a sacred place with a mysterious aura,
mystical, esoteric, deeply moving…
The second holiest mountain after Mount Fuji, Koyasan has eight peaks reminiscent of a lotus flower. It was selected by Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism in 816AD, for a monastic community after wandering for years, and for the next 1,200 years this complex of temples and pagodas has been its spiritual center. The original monastery once had over 1,000 temples, today it has 117 temples and was made a UNESCO World Heritage in 2004.
There are many legends surrounding the founder Kobo Daishi, some believe that he is still alive in some way, 1200 years later, in a state of eternal meditation in the depths of Okunoin cemetery where his mausoleum is located.
The best way to experience Koyasan is by spending a night at one of the 52 temple lodgings, some are associated with famous samurai while others feature beautiful gardens or hot springs. They all serve Shojin-Ryori for breakfast and dinner, a traditional Buddhist cuisine based on seasonal vegetables, cooked by the monks. The experience includes taking part in a mesmerizing early morning meditation, with a flow of payer chants for peace and trails of incense smoke, punctuated by the muffled beat of a gong.
Exploring temples, pagodas and the famous rock garden during the day, another extraordinary experience is a night walk led by a monk, in the otherworldly Okunoin Cemetery. Guided by dim stone lanterns lining the stone-paved paths, with moss-covered tablets and statues built to honour memories of ordinary men, feudal princes, samurai, and monks (no bodies are buried here). Discover legends and the essence of Shingon spirituality while walking and if you’re lucky, fireflies.