30 photos
The Okunoin Cemetery is located on the sacred Mount Koya or Koyasan. Korasan is the spiritual center of the Shingon (True Word) Buddhist sect which was established by the priest, Kukai. He founded Koyasan as a religious retreat in 804. It is a United Nations World Heritage Site with many temples and sites along with the ancient Okunoin Cemetery.

On his death Kukai's disciples built a mausoleum in devotion to him. There among the cedars leading to the mausoleum are other tombs which line the pathway. There are over 200,000 grave markers and over a half million tombs within Okunoin. These are tombs of many famous figures from Japan's past as well as those of common folk. The cemetery is still in use today and the newer parts are interesting in their own way. The images here are from the ancient part of the cemetery.

Among the grave stones are Jizo, small statues of a Buddhist divinity who is thought to bring relief to the tortured souls in the cemetery. Japanese often place hats and clothes on the statues to protect the divinity from the elements. You can find Jizo throughout Japan where he is more commonly associated with children as their protector as well the protector of never born children and travelers.