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Temple 18, Onzan-ji

The Temple of Gratitude Mountain

Temple 18, Onzan-ji

Onzan-ji is temple No. 18 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro. It stands in a side valley on the northern edge of the Tokushima rift valley.

What to see

The little temple gate is located a good distance from the temple itself. It stands athwart the pilgrim’s trail beside a red bridge over the main road. Both the main road and pilgrim’s trail lead up to a large bronze statue of Kūkai on the road. Stone steps on the left take you up to the temple precincts. If you go straight, there’s a washbasin on your right, and the main hall is further up the steps. The principal image of Yakushi Nyorai made by Gyōki can’t be seen.

Going back to the washbasin, with the main hall behind you, the Daishi Hall is on your right. The principal image of Kūkai in the Daishi Hall is said to be his own work. Statues of the eight founders of Shingon are arranged as attendants. In the Daishi Hall is a painting of Kūkai casting his tokkosho across the sea from China to Japan, symbolising the transmission of esoteric wisdom. In front of the Daishi Hall is the Gobokō Hall which has a hidden statue of Kūkai’s mother, Tamayori Gozen. The temple office is on the left of the guest hall on the opposite side from the Daishi Hall.

The Jizō Hall looks like a stable for horses. In it, statues of Buddha’s Ten Principal Disciples are enshrined on the left, and Jizō statues are enshrined on the right. In the grounds there’s also a belfry and a tree said to have been planted by Kūkai.


Gyōki founded the temple at the request of Emperor Shōmu. In 814 when Kūkai was practicing austerity and discipline at the main temple his mother, Tamayori Gozen, came to visit him from Zentsū-ji Temple. At that time, it was forbidden for women to get closer to the temple than the place called Hanaorisaka. Kūkai built a Goma platform near the Niō Gate and conducted rituals for 17 days with the aiming of lifting the ban on women. His wish was fulfilled, in what manner we’re at a loss to explain, and he welcomed his mother at the temple. She shaved her head and became a nun. Kūkai carved his own image and changed the name of the temple to its current name, the Temple of Gratitude Mountain.

The temple was burnt down by Chōsokabe Motochika in the turmoil of 1573 to 1592, but was rebuilt in the Edo period with the support of the Tokushima feudal lord Hachisuka. The existing buildings date from 1804 to 1830.


Name in Japanese: 恩山寺

Pronunciation: onzan-ji

Address: 40 Onzanjidani, Tano, Komatsushima, Tokushima 773-0008

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