Wednesday, October 04, 2006

500,000 graves

After breakfast we walked across town to Okuno-in, a temple/ graveyard complex that is said to be the final resting place of 500,000 people. It is the largest graveyard in Japan, and our hosts said it was the largest in the world. I wonder about that claim, it does double the 260,000 buried at Arlington National Cemetary. But "biggest in the world" is a big claim to live (die?) up to. Certainly it depends on how you define cemetary, the Parisian Catacombs hold the remains of 5-6 million people.

The reason so many want to be buried here lies with Kukai, the still meditating founder of the Koya-san temple complex. At the end of the world, he will be going straight to Buddist heaven. If you happen to be nearby, you can catch a ride with him and be guaranteed a slot.

Meandering around a giant mountain cemetary at 9 in the morning is awsome. We beat most of the large tourist groups, and had the place just about to ourselves for quite a while.

It felt very different from your average final resting place, peaceful yes, but more wild and less well tended than any Denver cemetary. Many of the older monuments were overgrown and covered in moss and lichen. The occasional spiderweb also intruded on the proceedings.

Here we have Zach, on the pathway leading up towards the end of the graveyard at Okuno-in temple. The whole area was just so serene and beautiful, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Osaka or Tokyo or even Kanazawa!

Another popular area is this mountain of Jizo statues. Jizo is the Buddist patron of children that die very young like miscarriages, stillborn and abortions. Mothers wrap a red bib around the statues or pour water on them to save their children from hell.

Over closer to Okuno-in itself, which I have no photos of because it was a photo free zone and my camera is not a subtle one, there was this area where people could splash water on various statues. I don't know the exact why of the ritual, but I gave it a shot anyway! Too bad the photo didn't quite come out, but I may post it later anyway.

Closer to the main entrance was a block of much newer graves, and among them were a phenomenon that I imagine is unknown outside Japan. Corporate graves. Yup, you too can be eternally entombed with all the backstabbing, gossiping coworkers you hated all your life! No thanks, I can't think of any company I'd want to spend all eternity with. That said the rocket memorial is pretty cool looking.

We walked on out of the main entrance, got a little turned around, and then headed out to continue our sightseeing with viewing a few more... Temples!! But the next temple on the itinerary contains a little secret...

Note: I apologize for dragging my two day Koya-san trip out so much. I just took so many photos that I like I keep having to break it up into smaller chunks to keep from overwhelming my legion of fans *cough*. It was gonna be a two parter, not a four parter! (with an interesting and only slightly related 5th! post already scheduled.)

1 comment:

KJ said...

brilliant pictures. Good commentary. ta.