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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A Visit to Koyasan, part 1: Up the Mountain!

A Visit to Koyasan, part 1: Up the Mountain!

Kōyasan, or Kōya, is a natural basin atop a mountain in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. The shallow basin (called a kōya in Japanese) sits 800 meters above sea level, and is home to one of Japan’s most sacred temple complexes (also known as Kōyasan), as well as Japan’s largest cemetery, Okunoin. In the weeks that come, I hope you’ll join me for a virtual tour of Kōya and its various sites of interest. Today, we’re taking the journey up the mountain by cable car.

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A Visit to Kongobuji, Part 2: The Dragon Garden

A Visit to Kongobuji, Part 2: The Dragon Garden

(To start the visit to Kongobuji from the beginning, click here.) After entering the main building of Kongobuji, visitors pass through the gold-doored ohiroma (sadly, no photos allowed) and along a hallway with wooden floors worn smooth by time and the passage of many feet. Like many Japanese temples, Kongobuji features gardens in every outdoor space, no matter how small.

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The Graves of Okunoin

The Graves of Okunoin

Okunoin – “the temple at the end” is Japan’s largest cemetery. Sacred to the Shingon Buddhist sect (though non-Buddhists can be buried there, as long as they believe in the teachings of Kōbō Daishi), the cemetery has over 250,000 graves and monuments, the oldest of which date to at least the ninth century (if not before). The grave monument above dates to 1375, and marks the resting place of a Buddhist nun. According to legend, if you lay your ear to the stone, you can hear the screams of people suffering in hell. I admit, I did not try. While I’m not superstitious, there

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