The temple gate of Kumadaniji (translated as “The Bear Valley Temple”) is supposed to be one of the most beautiful of the pilgrimage. The door guardians have been repainted, and while appealing to some, may lose a bit of its more earthy tone that it once had. At any rate, you can decide for yourself if it suits your taste.
This temple is significant as here, Kukai received a small statue of Kannon (the goddess of mercy) and placed it within the larger statue of Senju Kanzeon Bosatsu, who is also the buddha of compassion. Kanzeon is worshipped in 33 temples of the 88 in the Shikoku Pilgrimage. This buddha is the most malleable of the buddhas we find as there are both male and female (Kannon) forms. It is quite complex, and as of this writing, I am still trying to figure out the various manifestations myself. Apparently, this deity can be in the form of a loving mother, or an angry god, a protector, a gatherer of voices, and a thresher for evil in the world, dispelling ill will and replacing it with healing and compassion. Kanzeon also manifests itself as the protector of animals, and in this visage, has a horse face. So, as we travel through the temples, keep an eye out for the buddha of compassion, and see what kind of manifestation it may be.