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As one of the shrines covered by the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage, Iwamoto-ji holds a privileged position on the historical trail.

By Elizabeth Sok

As one of the shrines and temples along the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage route, Iwamoto-ji already holds a privileged position on the historical trail. However, its unique artistic charm elevates it beyond its spiritual roots to new heights of artistic appreciation.

The origins of Iwamoto-ji lie in the eighth century with its predecessor, Fukuenman-ji, and is steeped in history and myth. According to legend, the revered Buddhist monk, Gyoki, was ordered by Emperor Shomu to construct a temple to ward off seven evils and give birth to seven blessings to take their place.

Over the centuries, the religious buildings that made up the wider complex were destroyed or relocated. By the start of the Meiji period, the government issued an order to separate Shintoism and Buddhism into distinct religions which resulted in the transformation of many shrine-temple hybrids into solely Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples. For Iwamoto-ji, this meant having five Buddhist deities enshrined in its precincts, the most out of all sites on the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage.



Photo by: PIXTA/nori.99 Don’t forget to look up.

In 1978, the temple underwent massive renovations and the results made this site stand out from the other temples and shrines on the trail. While the ceilings of many religious buildings in Japan are decorated with scenes from Shinto or Buddhist myth, Iwamoto-ji is unique in that the owners held a contest seeking artistic entries from across the country. In the end, 575 pieces of artwork were collected from professional and amateur artists and were used to decorate the ceiling of the temple. The motifs are varied and include deities from the Buddhist pantheon, iconic figures from popular culture, including Marilyn Monroe, as well as plenty of flora and fauna. This relationship between the temple and artists continues to this day with regular collaborations and artists-in-residence.

Spending the Night


Photo by: PIXTA/ 文平 Spend the night.

Visitors looking to stay in the area for a few days can try to book a room at the temple. Shokubo are lodgings typically provided by temples for pilgrims at a cost. In addition to a room, guests are given up to two meals, the opportunity to participate in morning services and a chance to experience life in a temple. While it’s not rare for temples to offer shokubo, Iwamoto-ji has a special lodging called Sheta’s Room, the product of an artist-in-residence project with a Tokyo-based artist, Sheta. The walls are adorned with colorful pop art that brings a sense of joy and whimsy to those who stay the night.

Things To Know


The temple is open all year round from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is free to enter, but fees apply for activities and lodging. 

How To Get There


By train

From JR Kubokawa station, the temple is about 10 minutes away on foot. 

By car

From the Kochi Expressway, take the Shimantocho-chuo IC. 

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