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Temple 15, Awa Kokubun-ji

The State Temple of Awa Province

Temple 15, Awa Kokubun-ji

Awa Kokubun-ji is temple No. 15 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, or Henro. It stands among rice fields on the floor of the Tokushima rift valley, not from Tokushima city. Awa Kokubun-ji is one of only three Zen temples on the pilgrimage. The other two are Temple 11 Fujii-dera and Temple 33 Sekkei-ji.

What to see

When you enter the single-storey main gate, the main hall rises up directly ahead with a bronze lantern in front of it. From the main gate, there’s a small water basin on your right and the Daishi Hall stands alone beyond it. A Jizō Hall and the belfry are on your left. Between them is a huge foundation stone of a seven-storey pagoda from the Nara period. Also to the left is the Ususama Myōō Hall, which enshrines various deities. The temple office is further to the right, and the entrance to the garden is to the left of the temple office. An admission fee is required to enter the garden.

The temple is home to two highly regarded gardens. One is a dry pond garden, and the other is made to look like a mountain. This dynamic artificial landscape was renovated in the late Edo period.

History

Each prefecture has a temple named Kokubun-ji, which are official state temples, founded by order of Emperor Shōmu in 741. Temple No. 15 was the state temple established by Gyōki in the province of Awa, today’s Tokushima Prefecture. It was the first of the state temples in Shikoku. Gyōki carved a statue of Yakushi Nyorai and enshrined it as the main deity. The statue of Shaka Nyorai, the Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, and the mortuary tablet of Empress Kōmyō were dedicated by Emperor Shōmu. Initially, it was a large temple of the Hossō sect.

Kūkai visited Awa Kokubun-ji and changed its sect to Shingon. During his unification of Shikoku, Chōsokabe destroyed the temple. The single foundation stone of the Nara period pagoda hints at the scale of the original buildings before the destruction of the Warring States period. The temple was rebuilt in 1741 by the magistrate of the Awa clan, and converted to Soto Zen Buddhism in 1746. The main hall was rebuilt around 1826 and repaired in 2020. The Daishi Hall was destroyed by fire in 1996 and rebuilt in 2014.

Information

Name in Japanese: 阿波国分寺

Pronunciation: awa kokubun-ji

Address: Yano 18-1, Kokufucho, Tokushima 779-3126

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