The Undiscovered Splendid Japanese Buddhist Temple "Koyasan"
Koyasan is perhaps one of the most little-known places even though it plays an important role in the Japanese Buddhism. It is located in Wakayama prefecture, Kansai area. Surrounded by nature and offers some unique experience. It's worth visiting!!
What an excellent question. Have you ever heard of it before? It is perhaps one of the less frequently visited locations by foreign tourists, unlike Shibuya’s traffic crossing or Harajuku’s streets, partly due to its inaccessibility.
A UNESCO Heritage site
Koyasan (高野山), also known as Mt. Koya, is in fact a group of eight mountains situated in Wakayama prefecture, in the west half of Japan. It is a world UNESCO Heritage site. There is a small town at the top of the mountains called, Koya. It was precisely due to the resemblance of the eight mountain peaks to the shape of a lotus flower that brought Koyasan to where it is situated today. It takes approximately 1.5-2 hours travel from Osaka’s city center to reach Koyasan by various means of trains, buses, cable cars and walking of course.
Far away but worth the journey
Although Kōyasan is far removed and takes a time to get to the reward is well worth it. Surrounded by lush nature, the area is known for its temples and as an important Buddhist spot where you may experience Japanese religion first hand.
The largest graveyard in Japan is there.
Okunoin (奥の院) is by far one of the most impressive attractions in Kōyasan. It boasts hundreds and hundreds of graves and tombstones that sit amongst a forest of tall, awesome cedar trees. Many notable figures in Japan’s history have been buried here. Audio guides can be purchased for a small fee from the nearest tourist information center for you to hear about their epic life stories while strolling through the graveyard.
In summer, the humid climate allows moss to flourish over the graves (as is the case in most of the Kansai region during this season). At night, the huge graveyard is known for being spooky and eerily quiet at dusk or dawn when the evening mist creeps in.
World headquarters for Shingon Japanese Buddhism sect.
Okunoin also houses the mausoleum of a very famous monk, who boasts an impressive lifetime resumé. His name is Kukai or also known as, Kobo Daishi (弘法大師), which translates to the impressive title of “The Grand Master Who Propagated the Buddhist Teaching”. Among other things, he is the founder of Shingon Buddhism, inventor of the Japanese kana alphabet and apparently a pretty talented calligrapher. Not too shabby.
Experience the lifestyle of a monk
Koyasan also offers unique accommodation experience, referred to as shukubo (宿坊). You can stay at one of the various temples in town and see the many aspects of a monk’s daily life such as eating a special monk vegetarian diet known as shojinryori, listen in on early morning prayers as groups of monks chant age-old sutras in deep voices. Also, try your hand at holding a brush and writing out some sutra calligraphy by candlelight, a tradition called shakyo.