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Mount Koya: Day 2, The Okunoin
(Sat., Oct. 13, 2001)

 Saturday, October 13, 2001 (click to see all posts from this day)
  • Places visited: The Okunoin on Mount Koya (MAP)
  • "Prayed" at: The Okunoin (in front of Kobo Daishi Himself!)
  • Slept at: Shikoku Pilgrimage Temple #2
  • Words and Pictures: The Okunoin on Mount Koya
 The Yamato Area

One picture, a lot of public transportation.

The Okunoin

I got up and left for the Okunoin, the "back temple" where Kobo Daishi's body rests. It's at the back of a large cemetery where virtually everybody in Japan wants to be buried (or so the tourist literature says). When the day comes that the Daishi comes out of his meditation, a sort of Buddhist-style resurrection will occur. And anyone who's nearby gets raised first. In Japan, a person can have many tombs: a lock of hair here, a piece of bone there, so companies maintain mausoleums here to put a piece of their employees in! Insiders say it's quite a source of income for the mountain.

Anyway: I went to the Daishi. When you get to the last bridge before the hall behind which he rests, the area is "no pictures allowed." Here's a shot looking toward the beginning of the "forbidden zone."

I went into the main hall, dropped a coin, then went around back and prayed in front of the crypt. And wept uncontrollably, I don't know why. Then I came back out and did business.

Purchases--and a Faux Pas

I bought the stamp book for the Shikoku pilgrimage, and had the first page done at Koyasan. I also bought a white pilgrim's shirt that will be stamped as I go along. It goes over whatever else the pilgrim is wearing.

Actually, it kind of gave me the willies. White is the color of death in Japan, and this shirt is like a shroud. Many pilgrims used to die along the path. (Bishop Miyata, who wrote the religious guide book I'm using, has had two participants die on bus tours he led!) So the white shirt gets you ready. It is also a symbol of one's vow: finish or die.

Anyway, not to worry; I don't reckon it will be white for long.

After making purchases, I went back to the guests' hall, picked up my bags, and took off--only to realize, 20 meters down the path, that I had left my stick in the hall.

This happened once before. It's a big no-no, as the stick represents Kobo Daishi. And I left it at the guests' hall in front of his mausoleum! Oh, the shame of it all.

One could spend days photographing the cemetery in front of the Okunoin. Instead, I spent minutes. (I covered it pretty thoroughly a year and a half ago.) So check out the Words and Pictures page to see what I saw--briefly.

In Transit

The rest of the day was mostly travel. Bus, cable car, train, train, lunch, train, train, boat, bus, train. I took the ferry to Shikoku. I walked from the train to my room at Temple #2, Gokurakuji. I have to be up for a 6 a.m. service here, then backtrack to Temple #1 to start the pilgrimage. Yes, I'm stoked.

I did have a funny encounter tonight. I asked the head priest here to inscribe my hat--something he's apparently not used to doing. So he wrote a Sanskrit letter representing the Daishi, and the expression Dogyo ninin--"We two, pilgrims together." Then he wrote my name in katakana, the Japanese syllabary used for foreign words. A little unsure what to do next, he added ro-su-a-n-zhe-re-su, the name of my hometown. Still not satisfied, he put the name of the temple and his name. It's a masterpiece, a definite one-of-a-kind. (Most pilgrims get Dogyo ninin, a poem, and their name.) I think the padre may have been into the sake before he started to work!

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Posted October 6, 2019

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