Gaily decorated pilgrim's staffs (Photo: Rod Walters)

Hoju-ji Temple in Saijo

Temple No. 62 of the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage

Gaily decorated pilgrim's staffs (Photo: Rod Walters)
Anonymous   - 3 min read

The name of temple No. 62 of the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage means the Temple of Wealth and Happiness. This is ironic because the temple in question, Hoju-ji is a poor, sad little temple in a decaying part of Saijo. It stands sandwiched between the JR railway line and busy Route 11, with barely room to breath. Trucks rumble by on the road in front of the temple, and express trains rattle past behind it. I visited Hoju-ji on a Saturday in April, which is a peak time for pilgrims in buses. There was a large crowd of elderly folk in white chanting sutras to the sound of a hand bell. The chimes of a nearby level crossing announced another approaching train, and by some Buddhist miracle, they were in perfect time with the tempo of the sutra.

The Main Hall or Hondo of the temple has a pretty and elegant tiled roof, but the building has an abandoned look about it, and weeds are sprouting from between the tiles. This is not generally regarded as a sign of prosperity, picturesque though it may be at the beginning. The other buildings are in better nick. They have well-maintained copper roofs. Every temple on Shikoku’s pilgrimage route has a building called the Daishi-do to venerate Kobo Daishi, the founder of the pilgrimage. This building at least presents quite a fine sight with its gable decorations.

The nokyosho is a building where pilgrims pay a fee to receive a stamp showing that they visited the temple. It’s usually marked by an image of a novice priest with a blue head. The nokyosho at Hoju-ji has a wisteria arbor over it. This is very pretty when the flowers bloom, although the buzzing of the bumblebees might alarm the faint of heart.

Given the half-dilapidated state of Hoju-ji and its unfortunate location, I would recommend that you give it the miss, unless you’ve committed yourself to visiting all of the 88.

Hoju-ji is one of five pilgrimage temples located relatively close together in Saijo. The others are Yokomine-ji No. 60, Koon-ji No. 61, , Kichijo-ji No. 63, and Maegami-ji No. 64. If you visit on a weekend, you’ll encounter large parties of pilgrims arriving by bus.


Anonymous @rod.walters__archived

I was born in Bristol, England, and I came to Japan in 1991 … which means I’ve lived half my life in this island nation on the other side of the world. The theme of my career in Japan has been communication. I started as an English teacher, and moved into translation as I learned Japanese....