Temple 23, Yakuōji

第23番 医王山 無量寿院 薬王寺
【History of the temple】
This is the last of the pilgrimage temples in Awa (Tokushima). They are considered temples of awakening faith. It is a bekkaku head temple of the Koyasan Shingon sect. The temple is famous throughout Japan as a temple to ward off bad luck. After crossing the Yakuyokebashi Bridge, there are stone stairs leading up to the Hondo. First there is a flight of 33 steps, the onna oakuzaka (slope to ward off bad luck for women), and then a flight of 42 steps, the otoko yakuzaka (slope to ward off bad luck for men). There is also a kanrekizaka (slope to ward off bad luck for people over 60 years old). It has 61 steps that lead up from the from Hondo to the Yugito, a tower at the top of the temple. At the bottom of each stone step are embedded pebbles with “Yakushi Hongwanji Sutra” written on them. Visitors make a monetary offering as they climb each step.

According to legend, Gyoki founded this temple by the order of Emperor Shomu (reigned 724-749). In 815 Kobo Daishi carved a seated statue of Yakushi Nyorai (Medicine Buddha) as the principal image to pray for protection from bad luck for himself and all mankind. He designated Yakuōji as a temple of warding off bad luck. When Kobo Daishi explained the power of this image to the three emperors Heijo, Saga, and Junna, they were deeply impressed by the temple, and they designated it an imperial temple for protection from bad luck.

In 1188 the temple was destroyed by fire. However, it is said that the principal image of the temple flew away with shining light and took refuge by itself in the inner temple, Tamazushian in Mt. Tamazushi. When Emperor Gosaga rebuilt the temple and dedicated a new statue of Yakushi Nyorai, the principal image returned to the temple, emitting light again, and entered the case facing backward. Since then it has been called the "backward-facing Yakushi Nyorai." It is a hidden image, not shown to the public. In the precincts of the temple, there is a stone monument that is mentioned in Naruto Hicho (The Secret Book of Naruto) by Yoshikawa Eiji and in Kukai no Fukei (The Landscape of Kukai) by Shiba Ryotaro. Both are famous Japanese writers.


This is a one-storied pagoda 29 meters tall, square at the top and cylindrical at the bottom. The design is based on the teachings of the Yugi Sutra, which teaches the harmony of heaven and earth. The Yugito has five sorin (vertical shafts with rings) on the roof.

Monetary offering at Yakuzaka
It is said that if you visit the temple while making a monetary offering on each step of the correct yakuzaka (for men, women, and the elderly), bad luck will stay away from you.

Lung Daishi -- located to the left of the Hondo, this sacred water contains radium and is said to cure diseases, especially diseases of the lung.

【Annual Events】
New Year's first prayer: January 1 - 3
Setsubun Hoshiku (Ceremony of praying to a star for good luck): February 3
Yakuyoke Hatueshiki (Ceremony to ward off bad luck): February 11-12
Nehanne (Parinirvana Day): February 15
Shason Hana Matsuri (Buddha’s Birthday): April 8
Shomieiku (Memorial service for Kobo Daishi): April 21
Natsukaishiki (Summer Ceremony): May Misoka on the lunar calendar
Kobo Daishi’s Birthday: June 15
Uranbon Festival: August 13-16
Shigakikai (ritual for restless spirits): August 16th
Chinju Matsuri: October 15
Yakuyoke Toshikoshi Matsuri (New Year's Eve ceremony to ward off bad luck): New Year's Eve
Honzon Tsukinamikai (Principal Image Open to the Public) : 12th day of every month

Address 徳島県海部郡美波町奥河内字寺前285−1
Telephone Number 0884-77-0023
Parking350 cars or microbuses, 10 buses (7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
free of charge
Word-of-mouth Reviews (TripAdvisor)
Website Website
RemarksLodging: Available (reservation phone: 0884-77-1138)(temporarily closed)