Temple 43, Meiseki-ji
What to see
The temple is largely hidden from view until you climb a long flight of steps, whereupon it’s revealed standing on a series of stone platforms. All of the buildings are roofed with reddish-brown tiles that create an atmosphere of a great age, although the current buildings date to the Meiji period.
When you go up the steps from the approach, the imposing single storey Niō gate flanked by tall trees stands before you. To your left is a water basin, and to your right is the head priest’s quarters and temple office. After passing through the gate, there’s a Jizō hall on your right. Go up the several steps in front of you to get to the main hall. To the right is the belfry and Daishi hall. Between the main hall and Daishi hall are two tall cedars standing close together.
If you go to the left in front of the mountain gate, there’s a toilet, and behind that is a well attributed to Kūkai. If you pass in front of the head priest’s quarters and go into the mountain behind, you come to the stone Kannon statue of happiness.
According to the temple, it was founded in the 6th century at the request of Emperor Kinmei to worship the eleven-faced Kannon, a Buddha who came from Tang. In 734, the ascetic Jugen brought the avatars of the twelve shrines of Kumano here and made it a centre for Shugendō.
In 822, Kukai visited the site which had fallen into decline. On the orders of Emperor Saga, he restored the temple.
In 1194, Minamoto no Yoritomo, the founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate, enshrined Amida Nyorai in memory of his patroness Ike no Zenni, built a sutra mound, and repaired the temple buildings. After that, the temple continued to be a place of worship for samurai. During the Muromachi period, the Saionji clan built a place of prayer here, and in 1672, the lord of the Uwajima domain, Date Munetoshi, built a temple.
The main hall was built around 1897. The Daishi Hall and belfry were also built in the Meiji period. The Niō gate was built around 1902.
The original name of the temple was “Ageishi-ji”, but now it is called “Meiseki-ji”.
A scarcely comprehensible story tells of a beautiful young lady who was able to carry heavy rocks up the mountain during the night, but who was surprised by the dawn and disappeared. This story is associated with the temple’s former name, Ageishi-ji (Stone Lifting Temple).
Name in Japanese: 明石寺
Address: 205 Uwachō Ageishi, Seiyo, Ehime 797-0007, Japan