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Temple 3, Konsen-ji

The Temple of the Golden Well

Temple 3, Konsen-ji

Konsen-ji is temple No. 3 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, or Henro. It stands in a residential area at the foot of the Sanuki Mountains.

What to see

From the approach, little can be seen of the temple apart from an imposing red and white two-storey gate, with dark grey and gold guardians. Beyond the gate is a broad plaza. There’s lots to see at this temple.

To the left is a washbasin, belfry and the temple office. There’s a Shintō shrine, and statues of Kannon and Jizō. From the temple office, a building extends to the Main Hall.

On the right of the plaza is a hexagonal Kannon Hall on a little hill and the Daishi Hall, which you can enter from the side. Inside is a seated figure of Kūkai and some pictures showing scenes from his life. If you head between the Kannondo and Daishido the red and white building on the left houses some lifelike statues of Enma, judge of Hell, and his attendants. Truly, they appear to be a hanging jury. The building on the right houses the well from which the temple takes its name.

Next to the Daishi Hall is a garden and pond with a lovely statue of Benten playing a lute. From here you can see the red, two-storey pagoda. In front of the pagoda is a large stone under a white canopy. This marks the grave of Chōkei, emperor of the Southern Court in the 14th century. The path going past the garden leads to a WWII cemetery.

In the grounds, there’s also a big stone called the Benkei Stone. Benkei was the physically massive retainer and bodyguard of Minamoto no Yoshitsune. On their way to Yashima to fight and defeat the Heike, Benkei showed his strength by lifting up the stone.

History

In the 8th century, Gyōki carved the main image of Shaka Nyorai and founded the temple at the request of Emperor Shōmu. When Kūkai visited around 810, he dug a well here to relieve a drought. Emperor Kameyama, who reigned from 1259-74 as monk‐emperor, was a sincere worshipper of Kobo Daishi and stayed at Konsen-ji Temple for a while on a pilgrimage of Shikoku. A building imitating the Sanjusangen Hall in Kyoto was erected, and 1,000 thousand-armed Kannon statues were enshrined. The mountain behind was named “Kameyama”. A sutra repository was established, and it was crowded with learned priests pursuing their studies. Since then, the temple had a deep connection with the imperial family, and the tomb of Emperor Chōkei is behind the Main Hall.

In 1582 during his conquest of Shikoku, Chōsokabe Motochika burned down the Main Hall, which was rebuilt in the Edo period.

Legends

Kūkai visited here and struck the ground with his staff, causing a stream of golden water to emerge. Thereafter, it’s been known as Konsen-ji, the Temple of the Golden Well.

Information

Name in Japanese: 金泉寺

Pronunciation: konsenji

Address: Kameyamashita-66 Otera, Itano, Itano-gun, Tokushima 779-0105

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