Procession of Buddhist Monks
Okuno-in Cemetery, Mount Kōya
Hello my fellow travellers! (I apologise that it has taken me so long to continue my writings from my last trip to Japan)
This morning I woke up feeling a bit more rested after a good night's sleep. I ate a light breakfast, consisting of various fruits, together with Kenichi and Yumiji before they left for work. I decided to go and visit the Osaka Tenman-gū before I went to the train bound for Mount Kōya.
My legs was still sore as hell from climbing Mount Fuji over the past two days so my decision to take the cable car rather than hiking up Mount Kōya still remained. Fortunately Kenichi and Yumiji were kind enough to let me leave a large portion of my things at their home. I just brought a change of clothes, my tripod and the shuinchō
so my backpack was considerably lighter.
As I was walking to the shrine my eyes fell upon a little monument by the side of the road and I decided to check it out. It turned out to mark the birthplace of the novelist Yasunari Kawabata who won the Nobel Price for Literature in 1968, the first Japanese author
to do so. It's a bit debated, but it seems like he sadly took his own life in 1972 due to depression after the suicide of one of his friends.
I entered the shrine through the omotemon
and went to the temizuya
to cleanse myself. Unfortunately there was no water in the temizuya
which I think a first for me to be honest. I guess that after all my visits to shrines I have this feeling that I must perform a temizu
to feel pure before a prayer because I couldn't quite shake this feeling of impurity.
Because of this I didn't offer up a prayer at this time and instead went to the shamusho
. This is the office of the shrine where it's possible to purchase items of worship. I wanted to see if they had any shuinchō
available. As you probably remember these are the books in which you collect the seal stamps of shrines and temples.
I didn't actually need one because I already have the one I bought at the Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha the day before yesterday. I am planning to carry one more though specifically for temples but my plan is
to purchase that one at Mount Kōya. But I still wanted to see what they had here just for future reference.
The two young miko
, the Shinto priestesses, that were serving there didn't understand my request at first but eventually I managed to make myself understood and they scrambled to find them. There turned out to be two different kinds available and one of them was really beautiful. It might be a future purchase once my current one has been filled.
Because I didn't feel clean enough to pray here I decided to just take a quick look around the premise and then go to the train. This shrine is really beautiful and just like other Tenman-gū shrines across Japan it's dedicated to Tenjin.
He is the deified form of Sugawara no Michizane who lived during the Heian period. He was highly intelligent and was an accomplished scholar who wrote several beautiful poems. Due to the political intrigue of one of his rivals from the Fujiwara clan he was exiled to Kyushu where died in 903.
Soon after five members of the Fujiwara clan died, one by lightning striking him in his castle and it was
decided that this was caused by the angry spirit of Michizane so the court of the emperor decided to placate him by deifying him and build a new shrine dedicated to him, the Kitano Tenman-gū in Kyoto. His rank and titles was posthumously reinstated and because of that he is now venerated as a kami
of academics, scholarship and learning.
The first shrine dedicated to him, the Dazaifu Tenman-gū, was built by his follower Umasake no Yasuyuki two years after his death. It was built at the spot where he was buried, a spot chosen by the ox that pulled his funerary cart. While en route the ox suddenly laid down close to a Buddhist monastery and refused to move from that spot and Yasuyuki took it as a sign from Michizane.
Ever since then the oxen are considered the messenger animals of Tenjin and you will always find statues of them at temples dedicated to him and I found two such statues at this shrine while I walked around the haiden
and it's interconnected honden
. I noticed that there was a morning service going on inside the haiden
so I kept my distance a bit so I
wouldn't disturb them.
This shrine was founded in 949, 46 years after the death of Michizane, and is very beautiful. I haven't visited that many Tenman-gū shrines yet but the ones I have been to have always had a calm and dignified aura to them. I haven't paid much homage to Tenjin in the past but perhaps I should start to do so. I could use the patronage of a kami
of learning to help with my studies in Japanese.
On the grounds of the shrine there are also several small sub-shrines such as the Daishōgun Shrine, the Yasaka Shrine and the Sumiyoshi Shrine. I also came to the Hakumai Inari Shrine, adjacent to the Osaka Tenman-gū, which is a proper shrine and not a sub-shrine.
By the side of the honden
there are several stands laden with thousands of ema
, the small votive tablets which you inscribe your wishes for the kami
on. While I was walking around I also saw several kannushi
, the Shinto priests, around the premise and I imagine that their high numbers reflect this shrine's high standing.
I left the shrine on the opposite side from where I entered and passed
the small Hoshiai Pond and it's adjacent Hoshiai Tea House before I came to the station where I took the Osaka Loop Line to connect to the limited express train that would take me to Mount Kōya.
Since I had already decided to take the cable car up the mountain, to rest my legs for the Kumano Kodō pilgrimage trail, I bought a return ticket valid for both the train and the cable car. This ticket also includes two days of unlimited bus rides at the summit.
While I was sitting on the train I started talking to nice lady and her two adorable daughters. They were heading for a leisure day at the pool together with a few other families. One of the daughters of the lady, an adorably shy little girl, took a liking to me and cuddled up close me to the delight of her mother.
Before I boarded the train I had bought a pack of chocolate-filled waffle sticks and I asked the lady if it was okay to give these to her daughters and she approved. So I handed the pack to them and it was passed around amongst the other children
on the train as well. About halfway to Mount Kōya we said our goodbyes as they left the train to enjoy their leisure day by the pool.
As the train reached Gokurabashi Station, the final stop at the foot of the mountain, a light rain swept in and I was happy that I had changed my original plan. Walking up the mountain in the rain wouldn't have been very pleasant, especially with my sore legs.
The cable car going up to the station at the summit was an enjoyable ride even though it was quite brief and I didn't really get much of a view from it. At the exit at the top there is a map of the world where visitors can place a marker on their hometowns to show where they came from.
I figured that this wasn't a great sign for me because that map was quite full, which meant that there would probably be quite a lot of tourists here. Apparently France supplies the most visitors to Mount Kōya and I must admit that I was a bit surprised at that.
I had expected China to hold that position, because it feels
like whenever I go to a place in Japan that has a lot of visitors they are usually Chinese. Sweden was very empty with only two pins, mine at the south and one at Stockholm. With our measly population it's hard to contend on the world stage in that regard though.
Unfortunately I forgot to pick up a timetable for the bus and just jumped on the first bus heading for town. The bus had wifi though so I looked at the somewhat confusing schematic of the buses online and found the best stop to get of the bus to reach the Shojoshin-in, my lodging for the night.
Mount Kōya is very famous for shukubō
, temple lodging, and most of the temples here offer this service. I've wanted to experience a shukubō
for many years, ever since I first heard of the concept. I decided to do it here because of it's fame but I'm worried that perhaps it won't be the most authentic experience anymore due to the influx of tourists. But this mountain is still the heart of Shingon Buddhism and I hope that it will still be a spiritual experience.
When I came to
Tomb of Lady Gō
Okuno-in Cemetery, Mount Kōya
the temple it was still to early for check-in so I chatted for a little while with a friendly young member of the staff who showed me where I could put my backpack while I was waiting. I asked him if it was okay to walk around in the temple and take a look while waiting. He said it was okay so I took a leisure stroll around the premise while it was still empty.
Shojoshin-in is a quite large temple and it was actually built three years before the famous Kongōbu-ji which is the main temple of Shingon Buddhism. Shojoshin-in was once the second largest temple on Mount Kōya and the very first structure of it was built by Jükai himself.
Jükai was the founder of Shingon Buddhism and an exceptionally holy man. His posthumous name is Kōbō-Daishi, the daishi
part is an honorary title bestowed by the emperor and it means "grand master". There are very few men whom have earned this title through history so it's a great honour.
After my walk around the premise I went into the adjacent Okuno-in Cemetery which is one of the most famous sites on Mount Kōya. It's
Tomb of Senhime
Okuno-in Cemetery, Mount Kōya
the largest cemetery in Japan, containing some 200,000 tombstones and it also houses the mausoleum of Kōbō-Daishi which lies at the end of a two kilometre long walk through the cemetery.
There are several entrances to this cemetery but the one that I entered through is the traditional one and its a part of the Kōyasan Chōishi-michi pilgrimage trail. It felt nice to at least be able to walk the last two kilometres of it since I didn't walk any part of it earlier today.
This entrance begins with the small Ichinohashi Bridge where pilgrims traditionally bow in respect of Jükai. Considering that I am a pilgrim I decided to follow this tradition so I bowed before I crossed the bridge and entered the cemetery grounds. The name ichi-no-hashi
actually means "first bridge" and it's the first of three main bridges that lie on path to the mausoleum.
As I mentioned this cemetery have over 200,000 tombstones spread out across it's vast expanse. Many of these tombs don't actually contain any earthly remains. Instead they house the souls, or in some cases a little of the ashes, of the enshrined person.
Many of these tombstones are
, a five-tiered Buddhist pagoda, which have either the five elements or the lotus sutra inscribed on it. There is a lot of symbolism in a gorintō
, the square at the bottom signifies the earth and represents the will to attain perfection. The circle stands for the element of water and represents the attainment of equanimity. The triangle is fire and represents the energy created in the pursuit of truth. The crescent is the wind and represents the development of intuition and awareness. The top is the void and represents perfection and the attainment of Buddhahood.
Because many of these tombstones don't contain any earthly remains they are also referred to as a kuyōtō
or offering tower. There are several prominent men and women whom have such gorintō
here because this is such an holy site.
Many of the most powerful men and women have desired to have their souls rest under the mindful watch of Jükai and because of this a walk through this cemetery is a walk through the history of Japan. Because I don't know which ones of these that contain earthly remains and which ones that don't I will refer to
Tombs of the Toyotomi Clan
Okuno-in Cemetery, Mount Kōya
them all as tombs to make it easier for both you and me.
Most of these tombs are only marked in Japanese and I must admit that my kanji skills still wasn't good enough to translate the names of all of them on the spot so I had to look some of them up later when I had the means to translate them. Fortunately some of the more important ones were either marked with English signs or with audio-guide numbers in case you rented the available audio guide.
However, a lot of the interesting family tombs wasn't marked by neither an audio-guide number or with an English sign. The only available reference for these were a wooden pole with withered Japanese kanji so I'm glad that I took the time to sit down in peace and quiet translate them. I feel that I learned quite a bit about both the kanji readings of Japanese names as well as the history of the prominent families of Japanese history.
Because I'm a history buff you might want to buckle up because from here on out there will be a lot of history with a tonne of names, dates and
Mausoleum of Ōgo
Okuno-in Cemetery, Mount Kōya
so on. I hope I won't bore you all as I dip my toe into the vast ocean of Japanese history during my walk through this most entrancing place.
The very first set of family tombs that I came across lay right at the entrance to the cemetery. These were the tombs of the Date clan of the Sendai Domain located in the northern part of Honshu. It was one of the most famous clans during the Sengoku period, commonly known as the warring states period. This period began in 1467 with the Ōnin War, a civil war that raged until 1477 and weakened the ruling Ashikaga Shogunate which had held power since 1336.
As the Ashikaga Shogunate lost control of the country the local daimyō
, or feudal lords, began to struggle for local dominance over their neighbours and this period of turmoil eventually led to the collapse of the shogunate in 1573. The turmoil finally came to an end in 1603 with the emergence of the Tokugawa Shogunate which ushered in the Edo period that lasted until 1868.
The most famous of the daimyō
of the Date clan was Date Masamune. I will tell you more
Tomb of Hōnen
Okuno-in Cemetery, Mount Kōya
about him later in this post as he has his own mausoleum in the cemetery, he was a very fascinating man though and you will enjoy the tales of his exploits.
Right next to these tombs is another set of tombs belonging to the Date clan. These ones however belong to the members of the Date clan that ruled the the Uwajima Domain in the western part of Shikoku. This offspring from the main clan was founded by Date Hidemune who was first-born son of Masamune. Even though he was the first-born son of the damiyō
he couldn't inherit the title of the parent clan because he was born by a concubine so this branch clan was formed instead. This is a very common occurrence in Japanese history and many clans were offshoots of more noble parent clans.
The next set of tombs I came to were those of the Maeda clan of the Kaga Domain. Their most prominent leader was perhaps Maeda Toshiie who was a capable general under Oda Nobunaga until the Honnō-ji incident in 1582 when Nobunaga committed the ritual suicide of seppuku
after he was betrayed by his general Akechi Mitsuhide. I've talked about
Statue of Kükai
Okuno-in Cemetery, Mount Kōya
this incident in previous posts as it's a really important moment in Japanese history.
After the death of his lord Toshiie eventually became a general under Toyotomi Hideyoshi even though he had previously fought against Hideyoshi in the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583, one of the most decisive battles in Japanese history.
When Hideyoshi died in 1598 Toshiie was one of the five regents that were chosen to govern until Hideyoshi's son Toyotomi Hideyori would come of age. However, Toshiie was ailing from an illness at the time and he passed away later the same year.
From these tombs I continued along the path, past a statue of Jükai, to the tombs of the Shimazu clan of the Satsuma Domain. The Shimazu clan was founded in 1196 by the son of Minamoto no Yoritomo, who founded the Kamakura Shogunate and became the first shogun of Japan.
This clan was a real powerhouse both through the Sengoku period and the following Edo period and they were a driving factor in ending the Tokugawa Shogunate and restore power to the emperor. Both the famous general Saigō Takamori and the great statesman Ōkubo Toshimichi were samurai from the Satsuma
Domain and were vassals of the Shimazu clan.
I've written about both of them during my earlier travels and if I have the time at the end of this trip I might visit the grave of Toshimichi and at some point I plan to visit the site of the Battle of Shiroyama where Takamori died in 1877.
It was also a member of the Shimazu clan, Shimazu Tadatsune who conquered the Ryūkyū Kingdom (modern day Okinawa) in 1609. This smaller kingdom actually remained semi-independent for a long time and it was used to keep trading relations up with China due to it's status as a Chinese tributary.
This was an effective workaround during the time of the time when Japan remained isolated from the rest of the world and it's hold of the Ryūkyū Kingdom made the Shimazu clan very wealthy and powerful. The semi-independent status of this small kingdom lasted until the Meiji Restoration in 1868 when it was officially annexed by Japan.
As I continued down the path I came to the tombs of the Mori clan of the Tsuyama Domain. Before they were granted the Tsuyama Domain they served as vassals to Oda
Mitsugon-dō (Kakuban Hall)
Okuno-in Cemetery, Mount Kōya
Nobunaga and several of their family members died in his service. After his death they became retainers to Toyotomi Hideyoshi and after the death of Hideyoshi they became vassals to Tokugawa Ieyasu instead.
They were given rule of the Tsuyama Domain in 1603 following the formation of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The first daimyō
of the Mori clan in the Tsuyama Domain was Mori Tadamasa and his tomb is marked out separately next to the family tombs.
The most interesting member of the family though, in my opinion, was Mori Ranmaru. He was known for his talent, loyalty and great beauty and he had an intimate sexual relationship with Nobunaga. This was very common for the period and was known as nanshoku
which literally means "male colours". Their relationship was admired in Japan for it's strength and Ranmaru died by Nobunaga's side as he performed junshi
, a suicide of fidelity, and followed Nobunaga in death.
Continuing further into the cemetery I came to another set of tombs that belongs to the Mōri clan of the Yamaguchi Prefecture (the former Chōshū Domain). This clan is actually still in existence and the current head of the clan is Mōri Motoyoshi.
Tomb of Date Masamune
Okuno-in Cemetery, Mount Kōya
I will tell you more of this clan later though as I expect that these tombs are more current due to being marked with the current Yamaguchi Prefecture rather than the older Chōshū Domain.
After that I came to the tombs of the Satake clan of the Akita Domain. This was an illustrious clan that were relocated from their old seat in the Hitachi Province after fighting on the losing side in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. The clan ended up in financial despair several times because of this relocation.
Even so, when the political turmoil of the Meiji Restoration and the ensuing Boshin War began they first sided with the northern Ōuetsu Reppan Alliance in favour of the Tokugawa Shogunate but after a disagreement with the Sendai Domain they switched allegiance and sided with the Satsuma-Chōshū Alliance instead.
The next set of tombs I found was those of the Matsudaira clan of Takamatsu, a town on Shikoku. The Matsudaira clan was the clan which Tokugawa Ieyasu was born into (although in the Okazaki Domain) and while I knew that they had several branches in several parts of the country I didn't know that they had
Mausoleum of Uesugi Kenshin
Okuno-in Cemetery, Mount Kōya
one on Shikoku.
I met one of my friends in Japan, Shinnosuke, when he was portraying a member of the Matsudaira clan of the Matsumoto Domain. Funnily enough I soon came to a set of tombs from Matsumoto, but not from the Matsudaira clan, these belonged to a clan I hadn't heard of before, the Mizuno clan. Looking into them they turned out to be retainers of the Matsudaira clan and Ieyasu's mother came from this clan.
The next set of tombs that I came across was those of the Nanbu clan of the Ōshū Province. They ruled this northern province for over 700 years but most of their lands were confiscated after the Boshin War where they fought as part of the Ōuetsu Reppan Alliance.
This clan is still in existence today though and many of their leaders still have prominent positions in Japanese society. The infamous Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō, who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, was a former retainer of the Nanbu clan.
After those tombs I came to a focal point of the cemetery, one that was marked with an English sign as well, the tombs of Takeda Shingen
and his son Takeda Katsuyori. Especially Shingen was an incredibly legendary daimyō
during the Sengoku period. He built up the famous Takeda cavalry and he was known as Kai no Tora
, the Tiger of Kai, for his ferociousness in battle.
After Shingen passed away from an illness the command went to Katsuyori though who led an ill-fated attack against the Nagashino Castle in 1575. I've mentioned this battle before but I hope to cover it in detail one day when I'm standing at the remains of the castle. Next to their tombs is a large stone memorial but much of it's inscriptions are withered away so I was unable to read it.
Not far from their tombs is the small Koshikake Stone where Jükai once sat down to rest. The stone is marked with an English sign and is surrounded by a small stone fence.
Close to the Koshikake Stone I came to the tombs of the Sakai clan of the Himeji Domain. I visited Himeji two years ago and I think it's castle is the most beautiful one I've ever seen, not just in Japan but in the world. The Sakai clan was chief retainers to
Tokugawa Ieyasu during both the Sengoku period and the Edo period and they had close family ties to the Matsudaira clan due to a common ancestor. The clan is still in existence today and they can trace their lineage all the way back to Emperor Seiwa.
The famous World War II aerial ace Sakai Saburō came from this clan. He has been officially credited with 28 aerial victories although he claimed 64 such victories himself. After the war he turned to Buddhism and vowed to never harm another living being again. He sent his children to school in the U.S to learn about democracy and he even went there himself to connect with several of the people that he had once fought against. He actually met the tail-gunner that shot him through the head and blinded him during an aerial engagement in Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942.
The next set of tombs that I was able to identify was the tombs of the Kikkawa clan of the Iwakuni Domain. I was quite happy to find this one because I visited Iwakuni two years ago and I remember it very fondly because I experienced, what I would consider to
be, the perfect cherry blossom there. The most prominent leader of the Kikkawa clan was probably Kikkawa Motoharu who was a very capable general under Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Another tomb of a famous general that I visited was that of Sakakibara Yasumasa. He was one of the foremost military commanders that served the Tokugawa clan and he was considered one of their shitennō
, four heavenly kings. After the victory in the Battle of Sekigahara he was given rule over the Tatebayashi Domain in the central parts of Honshu.
Two tombs that I found which was marked with an audio-guide stop was those of the first Edo period daimyō
of the Satsuma Domain, Shimazu Mitsuhisa and his oldest son Shimazu Tsunahisa. To be honest I couldn't really find much information about either of them, but since there is an audio-guide stop by their tombs I expect that they probably carried quite a bit of weight at their time as the lords of the prosperous Satsuma Domain.
The next set of tombs I came to was those of the Andō clan of the Takasugi Domain, they were retainers to the Tokugawa clan and ruled various domains throughout the years. The
main branch of the family ruled the Kii-Tanabe Domain which I will pass through briefly on my way to the Kumano Kodō pilgrimage trail.
After that I came to the tombs of the Niwa clan of the Shirakawa and Nihonmatsu Domains, it's a clan that really had rising and falling fortunes throughout history, often becoming dispossessed after fighting on the losing side of a conflict and then being restored to favour after performing well in another.
They ruled the Shirakawa Domain from 1627 to 1643 and the Nihonmatsu Domain from 1641 to 1871. During the Boshin War they joined the Ōuetsu Reppan Alliance and was forced to flee after the Nihonmatsu Castle was burned down. After the war they made peace with the emperor and regained the rule over the Nihonmatsu Domain and served there as imperial advisers.
Not far from there was the tombs of another northern clan, the Sakai clan of the Shōnai Domain. This is the region where I will go at the very end of this trip when I will attempt to do the Dewa Sanzan pilgrimage trail which will take me across the Dewa Sanzan, literally the "Three Mountains of Dewa". This
Time for a Bath
Shojoshin-In, Mount Kōya
is the same Sakai clan that I mentioned earlier in this post, but a different branch of it.
By the time I reached the second bridge, the Nakanohashi Bridge I was treated to a procession of monks on their way to the mausoleum to perform a ritual. After they passed the bridge they stopped by a small hall which enshrines Asekaki Jizō, literally "the Sweating Jizō". It's a small statue of Jizō carved out of black stone which due to being constantly covered in moist is considered to be sweating. He's said to do so because he takes the place of others in their suffering. The Nakanohashi Bridge is the second, or middle, of the three bridges in the cemetery and the name naka-no-hashi
literally means "middle bridge".
Next to the small hall is the Reflecting Well, according to legend those who are unable to see their reflection in the water will die within three years time (fortunately I was able to see mine). Next to it stands a small and inconspicuous memorial called Hoist of Three National Flags which is a memorial to the Japanese and Australian soldiers as well as the natives who died in battle
Honden (Main Hall)
Osaka Tenman-gū, Osaka
in North Borneo during World War II.
Another memorial that I stumbled across was the Zenni Jochi Memorial, it's a small memorial dedicated to to a Buddhist nun and it has the year 1375 carved on it. According to legend you can hear the cries of hell is you put your ear to it (I didn't try this legend out).
Further down the path I found another memorial, this one is quite large and is called the Memorial For Both Friend and Foe During the Invasion of Korea. It was erected here in 1599 by Shimazu Yoshihiro and his son Tadatsune whom I mentioned earlier in this post. I was erected on the behest of Toyotomi Hideyoshi on the burial ground of the Shimazu clan to pray for the repose of all those killed during the Japanese Invasions of Korea.
From there I came to the tombs of a clan I had never heard of before, the Nakagawa clan of the Oka Domain. The first leader of the clan in the Oka Domain was Nakagawa Hidenari who took over leadership of the clan after the death of his father Nakagawa Kiyohide during the Battle of Shizugatake. The
Statue of a Laying Ox
Osaka Tenman-gū, Osaka
clan later sided with Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Battle of Sekigahara and were allowed to retain their domains until the Meiji period.
I also found the tombs of the Asano clan of the Aki Province, for me the Asano clan is primarily famous due to Asano Naganori and the story of the 47 rōnin
, the master-less samurai. Naganori however wasn't from the Aki Province but from a branch family situated in the Akō Province. Two years ago I visited the Sengaku-ji where Naganori and the 47 rōnin
are buried and it was a very special experience to light incense at their graves.
After that I found another set of tombs of the Mōri clan, this time from the Chōshū Domain.They were relocated to the Chōshū Domain after they fought on the losing side in the Battle of Sekigahara and had their old Hiroshima Domain taken away from them. The enmity caused by this remained and as a result the Mōri clan was one of the driving factors behind the destruction of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the restoration of the imperial power.
The whole walk through this cemetery is done under the shade of some 1,300 beautiful cedar
Osaka Tenman-gū, Osaka
trees that are between 200 and 600 years old and some of them are over 50 metres tall. The majestic trees, the beautiful temple structures and the thousands upon thousands of tombstones make the whole walk into a truly memorable experience. Even though there were a fair bit of tourists here, especially more westerners than I've seen in any place in Japan except for Tokyo and Kyoto, it wasn't overly crowded and the general aura was one of calm dignity that allowed me to really enjoy the historical significance of this place.
About two-thirds of the way into the cemetery I veered of the path and down to the right to pass over a small bridge to reach the eireiden
, a hall of remembrance, and I did so at a pretty fortunate time as the sky opened up and a downpour began. I sought shelter under the roof of the eireiden
and at the same time a Japanese tour group came inside so I listened as well as I could to when the guide talked about the cemetery.
After the downpour subsided I followed another path back in the direction I had come and ended up at what
Osaka Tenman-gū, Osaka
seemed to be the main entrance to the cemetery. It was a path lined with lots of the stone lanterns known as ishidōrō
and there were large information centres, lots of buses as well as a temizuya
Since there wasn't much there to see I just grabbed a few information brochures and returned to the original path. Soon my eyes were drawn to a tall gorintō
a bit away from the main path and I decided to take a closer look at it. It turned out to be the tallest one in the cemetery, standing 6.6 metres tall. It was erected by Tokugawa Tadanaga in memory of his mother, Lady Gō. She was the wife of Tokugawa Hidetada, the second ruler of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
She is posthumously known as Sugen'in and she was a fascinating and powerful woman at the dawn of the Tokugawa Shogunate. After the death of both Lady Gō and Hidetada their son Tadanaga was accused of insanity and stripped of his land and titles and forced to commit seppuku
by his brother Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa shogun, as he wanted to remove his potential rival.
To the left of her tomb
Osaka Tenman-gū, Osaka
are the tombs of the Honda clan and one of them had been marked out specifically and even had an audio-guide number attached to it. It was the tomb of Senhime, or Lady Sen. She was the daughter of Lady Gō and after her first husband, Toyotomi Hideyori, was killed in 1615 by her grandfather Tokugawa Ieyasu's forces during the Siege of Osaka she was remarried to Honda Tadatoki.
Tadatoki sponsored the renowned swordsman Miyamoto Musashi for a time and took in one of his adopted sons, Miyamoto Mikinosuki, as a page. After Tadatoki died of tuberculosis in 1626 Mikinosuki performed a junshi
and followed his lord in death after having met his adopted father and said his goodbyes.
After that I returned to the main path again found another few tombs that belongs to the Maeda clan of the Kaga Domain. Close to them I found the tomb of the founder of the Jōdo Buddhism, Hōnen whom is posthumously known as Enkō Daishi.
Next I came to more tombs belonging to the Asano clan of the Aki Province and after that I found the mausoleum of Yūki Hideyasu, a man whom I surprisingly hadn't heard of
Hideyasu was the illegitimate son of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Lady Oman, his wife's handmaiden. When Lady Oman became pregnant Ieyasu feared his wife's wrath and sent her away to Ofumi village, near Hamamatsu Castle. There she gave birth to Hideyasu and his brother under the care of his retainer Honda Tadakatsu whom was also one of the Tokugawa clan's shitennō
, the four heavenly kings I mentioned earlier.
The relations between Hideyasu and Ieyasu was strained at best and they didn't even meet until Hideyasu was three years old and even then it was only at the behest of Hideyasu's older half-brother Matsudaira Nobuyasu.
After the Battles of Komaki and Nagakute, a series of battles fought between Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1584, the peace negotiations led to Hideyasu being adopted by Hideyoshi (in reality being held hostage). When he came of age he received the name Hideyashu by combining the name Hideyoshi with the name Ieyasu. Thereby carrying the name of both his adoptive and biological fathers.
He proved to be a capable battle commander in the Kyushu Campaign of 1587, the Siege of Odawara in 1590 and in the Invasions of Korea between
1592 and 1598 and he was considered a potential heir to Hideyoshi.
However, the year after Hideyoshi's biological son Hideyori was born, Hideyasu was given in adoption to Yūki Harutomo and married his niece. After the Battle of Sekigahara Hideyasu was given lordship over the Fukui Domain and he ruled it until his death from syphilis in 1607.
In his will he declared that his domain should always support the Toyotomi clan even if it meant battle against the Tokugawa clan. However, when Ieyasu fought (and destroyed) the Toyotomi clan in the Siege of Osaka the son of Hideyasu, Matsudaira Tadanao, ignored his father's wishes and sided with Ieyasu.
Next to his mausoleum is that of his mother and they were both built by Tadanao at the age of 13 and near their mausoleums are the tombs of the Matsudaira clan of the Shimabara Domain.
Not far from there are the tombs of the Toyotomi clan. Toyotomi Hideyoshi was actually about to attack Mount Kōya as a part of Oda Nobunaga's battle plan but the monk Ōgo convinced him to cancel the attack. Hideyoshi came to greatly respect Ōgo and in time became a great patron
Ema (Votive Tablets)
Osaka Tenman-gū, Osaka
of Mount Kōya. Not far from the tomb of Hideyoshi is the mausoleum of Ōgo so the souls of the two friends can rest in close proximity for all eternity.
After this I finally came to the first halls of the Okuno-In at the end of the cemetery. The first thing I did was to go to the Shōtokuden, a hall which I think might be named after Prince Shōtoku who lived between 574 and 622. He is credited as both the founder of Japanese Buddhism and as the first Japanese writer. This hall was built in 1915 and today it serves as a tea house, so I went inside and enjoyed two cups of complimentary tea that was readily available.
The tea was delicious and refreshed me after the walk through the cemetery. After I had enjoyed the two cups I made my way over to the gokusho
, the office of the temple, similar in nature to the shamusho
I've mentioned previously. There I bought another shuinchō
, this one intended for shuin
from temples. The cover of the shuinchō
is an old map of Mount Kōya and it's really beautiful.
My very first shuin
was of course here from the Okuno-in and the monk that wrote it for me was kind enough to allow me to photograph him while he did it.
When my new shuin
was completed I crossed the Gobyōbashi Bridge, the final bridge before the mausoleum of Kūkai. Beyond this point there was no photos allowed and for once in my life I actually followed this restriction as I don't want to be a disrespectful tourist anymore. The inner parts of the Okuno-in are truly amazing, especially the tōrō-dō
, the hall of lanterns, is a marvel to behold with it's thousands upon thousands of beautiful lanterns lined up in row after row.
When I came before the mausoleum, where Kūkai is said to be seated in eternal meditation, I offered up a prayer before the revered master and it was a very spiritual moment. Because there was no photos allowed I could, for real, remove the mantle of a tourist or a traveller and just be then and there in that moment. There were no other people around the premise, only the few monks that attend the halls and while I stood in front of the mausoleum
Inside the Temple
Shojoshin-in, Mount Kōya
there was not another soul in sight.
After I had offered up my prayer I returned to the cemetery where I followed a sign up into the forest on the opposite side of the gokusho
to find the tomb of Oda Nobunaga. I've mentioned him several times on my travels in Japan. He was a great daimyō
and the predecessor to both Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. The most impressive victory of his illustrious career was, in my opinion, when he defeated 25,000 troops of the Imagawa clan with a force of only 2,000 men in the Battle of Okazawa in 1560.
He was also the one responsible for the demise of the Takeda clan in the Battle of Nagashino where Nobunaga used firearms to great effect by hiding the gunners behind palisades and then rotate them around, keeping up a constant barrage at the Takeda cavalry.
Even though Katsuyori was soundly defeated the war between the two clans raged on for another seven years until the Battle of Tenmozukan in 1582 which was the last stand of the Takeda clan. Katsuyori committed seppuku
as the remnants of his army tried to keep the pursuing Oda and
Tokugawa forces away.
And it was at this moment, at the pinnacle of his power, after he had destroyed the mighty Takeda clan and the road to Kyoto lay open to him that he died. The path to become the new shogun and start a new dynasty was his to claim as all other clans had either been subdued by him or become his vassals or allies. It all came crashing down when he was betrayed by his general Akechi Mitsuhide and attacked while he was attending a tea ceremony with only 30 men.
Here all these great men lie, they have fought each other, betrayed each other and have vied relentlessly for power in an endless struggle. All of their souls now rests here together for eternity under the watchful gaze of Kūkai as he sits in meditation while praying for world peace.
By now the sun was beginning it's slow descent so I felt that it was time to make my way back to the Shojoshin-in to check-in in time for dinner. On my way back out I came across the small hall mitsugon-dō
which enshrines a statue of Kakuban, the monk who founded Shingi
Preparing Evening Tea
Shojoshin-In, Mount Kōya
Shingon Buddhism. The slope leading up to his hall is also named after him.
Along the route I passed by the tomb of Matsumoto Jūtarō, the founder of the Nankai Electrical Railway. I also passed by the tomb of Ichikawa Danjūrō which is the stage name taken by a series of Kabuki actors of the Ichikawa family. The first one to bear this name lived between 1675 and 1704 and the current holder of the name is the 13th in succession.
Next I came to the tombs of the Hōjō clan of Kamakura, these were the true rulers of the Kamakura Shogunate, the first Japanese shogunate which ruled from 1185 to 1333. They served as it's regents from 1203 and their greatest accomplishment was the successful defence against the Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281. I visited Hakata Bay, where the Mongols landed, two years ago and it was very fascinating to see some of the remnants of such a defining moment in history.
Hidden up amongst the trees I also found the mausoleum of Ii Naosuke. I've talked quite a bit about him in some of my previous blogs as he was the one
Tea And Sweets
Shojoshin-In, Mount Kōya
who desperately fought to retain the shogunate power during the Bakumatsu.
He led the Ansei purge from 1858 to 1860 during which he ruled with an iron fist. He imprisoned, exiled or executed any and all opposition to the shogunate's authority. This all came to an end when he was assassinated in the Sakuradamon incident in 1860 just outside of the gate sakuradamon
Across from his mausoleum stands the tomb of Date Masamune the daimyō
I mentioned earlier in this post. He founded the modern-day city of Sendai and he was an outstanding tactician during the Sengoku period. Because he was missing an eye he was known as Dokuganryū
, the One-Eyed Dragon of Ōshu. He lost the sight of his eye due to smallpox when he was a young child and according to legend he plucked out the physical eye himself when a senior member of his clan pointed out that it might be used against him by his enemies in battle.
He was also a patron of Christians and he established several trading relationships with the European powers and even funded an expedition to the Philippines, Mexico, Spain and even Rome in order to
establish relations with the Pope. He reluctantly had to abide by the law that made Christianity illegal in Japan but rumours say that his daughter was still a Christian.
He showed defiance against the law when he freed the missionary Luis Sotelo and allowed him to seek converts within his domain. Luis was a part of the expedition that Masamune sent to Rome, however, upon returning to Japan Luis was captured and later burned at the stake.
Not far from his tomb is the mausoleum of Uesugi Kenshin, another great daimyō
of the Sengoku period. Not only was he a fearsome warrior considered to even be an avatar of the Buddhist god of war, Bishamonten, but he was also a skilled administrator and his province flourished under his rule. He had a long-standing rivalry with Takeda Shingen and fought many battles against him.
The largest of the battles between them was the fourth of the Battles of Kawanakajima which took place between 1553 and 1564. That battle was the bloodiest battle of the Sengoku period in terms of causalities relative to army size. The Uesugi clan's army suffered 72%!c(MISSING)asualties and the Takeda clan's army suffered 62%!(NOVERB)
After the death of Shingen in 1573 Kenshin turned his attentions to Oda Nobunaga who was emerging as the most powerful daimyō
of Japan and hostilities between the two began with the Battle of Tedorigawa in 1577 where his 30,000 troops defeated Nobunaga's 50,000. However, as he was rallying a greater army to continue his conquest he died of cancer in 1578.
Just a little further down the path I came across the small and inconspicuous tomb of Minamoto no Mitsunaka who lived between 912 and 997. He was also known as Tada Mitsunaka and was an immensely wealthy and powerful samurai that served several Fujiwara regents and acted as the governor of 10 different provinces. He was also the father of the legendary folklore hero Minamoto no Yorimitsu.
As I continued on my way back to the temple I noticed another path going into the woods and decided to follow it and came to the mausoleum of Satake Yoshishige. He was also a powerful daimyō
who was known for his ferociousness in battle which earned him the nickname Oni Yoshishige
, Demon Yoshishige.
In the Battle of Numajiri in 1584 his 20,000 men defeated an
army from the Later Hōjō clan consisting of some 80,000 men. This was much thanks to their use of 8,600 matchlock rifles similar to how Oda Nobunaga defeated Takeda Katsuyori seven years earlier..
When I returned to the main path I could hear the music that announces the time to leave field-work being played on speakers in the distant. This usually signifies closing hours in Japan and I knew that I had to hurry back in order to be able to check in in time for dinner and I was really hungry so I jogged back to the temple and made it just in time.
After my official check-in I asked the resident monk of the temple for the shuin
of the temple and he accepted my request. After that I collected my bag and was shown to my room where I changed into the yukata
, the light cotton kimono.
I then returned to the hall where the other guests had all began to assemble and I was shown to my place and served my meal. The meals in Buddhist temples are known as shōjin ryōri
which literally means "devotion cuisine" and it's prepared according to several
The first of these is that it's all vegetarian, it's also void of any strong-smelling plants and aims to be simple and natural. This was the first time that I ate shōjin ryōri
and I quite liked it. There was a plethora of small dishes available and all put together it was a quite filling and satisfying meal.
After the meal I took a long, rejuvenating, bath in one of the several available bathing facilities. It was completely empty so I could really relax, alone in a bath that would have fitted at least three people. There was one other guy that was about to enter but changed his mind when he saw that I was there. After the bath I contemplated on my day for a while in the tranquillity of the garden before I retired to my room to enjoy a cup of tea.
I decided to end my day with an evening walk through the Okuno-in Cemetery as I'd heard that it's a truly breathtaking experience and I wasn't disappointed by it. I walked around the cemetery for another two hours without taking any photos.
Instead I just enjoyed the peace
and tranquillity of the cemetery as it was void of people and was beautifully illuminated by candles in the hundreds of stone lanterns that was lining the path. I hadn't even really noticed the stone lanterns during the day but now they created such an amazing atmosphere and I can certainly recommend doing this.
After my walk I returned to my room and enjoyed another cup of tea while I looked at the shuin
that I have received so far on this trip. There are few of them so far but they all bear meaning to me, the first one is the one from the Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha where my pilgrimage truly began together with Takae.
The second one is from the okumiya
, or inner shrine, at the summit of Mount Fuji. It's a testament to one of the most important feats of my life. The third one is the one of the Okuno-in, the heart of Shingon Buddhism, and lastly the one here from the Shojoshin-in where I have now experienced my first shukubō
Tomorrow I will explore the rest of Mount Kōya before I return to Osaka to spend another night with Kenichi and
Yumiji before I depart for Kii-Tanabe and the Kumano Kodō pilgrimage trail.
Until tomorrow I wish you all peace and happy travels!
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