather than a round second storey. The grass around the pagoda has been rooted up by wild boar. Through a gate and a short walk up behind the pagoda is the Okunoin, an undistinguished building with a few small Buddhas visible inside.

History

Kirihata-ji was founded by Kūkai around 810-824 on the orders of Emperor Saga. In 1618, the second shogun Tokugawa Hidetada donated a pagoda to Sumiyoshi shrine in Sakai, Ōsaka. In 1873, the forty-fifth head priest of Kirihata-ji bought the pagoda and had it rebuilt where it stands today.

Legends

When Kūkai passed this way, he saw a young woman of noble demeanour weaving, and he asked her for a piece of cloth to repair his worn robe. She cut him a generous piece of her cloth, whereupon she told how her parents had been exiled from the imperial court. She asked Kūkai to make her a nun and to carve a statue of Kannon for her deceased parents. Having done so, the lady attained enlightenment and turned into a statue of Kannon from which beams of light in seven colours emerged. Kūkai reported this miracle to Emperor Saga, who ordered him to establish a temple there. The name of the temple alludes to this story.

Information

Name in Japanese: 切幡寺

Pronunciation: kirihata-ji

Address: 129 Kannon, Kirihata Ichibacho, Awa, Tokushima 771-1623

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