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Temple 44, Daihō-ji

The Temple of the Great Treasure

Temple 44, Daihō-ji

Daihō-ji, the Temple of Great Treasure, is temple No. 44 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, or Henro. It stands in a forest of ancient sugi and hinoki cypress trees in the area known as Kuma Highland in central Ehime.

What to see

The approach to the temple begins in the town where there’s a high wooden gate. After some distance, you arrive at the car park. In the car park are a few remnants of a sub-temple that took over the function of the main temple when it burned down in the great fire of the Meiji period. The building on the hillside to the right with the metal roof is a shrine to the sister of Emperor Go-Shirakawa who served at Daihō-ji.

Crossing a bridge with a red balustrade, you enter a forest of enormous cypress trees. A footpath leads up to the Niō Gate with two storeys and a gabled, hipped roof. On the right foundation of the Niō Gate, a three-way standoff between a snake, frog, and slug is depicted. The gate is adorned with a massive pair of pilgrim’s straw sandals.

Further up the slope and steps is a level with a water basin on the left and the temple office on the right. On this level is a huge ginkgo tree, a statue of Kūkai, and a memorial to the haiku poet Basho, erected in 1743 on the 50th anniversary of his death. On the back is engraved Basho’s haiku of 1687;

uneasy taking medicine
even if it isn’t
a frosty night

In the pond in front of the priest’s quarters are the Seven Lucky Gods on a stone boat.

Up more steps are two belfries. The one on the left is the older one, and the one on the right is a bell of peace that memorializes local people who died in the Pacific War. The main hall is at the top of the steps with a bronze eleven-faced Kannon statue standing between the main hall and Daishi Hall. The Daishi Hall is made of Japanese cypress and was rebuilt in 1984. A Kōgyō Daishi Hall enshrining the monk Kakuban is tucked away behind the Daishi Hall. At the far left of the main hall is the Kannon Hall where the Kannon statue that was found here is enshrined.

Back down at the bottom near the car park, you might enjoy the two shops selling Buddhist trinkets and souvenirs made from the high-quality charcoal produced in Ehime Prefecture.

History

An eleven-faced Kannon brought by a priest from the ancient Korean kingdom of Baekje was enshrined in the mountains. It is said that in 701, the hunter Myōjin Ukyō found the Kannon statue and built a hermitage in which to worship it. When this was reported to Emperor Monmu, he order that a temple be built here. It is said that Kūkai visited in 822, and changed the temple from the Tendai to the Shingon sect.

The temple was accidentally burned down in 1152. In 1156, Emperor Go-Shirakawa’s messenger prayed successfully for a cure for the emperor’s brain illness, whereupon the emperor sent his sister to serve as chief priest and a scroll with the name of the temple, which was restored on a magnificent scale as a place of imperial prayer.

It was burnt down again by Chōsokabe Motochika, but from 1688 to 1704 it was rebuilt with the support of the lord of Matsuyama, Yoshiaki Kato, and it became a place of prayer for the Matsudaira family. It burned down once more in 1874 but was restored by local people.

Legends

Kuma is the name of a woman who is said to have lived all alone in this once poor area. When Kūkai passed through, she begged him to provide her with company, so he miraculously produced a river. Crops could then be grown, and farmers appeared, bringing Kuma the companionship she craved. The town that they established is named after her. The attractive Daishi Hall on the approach road to the temple is dedicated to her.

Information

Name in Japanese: 大寶寺

Pronunciation: daihōji

Address: 2-11173-2, Sugo, Kumakogen-cho, Kamiukena-gun, Ehime 791-1205

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