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Temple 4, Dainichi-ji

The Temple of the Great Sun

Temple 4, Dainichi-ji

Dainichi-ji is temple No. 4 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, or Henro. It’s tucked in a valley off the Tokushima rift valley, just outside the city of Tokushima. Temples No. 13 and No. 28 are also called Dainichi-ji.

What to see

A large stone engraved with the name of the temple stands at the entrance in front of a little vermillion two-storey gate. Beyond this on the left is a garden and pond with a shrine to Usa Hachiman and a covered wash basin. The basin was made in 1822 by hollowing out sandstone, which turns the water in it cloudy. The priest’s quarters are on the right.

Past the garden, you enter an enclosed courtyard with a bronze lantern in the middle and an ancient cherry tree. To your left is the Yakushi Hall then the temple office. At the other end of the courtyard is the Daishi Hall where the principal image is of Kōbō Daishi, with Miroku Bosatsu and Fudō Myōō as attendants. There’s also a picture of “double-sided priests” drawn by the previous head priest.

On the northern side of the courtyard is the Main Hall. The principal image is a hidden Buddha that can only be seen twice in the life of a priest when the priest changes. It was shown in public in 2017 during repairs.

A corridor connects the Main Hall and Daishi Hall. Benzai Tenjo, Shōmen Kongō, and 33 remarkable statues of Kannon dedicated by followers from Osaka in the middle of the Edo period are enshrined here. There’s a Goma Hall behind the corridor, which isn’t visible.

History

Kūkai carved an image about 55 cm of Dainichi Nyorai and built a temple to house it. After repeated devastation and revival, it was restored in the early 1400s by a priest named Matsubōshi. The Main Hall was built by Hachisuka Tadateru, the second lord of the Tokushima domain in 1649, and was restored during in the 1680s. Subsequent lords made further major repairs until 1799. The Daishi Hall was built in 1863.

In 2014, the major images were restored and put on display, and in 2018, the two-storied gate with a bell was reconstructed.

Legends

While practising austerities in this area, Kūkai sensed the presence of Dainichi Nyorai, causing him to carve the statue of the deity. It’s said that he made three prostrations before each cut, meaning that the figure would have taken a good while to complete.

Information

Name in Japanese: 大日寺

Pronunciation: dainichiji

Address: Iuchi−28, Itano-cho, Itano-gun, Tokushima 779-0113

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