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  • Thumbnail for Streetside stall selling religious decorations
    Streetside stall selling religious decorations

    Many such stalls in Koyasan sell evergreen fronds to people for embellishing their family altars at home where ancestors are revered. This one is in a spot very characteristic of Koyasan: the old stone wall behind and the line of toriis heading up a path to the left bespeak the charm of this old mountain town (founded in the early 9th century) with its limitless reminders of traditional religion.

  • Thumbnail for Hasedera - Sub-temple
    Hasedera - Sub-temple

    Yet another of the many sub-temples in the complex.

  • Thumbnail for Hasedera - Main gate
    Hasedera - Main gate

    An alternative view of the main gate from a garden within the temple complex.

  • Thumbnail for Hasedera - Monks walking  up  stairs
    Hasedera - Monks walking up stairs

    Hasedera is an active training ground for Shingon Buddhist priests, who can be seen moving about the complex. Their prayers can often be heard resounding within many of the temple buildings, in which groups will chant in a hauntingly beautiful traditional manner.

  • Thumbnail for Hasedera - Bell tower at top of stairs
    Hasedera - Bell tower at top of stairs

    This bell tower adorns the top of the stairway. One enters this central plaza from the stairway just beneath the bell. The main hall stands just to the right (behind the palm tree). The white spherical lanterns are visible there. From this plaza, the views of surrounding hills are superb.

  • Thumbnail for Hasedera - from a bridge
    Hasedera - from a bridge

    This is a view of the Hasedera temple, on the hill, from a bridge leading to a shrine dedicated to the protecting deity of the temple.

  • Thumbnail for Hasedera - Shrine
    Hasedera - Shrine

    Just behind the main plaza is this Shinto shrine dedicated to the local deity.

  • 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 Private shrine
    Private shrine

    Another family shrine in the forest of Koyasan.

  • Thumbnail for Stairs in the forest
    Stairs in the forest

    The path to Okunoin is not always level. The shifting topography makes for a more pleasurable walk.

  • Thumbnail for Toyotomi family grave site
    Toyotomi family grave site

    The marker to the right announces that this is the grave of the Toyotomi family (and that it is an historical landmark). The family refers to the descendants of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the great general who unified Japan after a long civil war just prior to the lengthy peace of the stable Tokugawa (or Edo) Period around 1600.

  • Thumbnail for Shrine along the path
    Shrine along the path

    This is the same structure as in cocrejpn0163.

  • Thumbnail for Jizo with children
    Jizo with children

    The same Jizo as in cocrejpn0159.

  • Thumbnail for Famous three-in-one tree on path to Okunoin
  • Thumbnail for Forest bridge in Koyasan
  • 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 View from portico of Garan building
    View from portico of Garan building

    This is the view from the portico of one of the old temple structures along the path toward the center of the Garan. In the distance is the large Lecture Hall, and to the left is the oldest standing structure, the Fudo Hall, which dates from the 12th century.

  • Thumbnail for Shrine along the path
    Shrine along the path

    This old shrine must have been dedicated to the ancestors of a family. It also has the torii entrance.

  • Thumbnail for View of the path from the forest
  • Thumbnail for Prayer strips in Tamagawa
    Prayer strips in Tamagawa

    From the bridge over the Tamagawa stream that leads to Kobo Daishi's mausoleum one can see these wooden strips suspended above the stream so that the current washes across the bottom of the strips. On each strip is written the name of someone deceased, and the pure waters of this stream are said to purify their spirits wherever they may be in their afterlife journey.

  • Thumbnail for Corporate grave site with photos
    Corporate grave site with photos

    On what for many is the "return path" back from Okunoin, parallel to the main one and on which there are many newer grave sites, are a few like this one sponsored by a large company for its employees, whose pictures are placed within large memorial stones.

  • Thumbnail for Memorial site for termites
    Memorial site for termites

    The black plaque on the large white stone says "Termites." In smaller letters below it says," .... in peace" (probably something like "rest in peace," but the verb is illegible). The pillar to the right says the site was dedicated by a company in Japan that eliminates termites.

  • Thumbnail for The Daito in the center of the Garan
    The Daito in the center of the Garan

    Viewed from the south, this is the Great Stupa or Daito, with the Lecture Hall to the left.

  • Thumbnail for Kongobuji temple facade
    Kongobuji temple facade

    A carved dragon such as this one can be found adorning many temple buildings in Japan.

  • Thumbnail for View from Tamagawa bridge
    View from Tamagawa bridge

    Across the bridge and down the path we can see visitors gathered at the foot of the stairs to Kobo Daishi's mausoleum.