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Temple 53, Enmyō-ji

The Temple of the Ring of Light

Temple 53, Enmyō-ji

Enmyo-ji, The Temple of the Ring of Light, is temple No. 53 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage or Henro. It’s one of the eight pilgrimage temples in Matsuyama. Located in a built-up area on the outskirts of the city, it has dynamic tile sculptures on the roofs of its buildings.

What to see

The first point of interest is the Niō guardians in the gatehouse. Their fierce eyes are made of some translucent yellow material. They look like aliens.

To the left of the gateway is the Daishi Hall. To the left of that is a small area of graves, among which is a vaguely cruciform stone, carved with a figure who is said to be Mary, mother of Jesus. Christianity was forbidden in Japan from the 1600s, but there were many hidden Christians in Shikoku. There are lots of Marian effigies dotted around Matsuyama. During worship, the stone at this temple would have been topped with a lantern to make it into a full cross shape. Presumably, generations of priests of the temple were sufficiently ecumenically minded to permit Christian worship within the temple precincts.

In the middle of the precinct is a gate with a very light, elegant form. Beyond this is the main hall. A figure of Binzuru, the healing Arhat, sits in front of the main hall.

The Wheel of Dharma features prominently as a motif, including the curtain of the main hall.


The location of the temple has changed over the centuries. Between 668 and 749, Gyōki visited the area and carved a statue of Amida Nyorai and built a temple to house it. The temple he built was close to the sea where the temple’s Okunoin is today. He called the temple Enmyō-ji.

Kūkai designated the temple as number fifty-three. The local Kōno clan whose ancestors were pirates were benefactors of the temple, and like many of these maritime clans, the Kōno may have been hidden Christians. The temple burned down frequently, and the site was often in ruins until the Suga, a powerful local family moved the temple to its current site in the early 1600s. After 1868, the temple fell into disuse due to the separation of Buddhism and Shintōism. In 1884, the Daishi Hall was rebuilt, followed by the Main Hall in 1908.

In 1921, when Frederick Starr visited Enmyō-ji, he was shown a copper osamefuda, a pilgrim’s name card. It dated from 1650, making it the oldest known object of its type.


Name in Japanese: 円明寺

Pronunciation: enmyō-ji

Address: 1-182 Wakemachi, Matsuyama, Ehime 799-2656

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