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Temple 29, Tosa Kokubun-ji

The State Temple of Tosa Province

Temple 29, Tosa Kokubun-ji

Tosa Kokubun-ji is temple No. 29 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro.

Each prefecture has a temple named Kokubun-ji, which are official state temples, founded by order of Emperor Shomu in 741, and Temple 29 was the state temple established in the province of Tosa, today’s Kōchi Prefecture. It stands in a flat suburban agricultural area outside Kōchi city.

What to see

The temple is surrounded by white plaster walls. The imposing main gate built in 1655 houses remarkably smooth Niō guardians with glass eyes, which gives them the appearance of the aliens known as ‘greys’. The plaster walls lead up a passage lined with cedar trees. On the right is wash basin and belfry, and on the left is a building commemorating the foundation of the temple rebuilt in 1849, it enshrines Gyōki.  In line with the main gate is the main hall with its massive, elegant cedar roof. The main hall dates from 1558. Next to it is the copper-roofed Daishi Hall built in 1634. In front of the Daishi Hall is statue of Jizō dedicated to the renunciation of intoxicating drink. In front of the main hall and Daishi hall is a garden with cherry trees.

Turning right after the belfry is an inner gate. Surrounding a garden are the Kōmyō Hall, a storehouse, and the temple office.

History

The temple was founded in 741 on the order of Emperor Shōmu by Gyōki, who carved a thousand-handed bodhisattva as the principal deity. In 815, Kūkai carved a Bishamonten statue for the inner sanctuary. Here he practised Hoshi-Ku, a form of astrology, for which the temple has since been known.

The Kokubunji area was the seat of the Tosa provincial government from ancient times to the Middle Ages, and the Tosa Province General Shrine, which once stood nearby, now stands in the precincts of the temple.

Tosa Kokubun-ji often fell victim the fires of local wars, but in 1558, the Kondo hall was rebuilt by Chōsokabe Kunichika and Motochika. In 1655, Yamauchi Tadayoshi, the second lord of the Tosa clan, donated the gate to the temple. The entire precinct was designated a national historic site in 1922.

Information

Name in Japanese: 土佐国分寺

Pronunciation: tosa kokubunji

Address: 546 Kokubu, Nankoku, Kochi 783-0053

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