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Temple 66, Unpen-ji

The Temple of the Hovering Clouds

Temple 66, Unpen-ji

Unpen-ji is Temple No. 66 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, or Henro. Although counted as being in Kagawa Prefecture, it’s actually just across the prefectural border in Tokushima. Located at an elevation of 911 metres, this is the highest temple on the pilgrimage, and it’s one the nansho, ‘difficult places’ that test the will of pilgrims. Each prefecture has a ‘sekishodera’, a temple considered the most difficult to access in the days when pilgrims only walked, and Unpen-ji is the sekishodera of Kagawa. The cable car that starts in Kagawa makes it much easier to get up to the top now.

In the temple grounds are masses of stone statues of followers of the Buddha. There are also other statues of Kannon and Fudo, which are both National Treasures.

The temple was founded by Kukai in his youth and was dedicated by Emperor Kameyama who planted a gingko tree in the grounds. In the late 16th century, Chosokabe Motochika of Tosa climbed to the temple and was inspired by the view to make himself master of the other three provinces of Awa, Iyo, and Sanuki which it overlooks. The priest tried to dissuade him but was unsuccessful, and Chosokabe went on to burn down many temples in his successful bid to make Shikoku his own, although he spared Unpen-ji. At one time the temple had seven shrines, twelve affiliated halls, and eight branch temples.

Information

Name in Japanese: 雲辺寺

Pronunciation: unpenji

Address: Norochi-763-2 Hakuchi, Ikedacho, Miyoshi, Tokushima 778-5251

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