Asia, Japan, Travel

Koyasan Okunoin Temple: Visit One of Japan’s Most Sacred Sites

A pagoda stands tall surrounded by large trees

One of the most sacred sites in Japan is the Koyasan Okunoin Temple. It is where you will find the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, who was the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Legend says that he remains in a state of continuous meditation inside.

What makes the area around Okunoin Temple unique is the number of souls who want to be near Kobo Daishi as they sleep. More than 200,000 people are here for their final resting place, making it the largest cemetery in Japan.

Over the past twelve centuries, the complex has grown to over 100 temples. Mt. Koya also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

Two Paths Lead to Okunoin Temple

A long concrete path bordered with tall trees lines the way to a temple entrance in the distance.

The traditional entrance to Koyasan Okunoin Temple begins at the Ichinohashi Bridge. A bow to pay respect to Kobo Daishi before crossing sets the stage for a fantastic two-kilometre experience. You will see numerous tombstones erected along the way as a way to receive salvation.

A shorter approach takes visitors to the mausoleum in about half of the time, originating from the bus stop to take one through the most recent additions to the cemetery. There are modern tombstones along this route, including a few unique sights.

Spiritual Japanese statues with red aprons sit in a forest

You can find spaceships, a monument to insects, and other fantastic monuments during the journey.

Both paths meet at the Gokusho Offering Hall. It lies near a row of statues that depict Jizo, who looks after travellers, children, and the souls who are no longer in our physical world. Admission is free, as it is with the Hall of Lanterns.

Okunion Temple is a full day’s experience if you intend to take the longer trail, so plan accordingly if you have an upcoming visit. 

Koyasan Okunion Temple can be done as part of your Japanese travel plans to Kyoto. Make sure to check out our blog post for more fun things to do in the Kyoto area!

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