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The Okunoin on Mount Koya

Note: This selection of Words-and-Pictures was made on October 13, 2001, as I visited the Yamato Area of Old Japan.


This is the Okunoin ("Back Temple") of 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 Okunoin in my Logbook.

As I said in the Logbook, one could spend days shooting here. These are just a few representative shots.

The primary attraction here for many is that the cemetery stands in a pristine cedar forest. Old trees and old stones.

These are gorinto, gravestones with an esoteric meaning. Each one is made of five distinct geometric shapes, which correspond to one of the five elements of Chinese "science." These are also the names of the days of the week in Japan (except for Sunday and Monday, named for the Sun and Moon respectively). These are Fire, Water, Wood, Metal, and Earth.

Now, after all this talk of esoteric Buddhism--and in the headquarters of Kobo Daishi's sect--notice that Shinto torii gates seem perfectly at home.

Some are buried in little houses of their own...

...others under monumental statuary...

...others under something kind of cute...

...and still others under something downright goofy looking. Jizo the Jester.

Posted October 6, 2019

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