Tokushima: Capsule Toy Figurines of Monk Kukai Delight Shikoku Pilgrims

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Capsule toys of the monk Kukai

KAMIITA, Tokushima — Figurines of the monk Kukai (774-835), also known as Kobo Daishi, are enjoying popularity among people making a pilgrimage to Anrakuji Temple in Kamiita, Tokushima Prefecture, and other temple visitors.

Anrakuji is the sixth stop of the famous Shikoku pilgrimage of 88 temples founded by Kukai. The deputy chief priest Yuho Hatada, 45, who has previously planned original capsule toys, decided to feature Kukai in commemoration of the 1,250th anniversary of his birth.

The figurines, made of soft vinyl and six centimeters tall, depict Kukai wearing a traditional straw hat and joining his hands in prayer while traveling around the Shikoku region to practice asceticism. They each cost ¥500 and are purchasable from gacha capsule vending machines installed at the temple’s main hall. The figurines come in five different colors, including local specialty indigo, a color reminiscent of persimmon and moegi yellowish green, which is believed to have been used since the Heian period (794-late 12th century), during Kukai’s lifetime.

“I hope people will associate the figurines with Daishi, and that they will become a memory of their visit to the temple,” Hatada said.