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Temple 82, Negoro-ji

The Temple of the Fragrant Roots

Temple 82, Negoro-ji

Negoro-ji is temple No. 82 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro. It stands on at an elevation of 365 m on the side of Mt. Aomine, part of the Goshikidai plateau overlooking the city of Takamatsu.

What to see

There’s lots to see at this temple, which amply rewards a visit. The trip up to the plateau, whether on foot or by car, affords views over the eastern Seto Inland Sea. The main gate is an impressive structure. To its left, shrouded in trees, is a large bronze statue of a grotesque monster, the ushioni of legend.

Beyond the main gate is a small, mossy valley, on the other side of which the temple itself is built on several platforms of ingeniously constructed slate walls, with impressive steps up to them. On the first platform is a bronze Jizō and a stone statue of En no Gyōja accompanied by ogres. The statue of En dates from 1958, although the temple has no direct tradition of connection with En no Gyōja. On the second platform is a beautiful spherical stone washbasin, the preserved trunk of a tree, the belfry, and a modern Daishi Hall. From here you can see the Symbol Tower building of Takamatsu.

Up further steps is the main hall. There’s a statue of Bishamonten to the right of the main hall. In a colonnade surrounding a central courtyard, thousands of Kannon statues sent by believers from all over Japan are enshrined.

History

Kūkai visited this area and established the temple as a base for esoteric training. The monk Enchin visited in 832 and carved a statue of Kannon and built a temple to house it.

The temple prospered under the patronage of Emperor Go-Shirakawa, but the temple was damaged by fire during the Warring States period. It was restored by the lord of Takamatsu Castle, Kazumasa Ikoma, and again in 1664, by Matsudaira Yorishige, the first lord of the Takamatsu domain. At that time, it was changed from the Shingon to the Tendai sect.

Legends

The ushioni has features of a flying squirrel, goat, lion, and boar. Legend has it that in olden times, this beast was eating local people. The villagers asked a famous archer, Yamada Takakiyo to rid them of this misfortune. Takakiyo obliged, but the monster was not easily apprehended, so the archer appealed to the deity of Negoro-ji. Whereupon the creature appeared, and Takakiyo shot it in the mouth, killing it. A tusk or horn of the ushioni is still retained by the temple.

An old man who was the incarnation of Ichinose Myōjin, the guardian of the mountain, instructed Enchin to carve a statue of Kannon using a sacred, fragrant tree. The tree continued to emit fragrance from the stump, so the temple came to be known as the temple of the fragrant root. It’s from this temple that the name of the prefecture, Kagawa is derived. ‘Kagawa’ means ‘incense river’, and it’s named after a river thought to flow from the roots of the tree.

The dead tree covered by a roof is a zelkova tree that is said to be 1,600 years old. When Enchin visited, a white monkey came down from the tree to help the monk with construction.

Information

Name in Japanese: 根香寺

Pronunciation: negoro-ji

Address: 1506 Nakayamacho, Takamatsu, Kagawa 761-8004

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