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  • Thumbnail for Kannon statue in forest
    Kannon statue in forest

    Along the path to Okunoin are many graceful statues. This one is of the bodhisattva of compassion Kannon (Kuan-yin in China). It looks almost as if it were a curving tree itself.

  • Thumbnail for Jizo statue in forest
    Jizo statue in forest

    One of thousands of statues of Jizo, the merciful deity who is commonly entreated to assist children who have died young, especially even prior to birth. These statues are often dressed in caps and aprons. This clothing is sometimes placed there by a bereaved mother, or sometimes by any warm-hearted person who happens to be fond of keeping little Jizo neatly dressed.

  • Thumbnail for Southeast Asian style pagoda memorial in the forest
    Southeast Asian style pagoda memorial in the forest

    I cannot recall what this shrine is for but it resembles others at Koyasan that embody the religious architectural conventions of Southeast Asia and so is likely dedicated to the many soldiers, Japanese and local, who lost their lives there during World War Two.

  • Thumbnail for Miniature bronze stupa
    Miniature bronze stupa

    Along the path to Okunoin there are many thousands of carvings and other pieces of religious art. This is a miniature bronze stupa.

  • Thumbnail for Family shrine in forest
    Family shrine in forest

    One of many, many shrines in the forest near Okunoin dedicated to the ancestors of a private family.

  • Thumbnail for Family gravesite with statues
  • Thumbnail for Rocket memorial
    Rocket memorial

    This is a corporate site.

  • Thumbnail for New grave marker
    New grave marker

    This new stone rests on a site that must have held a much older marker before. I believe the inscription on the sphere reads, "Meet together in one place," which would refer to a belief that some Buddhists have that they will join together after death in the Pure Land of the Buddha Amida.

  • Thumbnail for Mound of stone Buddha images
    Mound of stone Buddha images

    Not far from the mausoleum is this perhaps centuries old mound, about ten feet (3 meters) high. It is dedicated to the spirits of those who died without anyone to remember them.

  • Thumbnail for View of temple roof
  • Thumbnail for View of the path from the forest
  • Thumbnail for Temple meal
    Temple meal

    Most of the larger temples in Koyasan provide lodging for visitors. Rates range from around $70 to $120 per person for a traditional tatami room with dinner and breakfast. While many of the temples will prepare a western-syle meal if requested, the traditional vegetarian temple fare can be a wonderful treat. A meal like this one at a restaurant would easily cost half the fare for a night's stay.

  • Thumbnail for Street shrine
    Street shrine

    This small shrine on a street corner is typical of many one finds on urban as well as rural streets in Japan.

  • Thumbnail for Kongobuji Temple
    Kongobuji Temple

    This temple complex is the headquarters for the Koyasan Shingon denomination. The founder Kukai seems to have built a structure in this location back in the 9th century; the present buiding is only a few centuries old. Next door to the temple is a cluster of more modern looking buildings that houses the administrative center for the denomination, which has branch temples all throughout Japan.

  • Thumbnail for Kongobuji courtyard
    Kongobuji courtyard

    At the end of a long flight of stairs, the two structures to the left flank the entrance to the Kongobuji complex. The main temple is to the right just out of the photo.

  • Thumbnail for Pouring water on Jizo statue
    Pouring water on Jizo statue

    Near the end of the path to Okunoin, just prior to crossing the last bridge before going up to Kukai's mausoleum, there is a line of statues with water troughs in front of them. Vistors pour water over the statues as an act of devotion. This ritual action shares something both with the cleansing of the mouth prior to entering a Shinto shrine, where the same sort of ladle and trough is used, as well as the cleansing of ancestral gravestones that is practiced in August during the Obon season.

  • Thumbnail for Kobo Daishi's shrine
    Kobo Daishi's shrine

    This is a view of the space between the shrine on the left and the much larger mausoleum building on the right, under which eaves this photo was taken.

  • Thumbnail for Statues near Okunoin
    Statues near Okunoin

    Near the main shrine at Okunoin people stop to pray before, and pour water over, these Buddhist images.

  • Thumbnail for Kannon and Jizo
    Kannon and Jizo

    This is the same statue as in cocrejpn0183.

  • Thumbnail for Random grave along path to Okunoin
    Random grave along path to Okunoin

    Like many graves, the main stone here has the geometric shapes marking Buddhist symbolism but the surrounding structures are clearly Shinto toriis. This natural blending of features of both traditions was exceedingly common in premodern Japan.

  • Thumbnail for Various Jizo statues beside tree on Okunoin path
  • Thumbnail for Ichi no hashi bridge entrance to Oku-no-in
    Ichi no hashi bridge entrance to Oku-no-in

    This is the bridge marking the entrance to what is often called Japan's grandest -- both largest and most magnificent -- cemetery. A two kilometer (1.3 mile) stone path through an ancient cryptomeria forest leads to the tomb of Kukai (posthumously Kobo Daishi), founder of the Shingon school and the first to found a temple at Koyasan, in 817. Throughout the forest along both sides of the path, and often up and over small hills behind the trees, are thousands upon thousands of gravestones that have been built up around Kukai's tomb over the millenia.

  • Thumbnail for Seated Jizo with children
    Seated Jizo with children

    Jizo comes in many forms. This newer statue has him seated in a traditional meditation posture. He holds the children, who are the timeless objects of his vast mercy. The visual contrast here between the clean stone of the new Jizo image and the moss-covered worn stone lantern is one of the charms of this Okunoin trail. Centuries of devotion merge into one another. Our great grandchildren will see this Jizo with its own moss.

  • Thumbnail for Grave with torii
    Grave with torii

    This old grave site has a large traditional stone and the space is nicely framed by a Shinto torii. This kind of complex shows how Buddhist and Shinto forms merge easily in Japanese sensibility.

  • Thumbnail for Statue along path just before mausoleum
    Statue along path just before mausoleum

    This is the statue to the right of the path visible in cocrejpn0193.