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Temple 16, Kan’on-ji

The Temple of the Goddess of Compassion

Temple 16, Kan’on-ji

Kan’on-ji is temple No. 16 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro. It’s quite a small temple within Tokushima city. It shouldn’t be confused with Kannon-ji Temple in Kan’on-ji, Kagawa.

What to see

The main gate is a majestic two-storied gate of Japanese style, giving an air of solemnity to this very small temple. Nevertheless, the street in front of the temple has been festooned with more than its fair share of utility poles and cables. After passing through the gate, the main hall is in front of you. To the left is a water basin and a very insignificant statue of Jizō. A sign, somewhat larger than the statue itself, claims that praying to this statue is efficacious for preventing small children from crying at night.

In front of the main hall, there’s another Jizō for the spirits of unborn children, a Buddha’s footprint in stone, and a statue of Kūkai on the road. A red statue of Binzuru, the drunken healer, resides in a small shrine to the left of the main hall. The Daishi Hall is on the right in front of the main hall. To the left of the Daishi Hall is small shrine housing a statue of En no Gyōja in a style suggesting a certain disrepect for this ancient shaman. The temple office is on the far left of the grounds.


When Emperor Shōmu ordered the construction of Kokubun-ji Temple, he ordered Gyōki to build the main temple as a place for imperial prayer. When Kūkai visited in 816, he carved Fudō Myōō and Bishamonten as flanking images for the statue of a thousand-armed Kannon which became the principal image, and changed the name of the temple to its current name.

Kan’on-ji was burned down by Chōsokabe Motochika in the late 1500s, but was rebuilt in 1659 by the lord of the Awa domain, Hachisuka Mitsutaka.


Some time in the Meiji period a group of pilgrims walking in the rain rested here to dry their clothes, when the flames leapt upon one of the women. She escaped unharmed, but recognised the event as a warning for ill-treatment of other people, including her mother-in-law. Repenting of her misbehaviour, she drew a picture of the incident and dedicated it in the main hall as a warning to others.


Name in Japanese: 観音寺

Pronunciation: kannon-ji

Address: 49-2 Kan’on-ji, Kokufu-cho Tokushima 779-3123

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