Okunoin Cemetery

Mount Koya is really rich in buildings and places that are worth visiting, but the main one is undoubtedly the Kongobu-ji, the main temple of Shingon Buddhism and the first building created by Kobo Daishi, around which rises the whole complex. Here you can admire paintings and religious objects as well as a beautiful rock garden, one of the largest in Japan. The group of temples representing the heart of Koyasan is called Danjo Garan and is home for many buildings, most notably the Konpon Daito, a white and orange pagoda structure that houses a large Buddha statue and represents the central point of the mandala, a kind of essence or center of the universe. You can then visit the main hall of Mount Koya, called Danjogara, and the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi (Okunoin), surrounded by a vast cemetery, the largest in Japan reachable trough a path that runs through the wonderful cedar forest.


Destination of many pilgrims and tourists, Kongobu-ji temple is immersed in the vegetation of Mount Koya. This temple is the main seat of Shingon Buddhism and contains many precious treasures, as some works of art of the Kano school and the largest rock garden of all of Japan. The term Koyasan indicates a sacred place for Buddhism Japanese, on which today numerous temples rise.


Nestled in the ancient forest of Mount Koya, the Garan Temple was one of the first complexes built by the famous monk Kobo Daishi, one of the most revered religious  figures in Japan and father of Shingon Buddhism. It is a large and rich complex of buildings that will surprise you with its silence that invites you to relax and meditate and for its wonderful architectural jewels, including an elegant pagoda. Pilgrimage destination, it is also one of the most visited places on Mount Koya for its charm and its story full of legends like the one linked to its foundation: it is said that Kobo Daishi launched his sankosho, a sort of ritual scepter used in the Buddhist ceremonies, from China, where he was studying, to Japan. Back to Japan, he began looking for the ideal place to build his first temple and the cradle of the new religion, when he found his sankosho, in the branches of a pine tree on Mount Koya. It was around that pine, still visible in the complex, that he founded the Garan Temple, a place that today radiates a unique and solemn atmosphere.  The complex counts, in the inside, many buildings, but the two main structures are the Sala Kondo and the Pagoda Konpon Daito. The Kondo, main pavilion and place of prayer, is a large wooden structure that welcomes the most important religious ceremonies. A few steps from the Sala Kondo is the great pagoda with two tops, 45 meters high, a structure that captivates the eye with its bright red color and its richness of traditional architectural  details.



The Ichinohashi Bridge is the first bridge you come across by accessing the Okunoin temple and it marks the entrance to the sacred area. By passing it you almost have the feeling of entering another world, where you breathe a solemn atmosphere and a surreal silence pervades every corner, interrupted only by the wind that blows through the branches of the imposing centenary cedars of the forest. Before crossing the bridge it is considered respectful to join your hands and make a small bow of the head in prayer. Crossing the bridge you find yourself in the temple cemetery, which houses over 200,000 tombstones positioned on either side of the path, almost two kilometers long, which leads to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi. The reason for the presence of so many tombs near the mausoleum is no coincidence: over the centuries many people, including monks, war heroes, imperial dynasties and feudal lords, were buried here in the hope that being close to Kobo Daishi would guarantee their salvation. The tombs date back to different periods and this means that the tombstones have different styles, some are simpler, while others are more elaborate: stop to look at some of them to note the differences and to identify the most curious, including a "symbolic" one made by a pesticide company that has dedicated a tombstone to various insects exterminated by its own products!

The forest of the cemetery is crossed by streams of water that descend along the paths. The atmosphere you will find at the cemetery is something unique that will remain in your heart.

The Okunoin Temple is a mystical and legendary place, surrounded by the century-old forest of Mount Koya, where the dense vegetation lets pass only faint sunbeams. In the shade of the trees, stretches of tombstones dating back to various times eras make up one of the most popular and largest cemeteries in Japan built next to the Kobo Daishi mausoleum. According to the beliefs of Shingon Buddhism, there are no died bodies in the cemetery, but only spirits  awaiting the arrival of the Miroku Nyorai, the Buddha of the Future. Considered one of the most sacred places in the country, the Temple Okunoin has always been a place of pilgrimage.

The Torodo Room is the main hall and the place dedicated to prayer. It takes its name from the thousands of lanterns it holds inside, result of donations from the faithful and all kept constantly lit. It is said that some lanterns have been lit for hundreds of years! The room is located in front of the Mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, place of the eternal meditation of the monk, where it is not rare to see the faithful reciting sutras, leaving offerings and praying.

Near the Torodo Lantern Hall is the Mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, considered the site of eternal meditation. The faithful believe in fact that Kobo Daishi is not dead but is in a state of eternal meditation for this you will find food offerings made by both monks and visitors.

Rock garden at kongobu-ji temple