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).

Zenni Jochi Memorial 1375

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 are some sounds I have no desire to hear.

Okunoin Tombstone

According to Shingon doctrine, anyone buried at Okunoin (and those who have monuments there, even if their bodies are actually interred elsewhere) will return to life first at the time Miroku (the Buddha of the Future) returns to earth at the end of days.

For that and other reasons, since the cemetery’s founding in the 9th century, many adherents of the Shingon faith (and others) have chosen to be buried on the mountain.

Do you like visiting cemeteries? Do you find them peaceful, or are they places you avoid?