Ryozenji (霊山寺) is the first temple of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The Shikoku Pilgrimage is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage with its origins surrounding the famous monk Kukai (空海). It is a circular pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku in Japan, containing a total of 88 main temples that pilgrims visit along the way. Ryozenji is the starting point of the pilgrimage and is where pilgrims obtain their first nokyo stamp in their stamp book.
As pilgrims will embark on their journey from here on, Ryozenji has a sizable store that offers a variety of pilgrim gear and merchandise. The most popular items include maps, guidebooks, henro (pilgrim) clothing including the white robe and pilgrim sedge hat, walking staffs, copies of the Heart Sutra (a sutra pilgrims may recite at each temple), and the stamp book used to collect their stamp at each temple.
As a community temple, worshipers visit Ryozenji for reasons unrelated to the pilgrimage as well. On New Years, for example, families will gather here for Hatsumode, the first temple or shrine visit of the year for good fortune. Before high school or university exams, many students come to the temple to pray for academic success and obtain a lucky pouch.
According to legend, Ryozenji was founded by the monk Gyoki in the early 8th century. 30 of the 88 temples of the pilgrimage claim Gyoki as the founder of their temple. However, there is no historical evidence to support this, or even that he came to Shikoku at all. In the 9th century, the monk Kukai arrived at the temple for the first time. After a vision of the Buddha Sakyamuni on the Holy Eagle Peak of India appeared before him, he carved a statue of Sakyamuni and gave the temple its name, which translates to Holy Peak Temple.
Temple 2 – 極楽寺
Temple 3 – 金泉寺