Koyasan

by Kieran August. 04, 2008 1856 views

On one of our marathon days of zooming about all over the place to see interesting things, we took various trains for about 4 hours going South from Kyoto by quite a way to visit a place called Koyasan.
Koyasan is an alpine basin located about 1,000m above sea level. Surrounded by mountain peaks on all sides, it's 5.5km in size from east to west and 2.3km from north to south. Koyasan was founded as a religious retreat by a man called ‘Kudai’ in 816 when the emperor of the time, Saga granted him the land. Kudai studied Buddhism in China and after returning to Japan began to spread the beliefs and principles of the Shingon (True Word) sect of Buddhism. Besides the main Kongobuji and Okunoin temples there are now 117 sub-temples and two monasteries located at Koyasan!
The only way to get to the top of the mountain except by driving is to take a cable car from the train station at the bottom.

Inside the cable car.

When we reached the top is was raining heavily, but fortunately it did clear up later on…

This is the main gate of Kongobuji temple. Kongobuji temple is the main temple of Shingon Buddhism and was built by the warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi.

The temple's bell is kept in this little building.

Jessica.. Isn't she cute :)

This is the Daishi hall which is for Daishi (a sect of Buddhism) believers all over Japan who want to become missionaries. It's the head temple of numerous other training facilities across the country.

They have pillars with writing on as you can see…

Koyasan is a wonderfully peaceful place with an unbelievably high concentration of temples. In any one shot you can probably fit at least 2 or 3 if not more! There are some truly wonderful views to be found and photographed.

A two layer pagoda tower called ‘Toto’. The original structure was destroyed by fire in 1843. It was rebuilt in 1984 as one of the projects commemorating the death of Kudai, Koyasan's founder, in 1150.

View along from the Toto pagoda.

This very old wooden structure is called ‘Daiedo’

The decorations and carvings in the wood are very ornate.

This building is called ‘Fudoudo’ and is very very very old indeed. No-one is sure exactly how old it is but it is said to have been constructed by Gyosho Shonin in 1198. It's the oldest surviving structure on Koyasan and is designated as a national treasure.

This building is called ‘Kondo’ and was originally built by Kudai, the founder of Koyasan, in 819. Buddhist services important for the whole mountain complex are performed here. The building itself has been repeatedly destroyed and the present hall was built for the 7th time in 1932. An entity known as ‘Ashuka Nyorai’ is it's principal deity.

This massive two tiered pagoda tower is called the ‘Konpon Daito’. It was completed in 1937, has a lacquer finish, and stands 48.5 meters tall. The principal deity of the building is ‘Taizokai Dainichi Nyorai’. Unfortunately you can't take photos of the inside of the building, but it contains images of the four Kongokai Buddhas. It's really quite tall, and maybe she's too small to see but there's a reference-Jessica standing on the steps to give some indication of scale. Also there's a rather handy Buddhist monk walking across the courtyard.

Some of the buildings around this temple complex were painted in white which is quite unusual for wooden structures like this. They look very pretty though.

The ‘Kondo’ main temple building again.

Most of the temples on Koyasan are set amidst beautiful almost mystical woods that feel almost as if they've come straight from the world of a fantasy novel.

A smaller two tiered white pagoda tower next to the Kondo hall.

A roof of moss…

Mystical woodland setting.. Because it's so remote most of the places on Koyasan are quite empty and everything feels so hugely peaceful and calm.

Jessica amidst the trees :)

This hall is called ‘Meido’, and the founder of Koyasan, Kukai, is said to have lived here once. The current structure was reconstructed in 1848.

This second huge two tiered pagoda is called ‘Saito’. It's 27 meters tall and stands in its beautifully coloured aged wood amidst a clearing of giant cedar trees.

Red lacquered bridge.

The Kondo hall from its front entrance.

Jessica again!

All that remained at the end of the day was to descend by cable car to the foot of the mountain and return home again by a set of more conventional trains…

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