This is the stairway leading to the main entrance to the temple. One arrives here from the Kintetsu Hasedera Station. Unless the weather is very inclement, it is best to walk from the station about 20 to 30 minutes through the streets of this traditional temple town where there are many small shops and places to stop for a meal or a snack.<br>Hasedera dates from the earliest period of Japanese Buddhism and has maintained a long affiliation with the Shingon school. It was founded in 686 by Domyo, and the central, larger-than-life eleven-headed statue of Kannon dates from 727. It is a sprawling and beautiful complex.
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.
Copies of scriptures hand-scribed by the faithful are stored in this hall. Many short, and sometimes long, Buddhist texts are copied as part of a practice that accumulates merit. The Heart Sutra (Hannya Shingyo) is a one-page text widely copied throughout Buddhist East Asia. This merit is often dedicated to a deceased or ill loved-one with the hope that they fare well.
This is the chandelier-like canopy above the statue of Kobo Daishi, in which are carved images of various Buddhas.
One of many old stone images in the forest.
A pathway from the main plaza leads to this sub-temple. To the right are numerous stone statues of Jizo lining the walkway. These are commonly donated, and dressed with aprons and caps, by faithful who have lost a child (usually while in the womb) with hopes that the soul will fare well.
At this building within the Hasedera complex, visitors can purchase amulets (o-mamori) and various memorablia. Here too pilgrims can receive a large stamp for placement in their "stamp book" which documents their visits to many holy places.
Upon almost reaching the end of the covered stairways, there is a small landing where one is greeted by a small red Shinto shrine dedicated to a local deity.
This plaque describes the full shrine visible in cocrejpn0143.
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.
Another view enroute to Okunoin.
This shape is common to the Shingon school of Japanese Buddhism and reflects its doctrines. The five geometric shapes of this stupa-like grave stone signify the five elements shared by all living things (from bottom to top, cube, sphere, pyramid, hemisphere, drop): earth, water, fire, air and space. Each of these elements has its own "seed" syllable or mantra, that is carved into the stone here in its Sanskrit form.
Some of the grave stones surrounding Okunoin seem to depict either actual people or at least their idealized forms as ordinary social beings. Here we see a mother with children.
These stairs lead from the main street to a small shrine in the forest behind the houses visible to the right.
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.
The Miedo, meaning "Hall of the Honorable Portrait," houses an ancient portrait of Kukai, Koyasan's ninth century founder, said to have been painted by his disciple.
This gravesite is dedicated to the deceased employees of Nissan Motor Company.
This stone along the Okunoin trail, which reads "great compassion," was created from the calligraphy of someone named Tejima, who may well have been a famous calligrapher.
One of the paths in Okunoin passes over a stream.