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Ishite-ji Temple Review
Ishite-ji is like an ancient, Buddhist-themed amusement park. It's Temple 51 on the Shikoku 88-Temple pilgrimage route, offering more fun things to see and do than at any other holy site. Without a doubt it's the best temple on Shikoku. As sprawling and unkempt as the city around it, its surprises are, like the temple cats, too numerous to count. Ghastly statues and lovely bridges wait in the forest, a scrambling rock pathway leads up the back of the mountain, and two spooky caves are yours to explore (even most locals don't know about them). The obvious draws are wonderful, too—a pagoda and huge temple buildings, painted panels, golden statues, a giant mandala on the stairway to the main shrine, a wood-carved kami (spirit) with a sword you can heft, a huge bronze bell to ring for a hundred yen, and a cauldron of ash to light incense in. Pass a stone dragon at the entrance and a strip of omiyage paper-fortune merchants, and you'll see a table for making origami cranes; they'll be added to the heavy, colorful bunches hanging around pillars everywhere, and in return you can take home a white placard on which the monks have written a sutra. Don't miss the cave behind the main temple building. The darkness is not total, but it feels impossibly long, and when you finally emerge on the other side—past startling wooden statues and 88 stone Buddhas (one for each temple on the pilgrimage)—you'll be confronted by a 100-foot statue of the Kobo Daishi striding across the mountains. Remember those huge sandals you saw at the gate? They're his. Don't miss Ishite-ji's regular festival, held on the 20th day of every month.
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