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Temple 80, Sanuki Kokubun-ji

The State Temple of Sanuki Province

Temple 80, Sanuki Kokubun-ji

Sanuki Kokubun-ji is temple No. 80 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro.

Each prefecture has a temple named Kokubun-ji, which are official state temples, founded by order of Emperor Shōmu in 741, and temple No. 80 was the state temple established in the province of Sanuki, today’s Kagawa Prefecture. 

The temple is home to the largest Kannon statue on Shikoku, with eleven faces and forty-two arms.

What to see

From the approach, the extent of Sanuki Kokubun-ji is hard to determine. There’s a Niōmon Gate with a copper roof and stone lanterns. There are pine trees, one of which has been trained to spread in front of the gate. To the left, the peak of Renkōjiyama dominates the scene.

After passing through the temple gate, the path is flanked on both sides by a mini Shikoku pilgrimage represented by stone Buddha statues. These were originally found in a nearby village and were moved to the precincts in the 1920s. On the left is the Enma Hall and, on the right, the oldest temple bell in Shikoku dating from the Heian period. Ponds grace the central part of the approach.

With the main hall on your left, there’s a white pagoda, which is the Daishi Hall and also the temple office. It’s accessed through the gate on the right into a shop selling pilgrim’s goods. In front of the Daishi Hall is a statue of Kūkai covered in gold leaf, and a painted stone statue of Fudō Myōō.

History

Kokubun-ji temples were built at sixty-eight locations throughout the country in accordance with an imperial edict issued by Emperor Shōmu in 741, and this temple is thought to have been founded at that time.

A document dated 1391 states that Sanuki Kokubun-ji is a branch temple of Saidai-ji in Nara, so it’s assumed that construction of the present main hall must have involved monks from Saidai-ji.

Most of the temple was destroyed by fire in the late 1500s, leaving only the main hall, the principal image, and the bell tower.

Later, during the Edo period, the temple was venerated by the lord of the Sanuki Takamatsu clan, who donated extensively to the temple’s territory. It’s located 2 km east of the seat of the ancient Sanuki provincial government, and many related ruins have been excavated in the area, including the ruins of the Kokubun-ji Temple complex at the time of its foundation.

Legends

According to legend, Gyōki founded the temple by carving a statue of the eleven-faced thousand-armed Kannon as its principal image.

Information

Name in Japanese: 讃岐国分寺

Pronunciation: sanuki kokubun-ji

Address: 2065 Kokubunjicho Kokubu, Takamatsu, Kagawa 769-0102

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