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According to legend, Gien Sojo ( d.728 ) founded this temple during the Taiho era ( 701-704 ). When a provincal shrine ( Ichinomiya ) was built in each province, Gyoki named it Ichinomiyaji. Between 806-810, Kukai stayed here, carved and enshrined the main deity statue. Peek into the small shrine of Yakushi Nyorai - it is said that if you are not of a good heart, you will not be able to pull your head out.
In 754, Ganjin visited this place on his way to Namba from China and built a sanctuary for which his disciple acted as abbot. Later in 815, Kukai came here, constructed the Main Hall, carved and enshrined the main deity. This mountain is the site of a major battle between the Heike ( Taira ) and Genji ( Minamoto ) clans during the 12th Century.
Before Kukai departed for China, it is said that he came here, planted eight chestnut ( ya-kuri ) and prayed that his journey would be safe. Returning to Japan, he revisited this site and participated in ascetic training. At that time, 5 swords fell from heaven and a mountain God appeared declaring that this land was sacred. The eight chestnut seeds had grown into large trees.
When Fujiwara no Fuhito ( 659-720 ) was constructing Ko-fukuji temple in Nara, his sister sent him three treasure balls in memory of their father who had passed away; however, as the boat bearing these jewels passed through Shido-wan Bay, the undersea dragon-god stole them. Fuhito married a local woman diver whom he asked to retrieve the balls. She agreed to do it if their son could inherit the Fujiwara clan. She was successful in getting the treasures, but unfortunately died as a result.
In 739, Gyoki built a sanctuary and enshrined the main deity. Later, Kukai came here and prayed for a safe and succesful trip to China and conducted a fire ritual for seven nights. When he returned to Japan, he gave thanks for what he achieved in China and raised a memorial tower. The East Gate, moved from Ritsurin Park of the Takamatsu clan, remains today.
Gyoki is said to have made a hut here. Kukai, after returning from China, built a sanctuary and carved the main deity. The stone ( Otsue-do ) in front of the Main Hall is said to be where he left his staff. This temple is the last one along the Shikokou pilgrimage route and many pilgrims leave their staff here feeling that its role is complete. This temple was one of the earliest temples to abolish the rule that women were not allowed to climb the mountains leading to sacred site.