The mystical atmosphere of Koya-san
or wander through the graves of one of Japan’s largest cemeteries.
After Osaka and Nara I spent a weekend on Mount Koya-san. It is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important sect introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi (or Kukai), one of Japan’s most famous priests. A figure that I already met during my visit on Shikoku. Upon arrival at Koya-san Kobo Daishi built a temple which is now the general headquarters of the sect and the starting point of the famous pilgrimage of the 88 temples of Shikoku.
Today more than a hundred temples surround the small village at the top of the mountain and a huge Okuno-in cemetery, hostel gravestones of samurai, famous personalities and ordinary people sheltered by a centennial cryptomerias forest.
Walking through the village and the cemetery is steeped in history. It’s walking in the midst of ghosts. It is to be infused by faith and the power of nature. I wander amazed by the beauty of the architecture. As night falls, the lanterns light up in the cemetery giving it an almost living appearance. A ghost or yokai would appear before my eyes that I would not be surprised.
I spent the night in a temple (shukubo) where I was able to eat the traditional vegetarian cooking of the monks (shojin ryori) and attend the morning prayers ceremony. A very interesting experience.