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Temple 25, Shinshō-ji

The Temple Illuminating the Port

Temple 25, Shinshō-ji

Shinshō-ji is temple No. 25 on the Shikoku pilgrimage. It’s one of the three temples in Muroto known collectively as Muroto Sanzan. It stands at the top of a steep flight of steps above the port of Murotsu on the Muroto Peninsula, and since the narrow entrance to the temple is tucked away in a street of shops and restaurants, you could easily miss it.

What to see

The old stone steps pass up through a bright red bell tower of modern Shōwa period provenance. A gold ship’s wheel on the bell gate hint at the temple’s devotional theme. 

The main hall at the top of the steps is also a concrete production of the Showa period. It was built in 1950. It replaced a much older wooden building. But because of the location of the temple right in the path of ferocious typhoons, wooden architecture has its limitations. In front of it is a fine stone lantern with a fierce lion dog that looks as if it will bite. Around its base are rabbits which represent the bouncing waves that make sailors wonder if it’s safe to put to sea.   

The Daishido at the bottom of the steps appears to be old but it was built after the main hall, in 1963. Its curtains show the crest of the Yamauchi family. Today’s Mitsubishi logo is based on this crest. 

History

Shinshō-ji was founded in 807 by Kukai, the founder of the pilgrimage, who carved the statue of Enmei Jizō Bosatsu. In the16th century, the temple grounds were enlarged under the local warlord Chōsokabe Motochika. After Yamauchi Kazutoyo, the first lord of Tosa province, was saved from shipwreck nearby in 1602, the temple prospered as a place of worship of the Yamauchi family, and of fishermen who set sail from the port below the temple. 

Legends

Legend has it that when Yamauchi Kazutoyo was caught in a violent storm off Murotsu, the statue of Enmei Jizo Bosatsu changed into a priest and rescued Kazutoyo by steering his ship into port. After this incident, the local people called the deity Kajitori Jizō, the Helmsman Buddha.

Information

Name in Japanese: 津照寺

Pronunciation: shinshōji

Address: 2652-i Murotsu, Muroto, Kochi 781-7102

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