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Temple 59, Iyo Kokubun-ji

The State Temple of Iyo Province

Temple 59, Iyo Kokubun-ji

Iyo Kokubun-ji is temple No. 59 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro. It stands on a raised platform among fields and houses on the outskirts of Imabari.

What to see

Between the car park and the temple is a small shop selling towels and other textiles. These are printed with maps of the pilgrimage route and Buddhist symbols, and they make nice souvenirs.

The belfry stands just outside the inner precincts. A few stone steps lead up through a gate of stone pillars. Immediately to the left is a water basin, with the water coming out of a medicine jar, reflecting the healing powers of the deity, Yakushi Nyorai. To the right is another medicine jar a stone statue of Kūkai, a stone pillar, and row of statues of the seven gods of good fortune. The main hall is directly ahead, with the Daishi Hall to its right, topped with a fine flaming ball. To the left is the temple office and manuscript repository, which holds from the Nara and early Heian periods.

If you walk up the steps to the little shrine next door to the temple, you can look down on the roofs of Kokubun-ji and admire their elegant curving lines from an unusual perspective.

About 100 metres to the east of the temple, you can see the foundation stones of the pagoda that was once part of a former incarnation of Kokubun-ji. Thirteen huge stones mark the corners of a magnificent seven-storied pagoda, which was destroyed centuries ago.

This is the only temple on the pilgrimage belonging to the Shingon Ritsu Sect.

History

Kokubun-ji was one of the state temples of the various provinces, built in 741 on the orders of Emperor Shōmu.

The fortunes of the temple rose and fell repeatedly. It was burned down for the first time in 939 during Fujiwara Sumitomo’s rebellion, and again during the Genpei War in 1184. The third time it was burned by Hosokawa Yoriyuki in 1364 during the strife between the Northern and Southern dynasties. Chōsokabe Motochika destroyed the temple for the fourth time when he unified Shikoku. Fire ravaged the temple again in 1689.

The temple was only fully rebuilt in 1789 in the late Edo period. Today’s Iyo Kokubun-ji is a small temple located among rice fields outside the city of Imabari. The original, much larger buildings stood a short distance away. The present precincts of the temple are believed to be the site of the ancient Iyo Provincial Government, while the former precincts were located slightly further to the east.

Legends

According to temple tradition, the temple was founded by Gyōki at the behest of Emperor Shōmu. Later Kūkai stayed at the temple and presented images of the Five Great Kings.

Information

Name in Japanese: 伊予国分寺

Pronunciation: iyo kokubun-ji

Address: 4-1-33 Kokubu, Imabari, Ehime 799-1533

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