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Temple 20, Kakurin-ji

The Temple of the Cranes

Temple 20, Kakurin-ji

Kakurin-ji is temple No. 20 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro. Located 490 m above sea level, it’s a fine example of a mountain-top temple. It stands across the Naka River from Temple No. 21, Tairyu-ji, another mountain-top temple. From Kakurin-ji, you can see as far as Awaji Island and the Pacific Ocean. In Tokushima, it’s regarded as the second most difficult temple to reach after Shōsan-ji. It’s located near the summit of Mt. Kakurinji,  516 m above sea level. It’s the seventh highest of the 88 temples at an altitude of 495 m, and the path up to is rated among the “pilgrim-killers”.

What to see

Kakurin-ji can be accessed by road and the Henro path. There are 21 stone pillars on the pilgrimage trail up to the main gate, which serve as markers of the distance walked. They date from the Muromachi period.

The Niō Gate was built in 1902. In the gate are a pair of Niō guardians and a pair of cranes. After passing through the gate and proceeding along the approach, there’s a hexagonal Jizō Hall built in 1883 with six Jizō figures on your right. Further on is a washbasin on your left and 70 steps on your right. A Shrine to the War Dead built in 1968 is on the right under the stone steps, with a bronze statue of Kūkai. The Goma Hall and Daishi Hall dating from 1918 are on the left, and the temple office is further ahead. The curtains of the Daishi Hall feature a crest of a right-facing circular crane.

When you climb the steps, you come to the main hall, built in 1604. In front of the hall are two magnificent bronze crane statues and a bronze Jizō. Behind it to the left back of the main hall is the cedar tree in which legendary cranes perched. On the right of the main hall, there’s a beautiful three-storey pagoda built in 1823 in the Edo period. It’s the only one in Tokushima Prefecture, and it stands among cedar trees that are more than a thousand years old. There’s also a guardian deity hall on the upper right, a small hall that originally enshrined the Seven Lucky Gods just above the main hall when going up to the left, and going up further to the upper left of the main hall, the highest point in the precincts is the Shōten Hall. The skirted bell tower is located from the right side of the pagoda toward the mountain gate. The pilgrimage route to Tairyū-ji goes down from the side of the washbasin.

History

Kūkai is said to have founded the temple in 798 at the request of Emperor Kanmu. Kūkai felt that the atmosphere in the precincts resembled Vulture Peak in India where Buddha preached.

The temple prospered under the patronage of Emperors Heizei, Saga, and Junna, and warriors including Minamoto no Yoritomo, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, and Hachisuka Iemasa, the founder of the Tokushima domain. Unlike many other temples in Shikoku, it escaped destruction during the unification campaign by the Chōsokabe clan, thanks to its isolated location.

Legends

Legend has it that the temple was founded by Kukai who undertook ascetic training on the mountain. A pair of white cranes flew down from the forest with a golden Jizo statue. Kūkai carved a statue of wood and placed the golden statue in its belly. The name of the temple means “crane forest”. It’s known colloquially as “Otsuru-san” meaning “the crane”.

In a legend associated with the principal image, a hunter chased a wild boar into the temple and fired an arrow at it. He missed the boar, and found the arrow stuck in the chest of the Jizō statue in the main hall from which copious blood was flowing. The hunter repented of killing and entered the Buddhist priesthood. For this reason, the statue is called the Jizō of the Arrow, and it’s said that the wound remains on the image.

Information

Name in Japanese: 鶴林寺

Pronunciation: kakurin-ji

Address: 14 Washigao, Ikuna, Katsuuracho, Tokushima 771-4303

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