Gokurakuji Temple, located on top of Gokurakuji Mountain at 661 meters
elevation, belongs to the Shingon Buddhist sect. According to the temple's
history, Gyoki, on an ascetic exercise, sculpted Senju Kannon (the thousand-
armed goddess of mercy) in a big cedar on this mountain. Kobo-daishi (a monk)
held a consecration ceremony to the Kannon image in 806. In the medieval era,
the Fujiwara family, feudal lords of Obi Castle, the Ouchis and the Moris were
among the supporters of the temple.
The main hall, hondo, was reconstructed by the Moris in 1562. It was
constructed in the well-balanced Heian era style. The purline, whose length of
beams and space between girders is 5.5 meters, follows the Zen Buddhist temple
style. Its square roof covered with shingles has the original Japanese style of
extra roof (mokoshi) underneath. The copper gong found in the temple's
collection has a cast inscription dated 1493. It is believed to have been hanging
in the former building.
The Nyorai image in the small hall was carved and donated by believers who
had emigrated to Hawaii before 1906 but lived there with a longing for their
Ja no Ike, snake pond, is located north of the temple. The pond, surrounded
by mountains 600 meters high, is about ten thousand square meters in area. The
area includes a natural forest of firs where wild bird song can be heard. The
forest has been designated and preserved as a citizens' forest. It is said that
people used to cut natural ice out and make freeze-dried tofu there.
Many people join the crowd at the spring festival of Gokurakuji Temple (Photograph taken circa 1994)
The god of Hayatani Shrine in Kamihera is recorded as Akihayatama no Mikoto, the founder of Aki Province. The Hayatani god rose to a higher rank than the Itsukishima (Itsukushima) god in the early Heian period. However, Itsukishima Shrine gained power with the support of the Taira family and became Aki Ichi no Miya, the head shrine in Aki Territory. Since then, Hayatani Shrine has been called Ni no Miya, the second shrine.