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Temple 65, Sankaku-ji

The Temple of the Triangle

Temple 65, Sankaku-ji

Sankaku-ji is temple No. 65 on the Shikoku pilgrimage or Henro. It’s the last temple in Ehime, known as the place of Enlightenment.

The temple is located at an elevation of 450 m near the top of a mountain at the eastern end of the Ishizuchi mountain range. Below the mountain is the industrial city of Shikokuchuo with its many chimneys belching smoke. You can see the city with its factories and castle as you climb up to the temple. But Sankaku-ji is a mossy haven where fresh water pours from the mountainside and a variety of birds sing. An interesting contrast indeed.

Its name, the ‘triangular temple’ refers to a triangular altar used by Kukai for a Goma fire ritual used to exorcise a ghost that was haunting the region. Today, the roughly triangular remains of this altar can be seen in a pond in the temple precincts. Close to the pond is a small structure where Benzaiten, the goddess of music is enshrined.

There’s some fine wood carving on the Main Hall, and the Daishido is embellished with dragons in plaster and wood. Next to the Daishdo is a large bronze Jizo statue surrounded by lotus plants.

Another small structure is the Yakushi-do, dedicated to the god of medicine. At Sankaku-ji, this deity specialises in orthopaedics, curing verrucas and corns. If you dedicate a votive picture of an octopus and pray for relief, the octopus will pull off your corns with its suckers.

The temple was founded by Gyoki at the request of Emperor Shomu, with the aim of recreating the Pure Land on earth. Kukai visited in 815 and carved a statue of the eleven-faced Kannon and another of the fierce god Fudo Myo. He also built the triangular altar at which he performed a ritual for the peace and well-being of the realm for 21 days.

The temple thrived under the patronage of Emperor Saga, who greatly favoured Kukai.

Centuries later, Sankaku-ji  was damaged in the invasion of the Chosokabe forces. The current main hall was rebuilt in 1849 and restored in 1971.

The Kannon carved by Kukai is revered for warding off evil and promoting fertility. Couples who are unable to have children receive an amulet, a waist band, and a rice scoop. If they eat together using the scoop to serve their rice, they’re assured of producing offspring. Once a child is born, the couple should devote a new scoop at the temple.

The Edo-period haiku poet Kobayashi Issa visited in 1795 and wrote:

This is the only way to climb the mountain
among the mountain sakura

The area is famed for its cherry trees that have grown here for millennia.

Information

Name in Japanese: 三角寺

Pronunciation: sankaku-ji

Address: Ko 75, Sankakuji, Shikokuchuo, Ehime 799-0124

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