The Okunoin Area

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 history and culture. It attracts thousands of visitors each year who come to pay their respects to Kobo Daishi and seek spiritual solace.

The temple’s expansive grounds are home to Japan’s largest cemetery, with more than 200,000 graves. Many of these graves belong to famous historical figures, including war heroes, royalty, monks, feudal lords, and other influential individuals. These souls rest here in the hope of approaching Kobo Daishi and finding their way to salvation.

To reach Okunoin Temple, visitors can take a bus from Koyasan Station to the Okunoin-mae bus stop. It is about a kilometer from the stop. For those who wish to take a scenic and monumental walk to the grounds, they can get off at the Ichi-no-hashi-guchi bus stop and walk the full length of the cobbled path up to Okunoin.

The two-kilometer cobblestone sidewalk leading to Okunoin is a picturesque route lined with old mossy cedars. Along the way, visitors can find the graves of war dead, historical figures, and unknown tombstones. Each memorial represents the wishes and legacies of the individuals buried there.

One of the main attractions within Okunoin Temple is Torodo Hall, also known as the Hall of Lanterns. Located in front of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum, Torodo Hall is the center of worship. It is named after the more than 20,000 lanterns that are permanently lit throughout the temple, creating a shimmering and spiritual sanctuary.

Unfortunately, entry to Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum is forbidden to avoid disturbing his eternal meditation. However, monks, pilgrims, and the general public can worship from outside the mausoleum, paying their respects to the great monk.

The temple grounds are connected by two iconic bridges. Ichi-no-hashi Bridge marks the official entrance to the temple grounds and serves as the gateway between the sacred and secular worlds. Visitors are expected to bow as a sign of respect to Kobo Daishi before crossing the bridge and entering the sacred grounds of Okunoin. Further in, visitors will cross Gobyo-no-hashi Bridge to reach the innermost part of the temple. From this point on, food, drink, and photography are strictly prohibited to maintain the sanctity of the area.

Exploring the area around Okunoin Temple can be done in just a few hours. However, for a deeper experience, it is recommended to spend more time immersing oneself in the peaceful and mysterious atmosphere of this sacred site. In the evenings, the temple takes on a quiet and mystical ambiance, providing a unique and introspective experience.

Okunoin Temple offers visitors a glimpse into the rich history and spiritual heritage of Japan. It is a place where the past and present converge, and where the teachings and legacy of Kobo Daishi continue to inspire and guide generations of believers.

In conclusion, Okunoin Temple is a place of immense cultural and historical significance in Japan. It is home to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, a revered monk and the founder of Shingon Buddhism. The temple’s expansive grounds house Japan’s largest cemetery, where thousands of souls rest in the hope of finding salvation. Visitors can take a scenic walk along the cobblestone path to reach the temple and pay their respects to Kobo Daishi. Torodo Hall, with its thousands of lit lanterns, is a central point of worship within the temple. While entry to the mausoleum is forbidden, visitors can still experience the profound spirituality of the site. The iconic bridges, Ichi-no-hashi and Gobyo-no-hashi, serve as gateways between the sacred and secular worlds. Exploring the temple grounds offers a deeper understanding of Japanese history and culture. Okunoin Temple is a place where the past and present come together, and where visitors can find solace and inspiration in the teachings of Kobo Daishi.

Address And Maps Location:

132 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama-ken

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