Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺) is the starting point of the Sacred 88 Shikoku Pilgrimage Sites (四国八十八ヶ所巡り) in Tokushima, Japan. This temple is grouped with the “Hosshin no Dōjō” (発心 の 道場) or “Dōjō to Awaken Your Faith” comprising of temples 1 to 23.
It has a store where you can buy the necessary items to start the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Yūben Shinnen (宥辡 真念) identified Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺) as the first place of the “Sacred Shikoku Pilgrimage” in his book “Shikoku Henro Road Guide” (四国遍路道しるべ) of 1687. And from then on this has been closely followed.
History of Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺):
Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺) is a Kōya-san Shingon temple in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture, Japan. The first Temple of the 88 Shikoku Pilgrimage sites (四国遍路). Founded by Gyōki (行基) during the Tenpyō era (天平 729 – 749) at the request of Emperor Shōmu (聖武天皇).
Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師) visited this temple in the year 815 and stayed at here for 37 days. During his stay, he had a vision of Shaka Nyorai (釈迦如来) preaching the Lotus Sutra on “Vulture’s Peak” (Ryōjusan). He then carved a statue of Shaka Nyorai (釈迦如来), which is the Honzon (本尊) or principal image of this temple.
Chōsokabe Motochika (長宗我部元親), who was a daimyo during the Sengoku period (戦国時代), burned this temple to the ground. The current structures date back to 1964.
Musings about Ryōzen-ji:
It being the first temple on the Shikoku Pilgrimage it is a busy place. While I was there a few buses arrived in the parking lot. It’s here that you purchase the different items to start your journey. The temple grounds are spacious and statues of Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師) can be found in different places. As they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words, you can view all pictures here:
Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師)
Kūkai (空海), also known posthumously as Kōbō-Daishi (弘法大師), 774–835, was a Japanese monk, civil servant, scholar, poet, and artist, founder of the Shingon or “True Word” school of Buddhism.
Kūkai is famous as a calligrapher and engineer. Among the many achievements attributed to him is the invention of the kana, the syllabary with which, in combination with Chinese characters (kanji), the Japanese language is written to this day.
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!)