Okunoin (Koyasan)

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 | 0 comments

     Okunoin is THE reason that I wanted to visit Koyasan. Of course, finding out that you could stay in Buddist temples while there only increased my desire to go, but Okunoin was what caught my eye in the first place.
  While looking at photos of Japan's World Heritage sites, I came across a picture of Okunoin on a misty day. It was beautiful in every sense of the word. Perhaps not everyone shares my interest in historical graveyards (the catacombs in Paris were also on my 'must-see' list when we visited there), but this is one site that's well worth experiencing, graveyard or not. More than 2 km long from the main entrance to Kobo Daishi's mausoleum, Okunoin is considered the most sacred site in Koyasan. It's home to more than 200,000 gravestones, and the cobblestone path leading through it is shaded by centuries-old cedar trees.
 A shorter (and more modern path) also leads through the cemetary from the Okunoin-mae bus stop, but both paths converge at the Gokusho Offering Hall. From there, the Gobyonohashi (Gobyo Bridge) crosses a stream separating the innermost temple grounds from the rest of Okunoin. After crossing the bridge, food, drinks, and photography are forbidden. Which is unfortunate in a way, since the mausoleum is really a gorgeous site, and I would've loved to have captured it on film. Still, the lack of cameras flashing did make everything feel that much more sacred and peaceful.
  Besides the Gobyo (Kobo Daishi's mausoleum), this innermost area is also home to Torodo Hall (Hall of Lamps). This building is Okunoin's main worship hall, and it houses more than 10,000 eternally lit lanterns that have been donated by worshipers.  Pilgrims often make a trip to pray to Kobo Daishi, and we saw several along the path when we visited Okunoin.
  I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking...here are some of the best out of the hundred or so I took that afternoon!

                                        Pigrims at the main entrance to Okunoin

                                           The Innermost Grounds (photo taken just before Gobyonohashi, at the final point pictures were allowed)

                            Gokusho Offering Hall

                                               Mizumuke Jizo statues