As the headquarters of the Omuro branch of the Shingon denomination of Buddhism, Daisho-in Temple is the most distinguished temple of Miyajima, having been in charge of all the rituals as Betto (administrator) of the Itsukushima Shrine prior to the Meiji Restoration (1868). The temple was established in 806 by Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, as a place of worship dedicated to Kannon.
Hidden in the hills and off the beaten path, Daisho-in Temple is easily missed but is a delightful complex with an eclectic mix of Buddhist statuary.
Throughout the temple grounds countless little monk statues can be seen under bushes and near pathways. Each of the playful monks is seen to be doing something different – sleeping, meditating, hiding, laughing…
The Niomon gate, which is the official gateway into the temple grounds, is guarded by pair of Nio kings, believed to ward off evil and determined to preserve the Buddhist philosophy on earth.
On the steps leading up to the temple, which are flanked by tegu (bird-like demons), is a row of golden prayer wheels with sutra (Buddhist scriptures). The six hundred volumes of Dai-hanntakyo Scripture were introduced from India by a Chinese monk and turning the wheels is believed to have the same effect as reading them. Doing so will bring the ‘reader’ the blessings of the sutra.
The Shingon temple is also home to the Henjokutsu Cave, an eerie but fascinating collection of images of Buddhist icons from each of the 88 Shikoku pilgrimage temples, a sand mandala and a tea room.
This temple sits at the foot of Misen and is the starting point of a hiking trail that leads to Mt. Misen’s summit.
Daisho-in is located approximately 15 minutes on foot from the ferry pier. Entrance is free but there is a donations box and the gates are open from 8:00 to 17:00.
- DK Eyewitness Travel – Japan
- Lonely Planet – Japan
- Miyajima Tourist Association information leaflet