Right next to Sennnyu-ji temple, is the much smaller Imakumano Kannon-ji [今熊野観音寺]. Despite its mediocre size, this temple is actually one of the 33 temples of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage and many people, especially those suffering from headaches, visit this temple.
The History of Imakumano Kannon-ji
The origins of Imakumano Kannon-ji date back to the Heian Period. According the temple legend, one day while Kukai was practicing Buddhism in To-ji, he saw an unusual group of purple clouds hovering over the mountain around here. Feeling drawn to the clouds, Kukai came to see what was happening. Under the clouds, he found an old man with white hair. The old man told Kukai that he was the god of Kumano. He gave Kukai a statue of Kannon Bosatsu insisted that Kukai protect this place. Kukai did as the old man said and enshrined the Kannon state in a small hut that later became Imakumano Kannon-ji.
There is also another well-known story about this temple.
One day Emperor Goshirakawa had a splitting headache, so he went to Imakumano Kannno-ji to pray for a cure. That night, Kannon appeared his dream and shone a light on his head. Then, his headache completely vanished! Due to this story, Imakumano Kannnon-ji renowned for curing headaches.
They even sell small pillow cases as souvenir, so if you or someone you know is plagued with migraines—who knows maybe it is worth a try?
Getting to Imakumano Kannon-ji
Imakumano Kannnon-ji is located right next to Sennyu-ji, whose closest station is Tofuku-ji Station off the Keihan main line or the JR Line. From Tofuku-ji Station, walk north along Higashi Oji Street and then turn right at Sennyu-ji Michi. It roughly takes 20 minutes or so from Tofuku-ji Station.
Just before Sennyu-ji’s Daimon Gate, turn left and walk down the street, and before long you will be at Imakumano Kannnon-ji.
Imakumano Kanno-ji is right next to Sennyu-ji, but keep your eyes open because Imakumano Kannon-ji does not have a gate.
After a few minutes you will see the temple grounds.
The hondo is supposedly erected on the site where Kukai met the god of Kumano. In the hondo does indeed a statue of Kannon Bosatsu, but it isn’t the same one Kukai divinely received. Instead, Kukai made another statue of Kannon and that statue is the one the hondo enshrines. However, the statue Kukai made is not available for public viewing and the statue on display in the hondo is a replica.
The temple grounds of Imakumano Kannon-ji are small, so it will not take time to see everything. Also, since it’s off the beaten path temple, the temple grounds is typically not very crowded.
Just beyond the hondo, you will see the beautiful red pagoda on the hill. This pagoda is the Isei-do, and it enshrines many people who helped cultivate the medical field in Japan. Perhaps, because this temple has a reputation for curing headaches?