The Headless Buddhas of Koboyama

The Headless Buddhas of Koboyama

While hiking Koboyama, I passed many shrines and temple buildings, indicators of the mountain’s history and holy status. However, the most poignant of these was not identified with a roadside sign, or even set at a noticeable place along the path. About twenty minutes past the summit of Koboyama, I came across a row of carved stone buddhas by the side of the trail. Each had been decapitated–and someone had replaced their heads with stones.

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Hiking Kōbōyama (Part 2)

Hiking Kōbōyama (Part 2)

Last week’s high-temperature, high-humidity hike in Kanagawa Prefecture took me to the summits of three more peaks: Sangenyama, Gongenyama, and Kōbōyama. (For the story and photos from the first two peaks, click here.) The trail from Gongenyama’s summit down the ridge toward Kōbōyama starts off a highly civilized set of stairs with trees on either side. At the foot of the stairs, a short section of trail leads to a parking lot where people who prefer to drive to the summit, rather than hiking, can leave their vehicles for the 15-minute stair-walk to Gongenyama.

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Mount Omine – and Tenkawa Gorge – Hyakumeizan #10

Mount Omine – and Tenkawa Gorge – Hyakumeizan #10

After my rainy climb of Mount Ibuki, I hopped a train to Kyoto, and then an hour south to Nara Prefecture (the home of the ancient capital city of Nara, but also many even more ancient historical sites – as well as mountains). The following morning, I traveled even farther south, to  Dorogawa Onsen (an onsen is a Japanese hot spring resort) and Omine-san, one of Japan’s most sacred peaks. It remains so sacred, in fact, that women are not allowed to climb it.

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Fudo Myo-o and the Fudo Hall (Koyasan Part 3)

Fudo Myo-o and the Fudo Hall (Koyasan Part 3)

Founded by the monk Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi) during the 9th century, Danjo Garan continues to function as the heart of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism in Japan. While the entire kōya (mountaintop valley) is considered a single “temple,” the complex at Danjo Garan holds many important historical structures that still serve a role in modern Buddhist worship – including the Fudō-do, or Fudō Hall.   (To read this series on Koya from the beginning, click here.) In Shingon Buddhist belief, Fudō Myō-ō is an incarnation of the Buddha and the leader of the wisdom kings. He protects the living and guides them toward enlightenment.

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Kōya, Part 2: A Walk to Danjo Garan

Kōya, Part 2: A Walk to Danjo Garan

Danjo Garan, the primary temple complex on Kōya, sits about two blocks from the “main street” visitor center, shops, and restaurants. Although all of Kōya is considered a single temple complex, Danjo Garan acts as the beating heart of Kōyasan Shingon Buddhism. (To start this series on Kōya from the beginning, click here.)

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The Eikan-do Garden and Shinbutsu Bunri (Eikan-do, Part 3)

The Eikan-do Garden and Shinbutsu Bunri (Eikan-do, Part 3)

Kyoto’s Eikan-do Zenrin-ji is the head temple of the Seizan branch of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan. The temple sits near the southern end of the famous Philosopher’s Path, and although it’s famous for autumn foliage, the temple gardens are spectacular year-round. The photo above shows the path that leads from the gardens (and pagoda hill) down to the temple’s beautiful lake.

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A Visit to Eikan-do (Part 1)

A Visit to Eikan-do (Part 1)

Eikan-do Zenrin-ji sits on the southern end of the famed “Philosopher’s Path” that runs along a canal in Northeastern Kyoto. Founded during the mid-9th century, Zenrin-ji is the head temple of the Jodo-shu Seizan Zenrin-ji sect of Buddhism in Japan, and although it’s a popular tourist spot, it’s also very much a living, functioning Buddhist temple.

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Remembering the Unborn: Kiyomizudera’s Mizuko-Kannon

Remembering the Unborn: Kiyomizudera’s Mizuko-Kannon

The Japanese term mizuko (literally, “water child”) refers to a deceased baby, infant, or fetus. This includes stillborn and miscarried children as well as those who died by abortion, and in some cases also applies to babies that die shortly after birth. A funerary rite, called mizuko kuyō, is often performed on behalf of these children, and Japan has many shrines honoring mizuko–mostly in combination with statues of Jizō, a kind incarnation of the Buddha who is considred the patron and protector of mizuko. 

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