sights / Religious

Oku-no-in information

Kōya-san , Japan
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The Oku-no-in is a memorial hall/temple complex surrounded by a vast Buddhist cemetery. Any Buddhist worth their salt in Japan has had their remains, or just a lock or two of hair, interred here just to ensure pole position when the Buddha of the Future (Miroku Buddha) comes to earth.

The best way to approach Oku-no-in is to walk or take the bus east to Ichi-no-hashi-mae bus stop. From here you cross the bridge, Ichi-no-hashi , and enter the cemetery grounds along a winding, cobbled path lined by tall cedar trees and thousands of tombs. As the trees close in and the mist swirls, the atmosphere can be enchanting, especially as night falls.

At the northern end of the graveyard, you will find the Tōrō-dō , which is the main building of the complex. It houses hundreds of lamps, including two believed to have been burning for more than 900 years. Behind the hall you can see the closed doors of the Kūkai mausoleum .

On the way to the Lantern Hall is the bridge Mimyo-no-hashi . Worshippers ladle water from the river and pour it over the nearby Jizō statues as an offering for the dead. The inscribed wooden plaques in the river are in memory of aborted babies and those who died by drowning.

Between the bridge and the Tōrō-dō is a small wooden building the size of a large phone booth, which contains the Miroku-ishi . Pilgrims reach through the holes in the wall to try to lift a large, smooth boulder onto a shelf. The weight of the stone is supposed to change according to your weight of sin. We can only report that the thing was damn heavy!

Buses return to the centre of town from the Oku-no-mae bus stop, or you can walk back in about 30 minutes.