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