Tuesday, August 31, 2010
My favorite temple, Gakuenji, like most larger temples is guarded by a pair of Nio statues.
Once the largest temple in the province of Izumo, and during medieval times a massive complex of building scattered over the area, Gakuenji is now very much off the beaten track and rarely visited outside of the maple-viewing season at the end of November.
Most of the buildings have long since disappeared, though a huge thatch-roofed nunnery was only demolished a couple of years ago. Not sure what this building is, but it is well on the way to becoming a haikyo.
The treasure house, a modern concrete structure, is well secured, though it is a case of "after the horse has bolted". The temple is so remote and rarely visited that a couple of years ago persons unknown drove in with a van, jimmied open the treasure house door and drove off with a priceless statue.
Gakuenji is one of the temples on the Chugoku 33 temple kannon pilgrimage as well as the Izumo 33 temple Kannon pilgrimage. It is also located on the Chugoku Nature Trail.
The name Gakuenji means "crocodile pool" and refers to the pool at the base of the waterfall behind which is built a small temple. Legend has it that Benkei stayed at Gakuenji for a long time and performed ablutions under the falls.
Legend says that the founder of Gakuenji, the priest Chishun Shonin, accidentally dropped something into the pool and a crocodile popped up and returned it to him.