Kouonji is temple No. 61 on the Shikoku pilgrimage. It stands close to the foothills of Mt. Ishizuchi in Saijo. Koon-ji is temple No. 61 on the Shikoku pilgrimage. It stands close to the foothills of Mt. Ishizuchi in Saijo. Kouon-ji looks like a conventional temple from the entrance. There’s a pleasantly green area with cherry blossoms, a stand of old trees, a tea-house and mossy stones. But as you enter the big plaza in front of the temple, all you can see are concrete and tile buildings. When you approach, this slot is revealed to be a room containing a Buddhist altar. Unlike most temples where the congregation sit on the floor, there are cinema-style seats in Koon-ji. This edifice was built in 1976. Outside, there’s a bell tower of conventional design, although made of concrete, an interesting pagoda and some aged-looking stone Buddhas. With all of this modernity, you would probably be surprised to learn that this temple was founded by Prince Shotoku, the noble who first introduced Buddhism to Japan. The name Kouon-ji means Temple of the Incense Garden, for reasons that aren’t apparent today.
- ©John Lander
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