Gokuraku-ji (極楽寺), is the second Temple of the 88 Sacred Places of Shikoku Prefecture (四国八十八ヶ所巡り), in Japan. Founded by Gyōki in 815 and visited by Kōbō Daishi when he was 42 years of age.
The garden on your left, as you walk towards the main hall, is a paradise garden called Unkai no Jōdo (雲海の浄土).
Chōsokabe Motochika (長宗我部元親) and his soldiers burned down this temple in the Tenshō Year (天正年間). Tenshō is a Japanese era name after Genki and before Bunroku. This period spanned the years from July 1573 through December 1592.
Almost 100 years later the temple buildings were rebuilt by Hachisuka Mitsutaka (蜂須賀光隆) in1659. Hachisuka Mitsutaka (November 17, 1630 – June 29, 1666) was a Japanese daimyo of the Edo period, who ruled the Tokushima Domain. His court title was Awa no kami.
On the day of Kechigan (結願の日), Amitabha (阿弥陀如来) appeared to Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師). Kobo Daishi then sculpted the image he saw, which became the principal image of this temple. The Amitabha statue emitted a bright light that reached all the way to Nagahara (長原) on the coast of Naruto (鳴門).
This light scared the fish in the bay and the fisherman were distraught. They came up with a plan and built a small hill in front of the main hall now famously called “Sunshine Mountain (日照山)”.
Chō-mei-sugi, the Japanese Cedar of Longevity:
When you reach the Yakushidō (薬師堂) hall, on your left, you’ll see a gigantic tree called the Chō-mei-sugi (長命杉). It was planted by Kōbō Daishi some 1300 years ago. This cedar is 30 meters high with a circumference of 6 meters. There are sacred ropes attached to this tree. I asked another pilgrim about the tree and he mentioned that holding the rope will connect me with the power of the tree. It’s no secret that this tree is associated with longevity. See all pics here
Additional info on the Shikoku Pilgrimage:
There are different ways to complete the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Of course walking is the most challenging and takes time. You can rent a bike or a motor bike, making it a bit easier. Please note there are many hill in Shikoku. I’ve noticed that quite a few people, either couples or friends, use their car to visit the temples. Perhaps you can hitch a ride? You can order a map by writing an email to: email@example.com. Here is the link to the official Tokushima Tourism Site.
Shikoku consists of four provinces and each has a cluster of sacred temples. You always pick one province either along the sea side or the more adventurous mountain side.
Some books available at Amazon about the Shikoku Pilgrimage: (buying through amazon helps support my website, Thank you!)