A monk, a mausoleum, and a myth at one of japan‘s most sacred sites
Located on the northeast side of Koyasan, Okunoin Temple is a sanctuary housing the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai. Kobo Daishi was a famous monk, scholar, engineer, and the founder of Shingon Buddhism who lived from 774–835 A.D. Legend says he is still resting within the mausoleum in a state of eternal meditation.
Okunoin Temple is a place of great significance and reverence in Japanese culture. It is considered one of the most sacred sites in the country and attracts pilgrims and visitors from all over the world. The temple complex is located in the Koyasan area, which is known for its spiritual and religious heritage.
The temple’s expansive grounds are home to Japan’s largest cemetery, with more than 200,000 graves. It is a place where people come to pay their respects to their ancestors and loved ones. The cemetery is also the final resting place of some of the most famous people in Japanese history. Each grave represents the wish of the person, keeping their legacy alive.
The journey to Okunoin is not just a physical one, but also a spiritual one. The two-kilometer cobblestone sidewalk leading to the temple is lined with old mossy cedars and dotted with the graves of war dead, modern entrepreneurs, royalty, monks, feudal lords, and other famous historical figures. It is a scenic and monumental walk that allows visitors to reflect on life and mortality.
One of the highlights of Okunoin Temple is Torodo Hall, also known as the Hall of Lanterns. It is located in front of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum and is the center of worship. The hall is named after the more than 20,000 lanterns that are permanently lit throughout the temple. The flickering lights create a serene and ethereal atmosphere, inviting visitors to meditate and contemplate.
Entry to Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum is forbidden to avoid disturbing his eternal meditation. Instead, monks, pilgrims, and the general public worship from outside the mausoleum. The mausoleum is a place of deep reverence and spiritual significance. It is believed that Kobo Daishi’s presence and teachings continue to guide and inspire people to this day.
Crossing the Ichi-no-hashi Bridge marks the official entrance to the temple grounds and is the gateway between two worlds: the sacred and the secular. Visitors are expected to bow to show their respect to Kobo Daishi before crossing the bridge and entering the sacred grounds of Okunoin. Further in, you will cross Gobyo-no-hashi Bridge to enter the innermost part of the temple. From this point on, food, drink, and photography are forbidden, as they would disturb the peaceful atmosphere and the spiritual practices taking place.
Visiting Okunoin Temple is not just a sightseeing experience; it is a spiritual journey. It offers a deeper understanding of Japanese culture, history, and religious traditions. The temple and its surroundings provide a serene and tranquil environment for reflection and contemplation. It is a place to connect with the past, honor the present, and seek inner peace.
To get to Okunoin Temple, you can take a bus from Koyasan Station that drops you off at the Okunoin-mae bus stop. It is about a kilometer from the stop. For those who wish to walk the full length of the cobbled path up to Okunoin, you can get off at the Ichi-no-hashi-guchi bus stop. The journey to the temple is as important as the destination itself, as it allows you to immerse yourself in the spiritual ambiance of the surrounding area.
In conclusion, Okunoin Temple is a place of deep spirituality and reverence. It is a sanctuary where the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, is located. The temple’s grounds are home to Japan’s largest cemetery, where people come to pay their respects to their ancestors and loved ones. The journey to the temple is a pilgrimage in itself, offering a chance for reflection and contemplation. Visiting Okunoin Temple is not just a tourist attraction; it is an opportunity to connect with Japanese culture, history, and spirituality.
Address And Maps Location:
132 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama-ken