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Temple 36, Shōryū-ji

Temple of the Green Dragon

Temple 36, Shōryū-ji

Shōryū-ji is temple No. 36 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro. It stands near the tip of the Yokonami Peninsula which juts out into the Pacific Ocean parallel to the shore of Tosa city, creating a deep inlet called Uranouchi Bay. Until fairly recently, pilgrims would take a ferry across the mouth of the inlet. Today, a bridge makes the short crossing easier.

The temple is hidden in a valley recessed from the coastline of the peninsula. A road lined with small Buddhist statues winds into the valley. At the bottom of the valley is a small two-storey red and white pagoda behind which is a large hall, which appears to be the main part of the temple. But to the right, is a much larger three-storey red pagoda. Next to it is the main gate with a steep flight of stone steps leading up to the main hall and Daishi Hall. Beside the steps is a small waterfall used for personal purification rituals, and various statues.

Shōryū-ji has an interesting founding myth. In 804 when Kūkai was studying in China, he wanted to build a temple in Japan to honour his teacher, Keika. Traditional images of Kūkai show him holding a pronged instrument called a tokkosho, a symbol of spiritual power. He threw a tokkosho into the air in the direction of Japan. It flew high in the air and was carried eastward in the sky under a purple cloud, a sure sign of divine intervention. When Kūkai returned to Japan in 806, he found the tokkosho snagged in the branches of a pine tree on the Yokonami Peninsula. He reported the miracle to the Emperor Saga, and built a temple, arranged in a style similar to a temple with the same name in China.

The main statue is of Namikiri Fudō, an angry faced but well-meaning deity who holds ropes to bind people to good. Usa harbour near the temple once prospered as a tuna fishery, and the temple was a place of worship for fishermen who prayed for safety at sea and a good catch.

Information

Name in Japanese: 青竜寺

Pronunciation: shōryū-ji

Address: Usachoryu 163, Tosa, Kochi 781-1165

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