Kokawa-dera Temple

On the boarder between Osaka and Wakayama is the Izumi Mountain Chain. Just at the foot of those high mountains is Kokawa-dera Temple, one of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage. Together with Negoro-ji Temple and Kimii-dera, it is one of the most famous temple in north Wakayama.

The History of Kokawa Temple

According to the Kokawa Engi-emaki (a handscroll about the temple’s origins), in 770 during a hunt, Ootomo no Kujiko found a stream of light in the forest and decided to build a hut next to it.

Later, a child, who would later grow up to be Donan Taishi [童男大子], visited this hut and asked Kujiko to let him stay for a while, and he agreed. The next morning the child offered to carve a Buddha statue as a toke of gratuity. Seven days later, Kujiko went to check on the boy, only to find no trace of him!  In his place was a statue of Senju Kannon. Kujiko decided to enshrine the statue in his hut, which is today as Kokawa-dera Temple.

Donan-do of Kokawa-dera Temple
Donan-do: Enshirines Donan Taishi.

Over time, Kokawa-dera Temple became popular temple and earned a spot on the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, but in 1585 Kokawa-dera Temple joined forces with Negoro-ji Temple to fight against Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Unfortunately they lost this war, leading the temple to ashes. Currently, the oldest building at the temple is the one rebuilt by the 8th shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune in Edo Period.   

Getting to Kokawa-dera Temple

The closest station to Kokawa-dera Temple is Kokawa Station off the JR Wakayama Line. It takes 30 minutes from Wakayama, but the train comes only twice an hour, so it maybe not convenient for you unless you are already in Wakayama.

The other way to get to Kokawa-dera Temple is to take the Wakayama Bus “Naga” from Kumatori Station at the JR Hanwa Line. Kumatori Station is only 40 minutes away from Osaka Station (30 minutes from Tenno-ji) and is the cheaper option. Just make sure to check the bus schedule, as service can be a little sparse. The bus does not stop in front of the Kokawa-dera Temple, but JR Kokawa Station so you have to walk 10-15 minutes from the station to the temple. It is a long straight road, so you will not get lost. Be careful it is the other side of the station from the bus stops!

Temple Grounds

Main Gate of Kokawa-dera Temple
Main Gate: rebuilt in 18th century.

Along the path to the main building, the hondo, are many interesting buildings.

Sando: the river on the right-hand is the origin of the name Kokawa, for its powder white powder appearance.

After you walk a little bit from the gate, you will see the hondo, but right in front of its hondo, famous rock garden of Kokawa Temple may hold your attention. It uses the large rocks from Wakayama, which gives you the impression of rocky and strength…

Main hall and garden of Kokawa-dera Temple
Hondo and garden (left).
wish there is no roof above the garden…maybe it helps keep birds away??

The hondo of is huge! It is as big as Hase-dera or maybe even bigger than that. Without doubt, this temple’s hondo is one of the biggest of the temples in the  Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage.

Hondo of Kokawa-dera Temple
It seems the prayer hall and hondo are combined.

Kokawa-dera Temple’s main statue is only 5.4cm – practically a miniature statue. Unfortunately it is never open to public. While many temples in the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage usually allow the public to view their main statues when they celebrate their 1,000 years anniversary for some reason, Kokawa-dera Temple didn’t.

Senju-do of Kokawa-dera temple
Senju-do: they sometimes will allow public viewings of the Senju Kannon statue enshrined here.
kokawa Ubusuna Shrine: guardian shrine of the temple.

Kokawa-dera Temple


Kokawa 2787, Kinokawa City, Wakayama Prefecture








From Osaka, take JR Hanwa line and change for Wakayama line at Wakayama. Kokawa station is 20 minutes away from Wakayama. Also, you can take a bus from Kumatori station on JR Hanwa Line, which is probably cheaper and faster way. Make sure to check the bus schedule!  












2 thoughts on “Kokawa-dera Temple

  • September 22, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    Looks great but doesn’t seem to have much shade.
    Anywhere decent to eat nearby?

    • September 23, 2019 at 8:03 am

      Nope, not much shade there at all. There are just a couple of restaurants in the general area, but we didn’t have time to visit them and to be honest weren’t sure if they were open. There are no convenience stores nearby, but there is a grocery store near Kokawa Station where you could pick something up. My suggestion would be to wait for a really nice temperate day and bring a lunch with you!


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