Located in Toba, Mie Prefecture, the Aonominesan Shofuku-Ji temple is said to have been built by the Buddhist priest Gyoki - famous for having overseen the building project of the Todaiji Temple in Nara, including its Great Buddha statue, between 729 and 748CE, in accordance with the wishes of the Emperor Shomu.
Steeped in Japanese legend, Aonominesan Shofuku-Ji Temple’s whale-shaped promontories were built in honour of the eleven-headed goddess Kannon – the temple’s principal deity, who according to local Japanese folklore carries an association with protecting those at sea. Indeed, the very mountain on which the temple is located is held as sacred to maritime protection, and thus it attracts visitors and worshippers from all over the country.
Every year, on the 18th day of the 1st month (in the lunar calendar), a religious festival for maritime protection takes place, with the temple precincts becoming crowded with visitors holding colourful fisherman’s banners.
The mountain gate, supposedly completed in the year 1830, is also carved with stunning sculptures and is even a designated Cultural Property of Japan.
Hiking is also a popular activity in the area, affording breath-taking views of the surrounding Ise Shima, from an altitude of 336m.