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The Garan on Mount Koya

Note: This selection of Words-and-Pictures was made on October 12, 2001, as I visited the Yamato Area of Old Japan. (MAP)


The Garan is located on Mt Koya, home of Japan's Shingon Buddhism. Located in Honshu's Wakayama Prefecture, Koyasan is the proper start and end point for the 88 Temple Pilgrimage on the Island of Shikoku. You can read more about my visit to the Garan area in my Logbook.

I won't say much about the uses of these buildings--mostly names and dates. They are all virtually within eyeshot of one another, so you can imagine the overall effect.

The Toto or Eastern Stupa was built in 1127, burned in 1843, and rebuilt in 1983. Compare its exterior to the Saito below.

The Aizendo is dedicated to Ragaraja, the King of Passion. Originally built in 1334 as a result of a vow by Emperor Godaigo, it was rebuilt in 1816.

Just past it is a small meditation hall (barely visible here) where the priest-poet Saigyo meditated over a 30-year period. Beyond that is the Toto seen above.

The Kondo is the main hall of the Garan precincts.

The Daito or Great Stupa is really great--those are real people in the foreground! The sign says it was "initiated by the magnificent idea of Kobo Daishi, but it was completed long afterward." Meaning I don't know how old it is, but I think it's pretty new. The Dainichi Nyorai inside--in front of which I said today's prayers--is 48 meters high!

At the edge of the precincts stands this beautiful Shinto shrine dedicated to the gods who inhabited this mountain before Buddhism arrived.

This small, very new sutra repository fits in well with the other buildings in the Garan, despite its recent construction.

The Saito or Western Stupa is a match for the Eastern one seen above. However, it was built in 887 and rebuilt in 1834; perhaps the much newer Toto will look this ancient in a hundred years or so!

Posted October 6, 2019

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