Temple 2, Gokuraku-ji
Temple 2, Gokuraku-ji
Gokuraku-ji is temple No. 2 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, or Henro. It stands in the foothills of the Sanuki Mountains in the Tokushima rift valley, and the temple is surrounded by wooded mountains on three sides. The temple is next to a dairy farm, and you can hear the cows mooing.
What to see
From the road you can see the magnificent two-storey vermilion and white Niō Gate. Beyond it, is a little structure housing the Gankake Jizō statue that answers prayers. To the right is the temple office and a shop selling pilgrim’s necessities. The natural-looking wash basin stands under a stone structure carved magnificently with dragons.
There are two gardens that are said to resemble the paradise of the Pure Land. Above the gardens towers an ancient cedar, planted by Kūkai himself. The sacred tree is about 1,200 years old. It stands some 30 m tall and is 6 metres round. If you touch it, you’ll receive the benefits of safety in your home, relief from sickness, and longevity. Don’t forget to touch it!
To the left of the tree is pilgrim accommodation, and to the right is the Main Hall, up 44 stone steps. Beyond the Main Hall to the right is the Daishi Hall. In front of the Daishi Hall there’s a statue of Kūkai called Anzan Daishi, which helps women in childbirth. There are numerous statues of deities and Kūkai in various styles. The little stone Jizō in front of the Daishi Hall is called Omokaru-san. If he feels light when you pick him up, your wish will come true.
The temple was founded by Gyōki in the Nara period. In 815, the 42-year-old Kūkai chanted the Amitabha Sutra here for 37 days as part of his ascetic practice. The temple was burned down by Chōsokabe Motochika during his invasion of Awa, but in 1659 in the Edo period, the Main Hall and Daishi Hall were rebuilt with the help of Hachisuka Mitsutaka, lord of the Tokushima Domain. The Kannon Hall was built in the middle of the Edo period and the Yakushi Hall was built towards the end of the period.
On the final day of Kūkai’s ascetic practice, Amida Nyorai appeared to him, and Kūkai carved a sculpture of the deity, consecrating it as the principle object of worship. The statue emitted such a bright light that it hindered fishing in the sea off Naruto, some 15 km away, so the fishermen built a small hill in front of the Main Hall, called Mt. Nisshō to block the light.
Name in Japanese: 極楽寺
Address: Danoue 1, Hinoki Oasacho, Naruto, Tokushima 779-0225