Zentsuji (善通寺) is the 75th temple of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, located in Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku. It is famous for being the birthplace of Kukai, the Buddhist monk who founded the Shingon School of Buddhism in Japan, and who is accredited for establishing the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Zentsuji is the first and therefore oldest Shingon temple in Japan. Zentsuji temple, together with Toji temple in Kyoto and Koyasan in Wakayama, are the three most historically significant Shingon Buddhist places in Japan.
Zentsuji has the largest temple complex among all temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, housing seven temple halls (or shrines), and a pagoda. The temple grounds cover about 45,000 square meters of land within its gates. The temple is so massive that it typically takes an entire day to discover and visit all the halls and pagodas, especially if you also want to partake in some of the religious activities. As a temple entrenched in such history and legend, worshippers will find numerous treasures, scriptures, and statues, each with fascinating origins.
The oldest structure, the Shakado Hall, was built in 1677. Enshrined here is the statue of Shaka Nyorai, a historical name of Buddha himself. The Daishi Hall (Kobo Daishi is the posthumous name of Kukai) is another notable point of interest. It was built in 1831 and later renovated in 1937. Though still debated to this day, this hall is said to be where Kukai was born. Entering the inner hall, there are stairs leading down to the Kaidan Meguri – passages that include a pitch-dark tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, statues of Dainichi Nyorai, the infant Kūkai, and his parents are enshrined.
The most outstanding structure within Zentsuji is perhaps the five-story pagoda, which is made of zelkova wood and surrounded by ancient trees. Two of the trees on temple grounds are dated over 1,100 years old. These camphor trees as seen as sacred protectors, reaching the heavens and covering the earth. The pagoda was constructed over 50 years and was completed in 813, built to stand 43 meters (141 feet) tall. Though it has been renovated four times, its original design and main structure have been preserved as much as possible.
Temple 74 – 甲山寺
Temple 73 – 出釈迦寺
チサン イン 丸亀善通寺
遍路小屋 第29号 多度津・おかのやま
Temple 72 – 曼荼羅寺
Temple 76 – 金倉寺