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Temple 58, Senyū-ji

Temple of the Secluded Hermit

Temple 58, Senyū-ji

Senyū-ji is temple No. 58 on the Shikoku pilgrimage and one of the more impressively located pilgrimage temples. It stands on the side of Mt. Sakure 312 m above sea level, which means that pilgrims who walk to it have quite a climb. The modern guardian statues in the gateway below the temple are very impressive.

What to see

The experience of visiting Senyū-ji is very much determined by whether you walk or come by car. Originally, the temple was only accessed by a steep path that passed through the impressive main gate and brought the pilgrim into the temple compound facing the Daishi Hall. But a winding road was built in the middle of last century to save people the walk. This passes in front of the main gate and brings you to the back of the main hall, so the first thing you see is a very pleasant public toilet.

From here, you pass to the right of the main hall. There’s a nice statue of Binzuru on the veranda. If you walk in front of the main hall, you come to a lovely garden with the modern temple lodging beyond it. Looking back to the main hall, it has a completely different atmosphere from the front view.

The Daishi Hall is further down the compound to the right, and to the left is a belfry where walking pilgrims enter the compound.

Behind the Daishi Hall is a flight of concrete steps which leads up into the hill behind the temple. This path passes through pleasant woods of evergreen and deciduous trees with sasa bamboo. It’s lined at intervals with attractive Buddhist statues, representing a mini pilgrimage. The path leads to a hilltop with panoramic views of Imabari, the Shimanami Kaidō suspension bridges and the Seto Inland Sea.

Senyū-ji is one of six pilgrimage temples located relatively close together in Imabari.

Senyū-ji has an attractive modern shukubō, or pilgrim’s guesthouse, where you can eat ‘shōjin ryōri’, delicious vegan food, with a reservation. It also has a natural hot spring bath.

Picfair_Senyu-ji_photos

History

The temple was built by Ochi Morioki, Governor of Iyo, at the request of Emperor Tenchi around 670. It fell into disrepair during the Edo period, but was rebuilt by the priest Yūren Shonin in the early Meiji period. In 1871, Yūren was the last person in Japan to die by voluntary self-immurement in the ground. A stone pagoda in the grounds commemorates him.

In 1947, a forest fire destroyed the entire temple but the principal image and the statue of Kūkai escaped the fire. The main hall was rebuilt in 1953 in its original form, and the Daishi Hall was rebuilt in 1958. A road was also constructed, making the temple accessible to vehicles for the first time.

Legends

The principal object of worship, the thousand-armed Kannon, was carved by a dragoness who came out of the sea. She made three prostrations with each cut. The name of the mountain reflects this act of devoted creation.

The name of the temple reflects the strange disappearance of the monk Abo Senjū, who maintained the temple for 40 years. In 718, he was wafted up into the sky and was last seen playing among the clouds.

Kūkai conducted ascetic practices at the temple which he substantially rebuilt. He also dug a well, which has curative properties.

Information

Name in Japanese: 仙遊寺

Pronunciation: senyū-ji

Address: 483 Betsusho, Tamagawa-cho, Imabari, Ehime 794-0113

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