Archive for February 2018

outrunning a typhoon on the shinkansen, an afternoon in narita, and a fond farewell to japan   23 comments

Monday, August 7:  Leaving Osaka Garden Palace, I walk a half mile in the pouring rain, lugging my suitcase behind me, to Shin-Osaka Station.  Last night, I bought an 8:40 a.m. ticket for the Shinkansen, to arrive in Tokyo at 11:13 this morning. Since I get to the station early, I stop at Tully’s Coffee for a breakfast snack and coffee, sharing a table with a British couple traveling around Japan.  We have a nice chat about our travels, and then I’m on my way.

All the way on the Shinkansen, news about the typhoon is flashing on the screen at the front of the car.  I read on my phone that the worst parts of the storm are behind us, with some flooding and road closures, and I keep hoping that I’ll make it to Tokyo before the typhoon puts the brakes on the trains.

Luckily, I make it to Tokyo right on schedule, where I get on the Yamanote Line at Tokyo Station at 11:23, arriving at Nippori Station at 11:38. There, after some confusion, I take the Keisei Line for another hour to Keisei-Narita Station, where I get off and catch a taxi to my hotel, Ryokan Wakamatsu Honten.  Though it’s too early to check in, I leave my bag and head out.  By now, it’s about 1:40.  I go in search of a restaurant for lunch, finding a nice spot where I order a sushi set meal.

The Ryokan Wakamatsu Honten is directly across the street from Narita’s biggest temple, Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

Ryokan Wakamatsu Honten

My first piece of business is to withdraw the rest of my money from my Japan Post account, so I head down Omotesando Street in search of an ATM.

Omotesando Street

After withdrawing all remaining yen from my account, I head to Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, where I admire the impressive 2007 Somon Gate.  On the upper story of this main gate, eight different Buddha images representing different birth years are enshrined to protect all people.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple belongs to the Chisan Sect of Shingon Buddhism.  The image of Fudō Myō-ō, “Unmovable Wisdom King,” the main deity of the temple, is historically significant in that Kobo Daishi (or Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism) is said to have carved, consecrated and conducted a Goma ritual before this very statue in 810, by order of the 52nd emperor of Japan, Emperor Saga (786 – 842).

In 939, when a revolt led by Taira no Masakado threw the nation into chaos, the 61st emperor of Japan, Emperor Suzaku (923 – 952), secretly ordered Archbishop Kanjo, a Buddhist priest of the highest order, to carry this Fudō Myō-ō image, which had been enshrined at a temple in Kyoto, to the Kanto area battlefield to suppress the rebellion.  Here at Narita, Kanjo conducted a Goma rite in front of the image lasting 21 days, praying for the sake of peace.  On February 14, 940, the final day of the Goma prayer, the revolt was suppressed and Naritasan was founded to commemorate the victory.

The temple is famous for its Goma ritual, where many votive offerings are dedicated in front of the Fudō Myō-ō and special wooden Goma sticks are burnt on the altar.  The fire of the Goma rite symbolizes the wisdom of Fudō Myō-ō, and the wooden Goma sticks represent the afflictions of human beings.  By burning the Goma sticks, which have been inscribed with the human afflictions in the fire of Fudō Myō-ō’s wisdom, the officiating priest prays with the devotees that their afflictions might be removed (from the temple pamphlet).

Somon Gate

The 1831 Niomon Gate enshrines the four guardians of the Buddha-Misshaku-kongo on the right and the Naraen-kongo on the left in the front, and Komoku-ten and Tamon-ten in the back.

walkway to Niomon Gate

As with all Japanese temples, there is a water purification area where visitors should cleanse themselves before entering the temple grounds.

water pavilion

The huge red lantern at Niomon Gate is impressive in its size.

Niomon Gate

Lantern at Nioman Gate

Niomon Gate’s lantern is quite beautiful.

lantern at Niomon Gate

Adjacent to the Niomon Gate is Nio-ike pond, where people can release live fish symbolizing the Buddhist teaching of nonviolence, or the belief in the sacredness of all living creatures.  A rock in the pond is covered with a congregation of small turtles.

Pond with turtles around Niomon Gate

There are many halls and buildings on the grounds of Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

The 1712 Three Storied Pagoda enshrines five Buddhas, and reliefs of 16 Buddhist saints are carved on the inner wooden walls.

The Three Storied Pagoda here has magnificent ornamentation and vivid colors.

Three Storied Pagoda

Three Storied Pagoda

Three Storied Pagoda

The Great Main Hall, built in 1968, is where the most important Goma ritual is performed in front of the Fudō Myō-ō image, along with the Four Messengers. I’m lucky enough to attend this ritual as they hold one at 3:00.  It goes for about a half hour, with the head priest and other monks chanting and throwing wooden sticks into a fire.  It’s miserably hot today, so though the ritual is fascinating, it’s an uncomfortable 30 minutes.

Great Main Hall

Great Main Hall

After the Goma ritual, I go out to explore the rest of the grounds. The Shotoku-taishi-do (or Prince Shotoku Hall) was built in 1992.

Shotoku-taishi-do

Prince Shotoku (572-622 AD) is considered the “Father of Japanese Buddhism.”  This hall was erected with the hope of realizing world peace based on the Prince’s ideal: “Harmony should be valued among people.”

Shotoku-taishi-do

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple of course has its own unique ema.

ema at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple

ema at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple

Shaka-do Hall, built in 1858, was previously used as the main hall. Enshrined within are Sakyamuni Buddha in the center, and four bodhisattvas.  The reliefs of 500 Buddhist saints and 24 paragons of Filial Piety are carved in the walls.

Shaka-do Hall

Shaka-do Hall

Shoutendo Hall enshrines the secret Buddha statue of the temple, Daisyo Kangiten.  Every first week of the month, a special prayer is performed by a priest.  This hall was rebuilt in 2008 as the 1070th anniversary of the temple’s opening.

Shoutendo Hall

Naritasan Park was originally completed in 1928, and redesigned in 1998.  It covers some 165,000 square meters. A large pond, waterfall, and fountain enhance the natural beauty of the park.

Naritasan Park

map of Naritasan Park

Naritasan Park

Besides a great array of tombstones in Naritasan Park, the pond has a pavilion and stone lanterns.

pavilion at Naritasan Park

Naritasan Park

Cool character at Naritasan Park

The Naritasan Museum of Calligraphy is on the grounds of the park, but it is closed by the time I get here.

The Naritasan Museum of Calligraphy

I continue my walk through Naritasan Park, sweating profusely in the heat and humidity.

The 58-meter high Great Pagoda of Peace symbolizes the teaching of Shingon Buddhism. The pagoda enshrines multiple Buddhas and has historical exhibitions about Naritasan, as well as a room for copying the Buddhist scriptures in traditional Japanese calligraphy.

The Great Pagoda of Peace

The Great Pagoda of Peace

Past the Great Pagoda of Peace is a group of other halls, including Seiryu-Gongen-do Hall, originally built in 1732 as the guard of the Naritasan Shinshoji temple.  This hall enshrines two guardians, Seiryu Gongen and Myoken.

Seiryu-Gongen-do Hall

Komyo-do Hall, 1701, was originally built as the Main Hall.  It is a significant and colorful structure from the middle-Edo period. Enshrined here are Dainichinyorai Buddha in the center, Fudō Myō-ō on the right side, and Aizen-Myō-ō on the left side.

Komyo-do Hall

Okuno-in Cave is 11 meters deep and enshrines Dainichi Nyorai.  The door is left open during the Gion Festival from 7th-8th July.  One of the stone slabs affixed to the entrance bears an inscription dated 1336.

Sanja Shrine consists of three shrines, which are, from left to right, Hakusan Myojin Shrine, Konpira Daigongen Shrine and Imamiya Shrine.

Sanja Shrine

Kaizando Hall enshrines Kanjo, who founded the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple in 940.  The hall was built in 1938 commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the temple

Kaizando Hall

Gaku-do Hall (1861) displays votive tablets (votive pictures of horses and the like) dedicated by devotees. The Hall contains a large stone image of Ichikawa Danjuro VII (famous kabuki actor) and the “Giant Bronze Globe (built in 1907).”

Gaku-do Hall

Gaku-do Hall

After my long and exhaustive walk around the sprawling temple, I return to my room at Ryokan Wakamatsu Honten, where I relax after soaking in the onsen.  It’s nice and cool in my room and it feels good to have the sweat washed away.

My Ryokan is directly across the street from Naritasan Temple and I have an excellent view from my window of Daishi-do Hall and Korinkaku Hall.

view from my window of Daishi-do Hall and Korinkaku Hall at Naritasan Temple

After a while, I go out to search for dinner, stopping first to take a parting shot of the Somon Gate in the blue light.

Somon Gate in blue light

Naritasan

By this time of night, the old town is quite deserted and I have to walk a long way to find an Indian restaurant where I can enjoy a meal.

Omotesando Street

Omotesando Street

Omotesando Street

Tuesday, August 8:  In the morning, I take an early taxi to Narita Airport, where I have a 10:40 a.m. flight to Dallas/Fort Worth airport. However, we sit on the runway for over an hour because Alaska’s tiny Bogoslof volcano erupted, sending an ash cloud about 6 miles into the sky. As a “red” aviation warning was issued, we couldn’t take off until a new flight path was charted.

We took off over an hour late, so I knew before we left the ground that it was unlikely I would catch my connecting flight home to Virginia.

After an 11 hour and 45 minute flight, I arrive in Dallas at 9:50 a.m. on the same day, August 8, earlier than I left. I always find this amusing when traveling home from Asia.

However, because of our late departure from Tokyo, by the time I disembark from the plane in Dallas, I’ve missed the boarding time for my connecting flight.  It turns out I will get on a later flight to Dulles Airport, a more convenient airport to my Virginia home than BWI, where I was originally scheduled to land.

Because I have extra time to kill in Dallas, I enjoy a Mexican lunch at the airport, as I won’t arrive home until dinnertime.

lunch in Dallas

Finally, after a three-hour and 12 minute flight, I’m back home, and my Japan adventure has come to an end.

It has been a great adventure, a whirlwind really, and I feel a bit despondent that it’s all over. 😦

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kōyasan: kongōbu-ji temple, random shrines and temples & a nighttime escape from kumagaiji in the wake of a typhoon   9 comments

Sunday, August 6: After walking through the mystical Okunoin, I stop to check in at Kumagaiji, the temple lodging, or shukubō, where I plan to spend the night.  I don’t linger, since I have plenty of time this evening to explore the temple, but instead head out to finish exploring Kōyasan, making my first stop at Kongōbu-ji Temple.

In the year 804, Kobo Daishi (Kukai) crossed the sea to China to seek out Buddhist teachings. In the capital of Tang Dynasty China, he found a lineage of Buddhism, Shingon Buddhist, relatively unknown in Japan. Returning to Japan in 806, he began teaching. In 816, he was granted permission from the Imperial Court to build a monastic complex at Mt. Kōya, isolated from the distractions of the capital. Kobo Daishi lived and taught in Mt. Kōya for many years until he finally entered into eternal meditation in 835. Pilgrims flock to his mausoleum at Mt. Kōya in great numbers every year.  He is believed to give aid and comfort to the millions of people who pray to him in their homes, local temples and at Okunoin.

The original temple was built in 1593 to memorialize Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s mother, some of whose hair was kept here. The temple was lost in fires two or three times and was rebuilt in 1863. Two temples, Kozanji Temple and Seiganji Temple, were combined in 1869 and renamed Kongōbu-ji Temple, meaning Temple of the Diamond Mountain Peak, to function as the headquarters of Kōyasan Shingon Buddhism. Kongōbu-ji is part of the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The gate is the oldest building at Kongōbu-ji and was constructed in 1593.

Kongobuji Temple

Kongobuji Temple

The Koya-maki (Japanese umbrella pine) was planted to celebrate the imperial visit of Emperor and Empress Showa on April 18, 1977. Koya-maki is the seal of Prince Hisahito.

Koya-maki (Japanese umbrella pine)

Kongōbu-ji Temple is centered around the Great Main Hall.

Kongobuji Temple

A Buddha Hall contains many sliding screen doors of cranes guessed to have been painted by Tashitsu Saito, who was active in the early Edo period.

Ohiroma

Ohiroma

Ohiroma

Out on the porch are panels of Japanese characters but I’m not sure what they are.

panels of wishes?

The temple’s modern Banryūtei rock garden is the largest rock garden in Japan (2,349 meters).  The design is of a pair of dragons emerging from a sea of clouds to protect the temple. The dragons are made of 140 pieces of granite brought from Shikoku while the white sand is from Kyoto.

Banryūtei rock garden

I love looking at this amazing rock garden from every possible angle.

Banryūtei rock garden

Banryūtei rock garden

Banryūtei rock garden

Banryūtei rock garden

Inside, I find more panels of crane paintings.

painted panels

Kongobuiji Temple

Visitors can get a glimpse of the Mausoleum of Bishop Shinzen, originally built in 1640 to honor Shinzen, the disciple and successor of Kobo Daishi. He worked as a manager of Koyasan for 56 years.  A small altar is set up in front, and the building is roofed in the traditional way with cypress bark.  Repairs were completed in October, 1989 in preparation for the 1100th anniversary of Shinzen’s death. During the repairs, a relic container was discovered. The building was consequently renamed the Mausoleum of Shinzen and rededicated.

The Mausoleum of Bishop Shinzen

After leaving, I wander along the main road, passing once again past the beautiful grounds of Shojoshin-in, another shukubō.

Shojoshin-in

Shojoshin-in

Shojoshin-in

The garden of Hōzen-in Monastery was here in the early Momoyama Period (1573-1615).  The stones are arranged to symbolize the landscape.  The waterless waterfall is an unusual feature.

Hōzen-in Monastery

The garden of Hōzen-in Monastery

The garden of Hōzen-in Monastery

The garden of Hōzen-in Monastery

Ekōin is another temple lodging with pretty grounds.

Ekōin

Karukayado Temple tells the story of Karukaya-Doshin and Ishidomaru in panels spread around the inside perimeter.  You can read some of the story here.

Karukaya-Doshin and Ishidomaru

Karukaya-Doshin and Ishidomaru

The first panel depicts the feudal lord, Kato-Hyuoenojo-Shigemase, who lived in modern Fukuoka prefecture over 800 years ago. He had no children, so he prayed at Kashii-no-miya shrine.  As a result, he was blessed with a child.  When the child grew up, he was named Kato-Saemon-Shigeuji and was later given the name Karukaya-Doshin.

the feudal lord prays for a child

The rest of the story of Karukaya-Doshin and Ishidomaru encircles the temple in panels, with the story written in both Japanese and English.

 

I continue walking down the main road and climb steps under a series of torii gates to explore Kiyotaka Inari Shrine.

Kiyotaka Inari Shrine

Kiyotaka Inari Shrine

Kiyotaka Inari Shrine

A small family seems to be in charge of this shrine.  The father and son point to the cedar trees that meet and grow together near their tops.

cedars growing together at Kiyotaka Inari Shrine

The boy offers me a cup of tea and a snack, which I enjoy as I haven’t yet had lunch and it’s near 2:30.

As I continue my walk down the street, I find a contemplative monk clopping down the sidewalk in wooden sandals.

a monk walks by a Koyasan temple

a monk in motion

Koyasan temple

I find a late lunch in a small unpretentious cafe.

At 3:10, I’m tired and hot from all my walking.  So I go to Kumagaiji, my temple lodging for tonight, and simply walk around the temple and the grounds for a short time.

Kumagaiji

Kumagaiji

Kumagaiji

Kumagaiji

Kumagaiji

The grounds of Kumagaiji have the typical Japanese garden with a pond and stone lanterns.

Kumagaiji grounds

Kumagaiji grounds

Kumagaiji grounds

Kumagaiji grounds

Finally,  I lie down on my futon in my small tatami-matted room with a fan blowing directly on me.  Last night, at Kongo Sanmaiin, the temple was air-conditioned, but this one is not, and it’s quite miserable.  The fan just doesn’t work to cool me off, but I try to take a short nap anyway.

The Kumagaiji guests sit down for dinner at 5:30.

dinner at Kumagaiji

The dinner is quite similar to the one I had last night at Kongo Sanmaiin, but it isn’t quite as good.  Maybe because of the heat…

dinner at Kumagaiji

In the middle of our dinner at Kumagaiji, a Japanese lady from the temple’s staff alarms us with news that a typhoon is coming overnight. She warns that the typhoon might shut down the cable car and thus not be able to take us down the mountain in the morning. As I have a 7-hour trip from Koyasan to Narita planned for tomorrow, and an early flight back to the U.S. on Tuesday morning, I am worried that I might not make it to Narita tomorrow. After debating with myself in my sweltering room for a half-hour after dinner, I quickly make a reservation at Osaka Garden Palace, pack up my bag and check out of the temple lodging, losing the 12,000 yen (~$110) I already paid. I catch a bus to Koyasan Station, where I catch the 7:50 p.m. cable car to Gokurakabashi Station.  The cable car is deserted except for a Spanish guy and a Japanese girl, both of whom speak a little English and take me under their wings. They are also headed to Osaka, so we decide to stick together.

We catch the 7:59 Nankai-Koya Line to Hashimoto Station, arriving at 8:46, and then stay on the line to Namba Station.

This is what the Nankai-Koya train line to Namba Station looks like at 9:14 p.m., nearly deserted. We arrive almost an hour after leaving Hashimoto Station, at 9:35.

on the Nankai-Koya Line to Namba Station

At Namba Station, I have six minutes before I must catch the Midosuji Line to Shin-Osaka, so I jump off the train and use the bathroom; luckily there’s a toilet right at the end of the platform.  I make it back to the train on time, but as I get back on a different car, I lose sight of the Spanish guy and Japanese girl.  They had offered to get off with me, but I told them not to worry, I’d be fine on my own.

At 9:57 p.m., I arrive at Shin-Osaka Station, where I buy a Shinkansen ticket for 8:40 a.m. Monday morning to Tokyo.  I know I will need to get an early start because the typhoon is expected to hit the Kansei area in late morning.  I’ve heard that even the Shinkansen might stop running in typhoon weather. I can’t abide any delays because I certainly don’t want to miss my flight home on Tuesday morning.

I have a Google Map on my phone showing me how to get from Shin-Osaka Station to the Osaka Garden Palace.  It looks like about a half-mile walk.  It isn’t easy to find.  It takes me an hour, lugging my suitcase through a mostly residential and quite deserted area of Osaka, to find the hotel.  I finally happen upon two women taking a walk, one of whom luckily speaks a little English, and points me in the direction of the hotel. I finally arrive at 11:00 p.m. exhausted and annoyed that I have to spend another 7,000 yen (~$64) for lodging, when I already paid for the night at Kumagaiji.

So much for my relaxing temple stay, and the cold beer that enticed me from the temple’s vending machine!

Steps today: 23,485 (9.95 miles).  Whew!  What a day. 🙂

kōyasan: an early morning buddhist service at kongo sanmai-in, a monk encounter, & a meander through okunoin   8 comments

Sunday, August 6: Early this morning, I participate in a Buddhist ceremony at Kongo Sanmai-in, the temple where I spent the night.  Kongo Sanmai-in is one of Kōyasan’s 52 shukubo, temples that historically offered overnight lodging to pilgrims, but today offer accommodation to non-pilgrim tourists as well.  Both Japanese and Western visitors participate in this morning’s service, although the entire ceremony of prayer, guided meditation, chanting, and even the sermon, are in Japanese.  Even without understanding a word, the service is gorgeously moving, with gongs and chants and incense swirls transporting us to an otherworldly realm.  At one point during the service, participants are invited to walk up and put a flower bud in a bowl, offering silent prayers.  At another point, the monks lead us in a slow procession through a passageway that circles the main altar of the temple.  We listen to the head monk give a long talk in Japanese, maybe 30 minutes; his words elicit a lot of laughs from the Japanese visitors.  Someone tells me later that he was talking about the exorbitant costs of renovating the temples and pagodas.

Sadly, I have to check out of Kongo Sanmai-in this morning because they are booked for the second of my two night stay. I have to move a block or so up the main road to Kumagaiji, another temple where I’ll stay the night.  Sadly, I find this temple is not air-conditioned, as was Kongo Sanmai-in.  The room is sweltering, as is the entire temple.  It’s no problem during the day, as I’ll be out and about, but at night, it won’t be pleasant.

My goal today is explore the rest of Kōyasan, especially the atmospheric cemetery of Okunoin, one of the most sacred places in Japan and a popular pilgrimage spot, as well as Kongobuji Temple.  Tomorrow morning, Monday, I have a 7+ hour trip from Kōyasan to Narita, where I’ll spend the night before my Tuesday flight back to Virginia.

After leaving my bag at Kumagaiji, I walk along the main road, passing by several temples along the way.  First, I walk by Daien-in, a shapely building with a Japanese cypress bark roof. The outer gate and entrance are carved with Japanese bush warblers, plum trees, and the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Daien-in

A bit further down the road, I drop into the Manihouto Pagoda at Jofukuin Temple. Here, a cheery monk is manning a welcome window, although he doesn’t speak much English.  He does manage to tell me the pagoda is meant to honor those who died in WWII.

Manihouto Pagoda at Jofukuin Temple

The monk inside Manihouto Pagoda writes something on an all-Japanese pamphlet and I am hopeful it contains some kind of fortune for me.  I later find out it’s just the name of the temple, or something having to do with the temple.

a monk inside Manihouto Pagoda

The monk demonstrates that I should pull the wooden beads, shown below, very gently, beginning with my left hand, then right, then left. I am to reach for the next bead with my eyes closed and whichever one I touch tells my fortune.  Directly in front of me is a sign telling the meaning of each symbol. When I touch the bead with the yellow star, the monk gives me an exuberant hug.  He points to the sign, which says the star = Great blessing.  Other symbols are lesser blessings.  What a lucky soul I am sometimes. 🙂

I leave the beautiful Manihouto Pagoda and continue up the road toward Okunoin.

Manihouto Pagoda at Jofukuin Temple

I pass by Sekishoin. Founded 1100 years ago, it is now a shukubo.

I also pass Shojoshin-in, another shukubo with beautiful grounds.

Shojoshin-in

Okunoin, the focal point of religious faith in Kōyasan, is an atmospheric ancient cemetery that holds more than 200,000 tombs of departed people of all classes, from common townsfolk to military commanders.  The cemetery sprawls out along a 2km path through several-hundred-year-old towering cedar trees.

Most importantly, Okunoin is the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai (774-835), the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most revered persons in the religious history of Japan. Kobo Daishi is not considered to have died but is believed to rest in eternal meditation as he awaits Miroku Nyorai (Maihreya), the Buddha of the Future; he provides relief to those who ask for salvation in the meantime (japan-guide.com: Okunoin). Many people, including prominent monks and feudal lords, have had their tombstones built here over the centuries in hopes of being close to Kobo Daishi in death so they can receive salvation.

I pass the water pavilion near the entrance of Okunoin, and then I’m on my way across Ichinohashi bridge.

Water pavilion at Okunoin

The Ichinohashi Bridge (first bridge) marks the traditional entrance to Okunoin.  It is said that Kobo Daishi comes here to greet visitors and sees them off here.  Pilgrims bow here before crossing the bridge.

Ichinohashi bridge

I stroll through the mystical Okunoin for an hour and a half, mesmerized by the moss-covered tombs and lanterns, the brightly bibbed Jizo statues, and the soaring cedars.  Though it seems the cemetery might be cool in the shade from those cedars, they don’t help in today’s heat, nearly 95F degrees and oppressively humid.

I keep following the paved pathway through Okunoin, mindful of the history and holiness here.

path in Okunoin

Jizo at Okunoin

Okunoin

Okunoin

Okunoin

Okunoin

Jizo at Okunoin

Okunoin is overwhelming in its majesty and its serenity. Luckily, I got here early enough that the crowds are somewhat thin this morning.

Okunoin

Okunoin

cedar trees at Okunoin

Jizo in a tree trunk

Okunoin

soaring cedars

I come upon the Graves of Takeda Shingen and Takeda Katsuyori.  On the left is a memorial to Takeda Shingen (1521-1573), an important feudal lord, and on the right is that of his son, Katsuyori (1546-1582).  Both monuments have the dates of their deaths on the back.

Graves of Takeda Shingen and Takeda Katsuyori

Okunoin seems to go on and on to eternity.

pathway through Okunoin

Okunoin

The black stone statue of Asekaki Jizo (Sweating Jizo), is believed to be always perspiring since it deliberately suffers all sorts of pains on behalf of people because of their wrongdoings.  I can’t see the Jizo statue, hidden as it is inside this pavilion.  The Mirror Well, also not pictured because I can’t find it, is supposedly adjacent to this statue.  According to legend, anyone whose reflection does not appear on the well water is destined to die within three years. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t find it.

Asekaki Jizo (Sweating Jizo)

Jizo figure at Okunoin

tangled roots of cedars

One of the two pictures below (I’m not sure which) is the Memorial for both Friend and Foe During the Invasion of Korea.  This memorial stone was erected to pray for the repose of those killed on both sides during the sixteenth-century Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-1598).  It was ordered by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), and built by Shimazu Yoshihiro (1535-1619) and his son Tadatsune (1576-1638) in 1599.  The memorial stands within the grave area of the Shimazu family, the lords of Satsuma.

Invasion for both Friend and Foe During the Invasion of Korea

Invasion for both Friend and Foe During the Invasion of Korea

There are both jolly and imposing figures in Okunoin, but I can’t begin to know the significance of them all.

Okunoin

Okunoin

Okunoin

Okunoin

Okunoin

Okunoin

Gokusho Offering Hall lies near a row of statues depicting Jizo, a popular Bodhisattva that looks after children, travelers, and the souls of the deceased.

Visitors make offerings and throw water at the statues, known as Mizumuke Jizo (Water Covered Jizo) to pray for departed family members.

washing the Buddhas

wet Buddhas

Okunoin

Busy washing of the Jizos

The Gobyo-bashi Bridge leads visitors to the mausoleum.  Before crossing the bridge and entering the “sanctuary,” it is customary for visitors to groom themselves and bow deeply to Kukai, who is believed to be still alive in the mausoleum and offering prayers for all people in the world.

The bridge, originally a wooden structure, has been rebuilt in stone.  The bridge has 36 stone planks, and including the bridge itself, the entire structure represents the Buddhist deities of the Diamond World Mandala.  A Sanskrit letter representing each deity is carved on the underside of each plank (japan-guide.com: Okunoin Temple).

Sadly, it’s too crowded to get a photo of the bridge without people on it.

Gobyo-bashi Bridge

Gobyo-bashi Bridge

In the stream to the left of the bridge are a group of wooden markers serving as a memorial to unborn children.

in the river

No photography is allowed once we cross the bridge, but the mausoleum is quite beautiful.

Okunoin’s main hall for worship, Torodo Hall (Hall of Lamps), is built in front of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum. Inside the hall are more than 10,000 lanterns, donated by worshipers, which are kept eternally lit. In the hall’s basement are 50,000 tiny statues donated to Okunoin in 1984, on the 1150th anniversary of Kobo Daishi’s entrance into eternal meditation.

Behind Torodo Hall is Kobo Daishi’s Mausoleum (Gobyo), the site of his eternal meditation. Visitors come from all over to pray to Kobo Daishi, and it is not uncommon to see pilgrims chanting sutras here (japan-guide.com: Okunoin Temple).

I exit the cemetery at the second entrance to Okunoin, near the Okunoin-mae bus stop.  On my way out, I pass a pyramidal mound of Jizo statues.

pyramid of Jizos

pyramid of Jizos

Jizo at Okunoin

It’s now about 11:00 a.m., and I stay on the bus until I reach the entrance of Kongobuji Temple, the head temple of more than 4,000 temples of the Shingon sect of Buddhism in the world.

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