Gokuraku-ji Temple dates from medieval times and stands on top of the mountain that bears its name, overlooking Hatsukaichi and the island of Miyajima.
Gokuraku-ji Temple is said to have been founded in 731 by the Buddhist saint, Gyoki. Gyoki was a monk who refusing to be bound by imperial regulations which forbade preaching to the masses, travelled around Japan helping the poor in the secular realm, as well as the spiritual, through public works projects. He’s also credited with being Japan’s first cartographer.
According to legend, when Gyoki visited Miyajima Island in the mid-8th century, he looked across the water and he saw a great shining cedar on Mt Gokurakuji-yama. He sculpted this tree into a Senju Kannon (the thousand-armed goddess of mercy) and built a temple in which to store it. The founder of the Shingon sect, Kukai, also known as Kobo Daishi, is said to have 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 great warlord Motonari Mori reconstructed the hondo main hall in 1562 and, 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. Though the hondo has been repaired several times since, it’s dark wooden simplicity retains an air of antiquity.
Behind the main temple are two collections of stone statues and the grounds are particularly pleasant in late October.