Iwayaji (岩屋寺) is the 45th temple of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, located in the mountains of Ehime Prefecture, Japan. Situated on Kuma Highland in a gorge formed from conglomerate rock, the temple is surrounded by awe-inspiring nature. At an altitude of over 600 meters (1968 ft), temperatures often fall below freezing point in the winter. The calm snowy landscape makes a hike up to Iwayaji in the cold winter months worthwhile, especially in the early morning.
The hiking trails before reaching the temple can be quite steep, making this temple one of the nansho – hard to reach – places for pilgrims. The path to the temple gates is filled with trees that are several stories tall, straight cliffs with holes covering the sides, and mossy rocks of all sizes. There are also a few small shops along the way.
The temple itself is interwoven with nature in many ways. Once you pass through the four-pillar wooden gates, you will encounter a statue of Kukai (空海), the Buddhist monk that is at the center and foundation of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Going a bit further uphill and across the red wooden bridge, you will find countless stone Buddhist statues lined against the road in a somewhat orderly fashion. Among them are the 36 young acolytes of the wrathful deity Acala, which are lined up above a well. The moss and other fauna that have grown on top of or around these statues add a rustic charm to the aesthetics of the mountain.
Closer to the temple grounds, the priest’s quarters are built into the side of a tall cliff. The architecture of the temple buildings are an impressive sight to behold. Many pilgrims spend a longer time at this temple due to the size and the breathtaking nature surrounding Iwayaji.
遍路小屋 第34号 久万高原
Temple 44 – 大宝寺