Traveling Japan one visits many Shinto and Buddhist temples. For a person from a totally different cultural and religious background, not even counting in the language barrier, the artifacts one founds or rituals one sees there are barely understandable.
When I decided to take a trip to Japan, my knowledge of this country was limited as it could have been at all. Neither I had time for any preparation. As the trip was organised by two colleagues of mine, the one of which was graduate in Japanese culture, I fully relied on them. Only after coming back home, having in mind the observations and hundreds of photos I made in Japan, I started to dig the internet on additional information. Today, a bit longer than a year after we came back, with more than twenty posts on Japan, including a longer summary on shrines and temples (>>>) I finally got to the memories and pictures from Koyasan. While on spot, I knew only we are on some kind of a sanctuary mountain and came there to spend a night in a temple.
Koyasan, otherwise called Mount Koya, it is the main seat of Shingon sect, one of the most important Buddhist sects in Japan. The place is visited by both Japanese pilgrims and foreign tourists, who usually stay there overnight to experience a Buddhist temple lodging (called shukubo in Japanese). Besides some sightseeing in the Mount Koya temple complex and the surrounding town, the other obligatory stop is the Okunoin temple and the Okunoin cemetery.
The Okunoin temple is in fact a mausoleum of Kōbō-Daishi called also Kūkai (774–835), the Japanese monk who was the founder of the Shingon sect. He was the one, who decided to locate the sect’s main seat on the Mount Koya. For more than thousand years people from all over Japan chose the neighbourhood of his mausoleum as their burial site. Today, with more than 200,000 graves (tombstones) it is the largest cemetery in Japan.
One of the entrances to the cemetery. Going with slow pace, taking short rounds and making photos it took us around forty minutes to reach the mausoleum. If taken straight, the one km route can be of course done in shorter time. But it is better to plan in more time to sightsee the cemetery. Continue reading