In this two part review (this being part 2) I will introduce you to some of the main buildings and structures within the Danjo Garan Complex – the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. If you have not read my introductory review on the complex and how it came to be where it is I recommend you do so prior to continuing.
I should point out that while the interiors of some (but not all) of the buildings are accessible time, on a single day trip from Osaka, did not permit me to indulge myself in an internal examination.
Kujaku-do – Temple of the Peacock
In 1199 Emperor Go-Toba asked the head abbot of the Toji temple in Kyoto, to pray for rain at Shinsen-en, an Imperial garden in the city which was then the Japanese capital.
Engo, the head abbot, used the Kujaku (peacock) rite to bring about rain and rescue the capital from a long drought.
By way of thanks, the Emperor had this small temple built here at the Garan on Mt Koya in 1200. The current temple was built in 1983 as part of the commemoration of the 1,150th anniversary of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Singon Buddhism, entering into a state of eternal mediation (dying for non believers).
The colourful enshrined image of Mahamayuri (the peacock deity) takes pride of place on the altar in this small temple.
While the temple is not open to visitors you can seen the altar though the doorway.
Rokkaku Kyozo – Scripture Depository
I have been fortunate to see many Buddhist prayer wheels on my travels but I had not seen anything like this before and had I not read nearby signage I would not have taken this building to be a variation on the prayer wheel idea.
The current Rokkaku Kyozo, a hexagonal depository of the scriptures, within the Danjo Garan complex was built in 1934, the original and a subsequent replacement having been lost to fire in 1843 and 1926 respectively. As I noted in my general review on the Garan, most if its buildings have been lost to fire, some many times, since they were originally built. Today the buildings have lightening conductors attached to reduce the risk of further losses.
The original depository was constructed in 1159, on the orders of Bifukumon-in, Empress Consort of Emperor Toba, to pray for her husband’s happiness in the next world.
The empress consort commissioned a copy of the Chinese Buddhist Tripitaka written in golden characters on purple paper for the building. To pay for the scriptures she sold her manor in Kishu Arakawa and it is for this reason that the scriptures are often referred to as the Arakawa Scriptures and the building the Arakawa Scripture House. To-day the Tripitaka can be seen in the nearby Museum Reihokan.
Getting back to my reference to a prayer wheel, the handles protruding near the base of the building can be used to rotate the ring (to which they are attached) through 360 degrees. This should be done in a clockwise direction and so doing donates that one has completed the virtuous act of reading the complete scriptures, once through.
It is not true that turning the wheel through one revolution is the equivalent of chanting the complete scriptures. Alas, wisdom and enlightenment cannot be attained by the mere turning of a wheel.
One commentary that I have seen indicates that the whole building used to turn, possibly to catch the sun. I don’t know if this is true or not but given its size it would have been no mean feat for an individual to turn it.
Backed by a nice outcrop of cedar trees this beautifully carved wooden building was one of my favourites in the complex.
Saito or Western Stupa
Perhaps my favourite building in the Garan, the Saito or Western Stupa was originally built in 887 by Shinzen Daitoku in accordance with the instructions of Kobo Daishi, his predecessor and the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan.
The current reincarnation was built in 1834, making it one of the oldest existing buildings within the Garan. Its absolutely stunning woodwork makes this gorgeous building a must see.
The Saito is not open to visitors, though you can peep in! Internally there are thirty-six pillars plus one central one. These symbolise the thirty-seven sacred divinities of the Vajradhatu- mandala.
Danjo Garan Temples – Some of the Others
Above and in Part I of this review I have covered the main temples and constructions within Danjo Garan, or more particularly those I found the most interesting or attractive. below I refer to a few of the other buildings within the complex, the sacred centre and headquarters of Shingon Bhuddism in Japan, established by the religion’s founder, Kobo Daishi, from 816.
It is interesting to note how some of these and many other buildings here were built by, or in the memory of, Emperors of Japan. Kobi Daishi very successfully connected Shingon Buddhism with the State and in so doing established support from Emperors and the aristocracy – giving rise to the notion of ‘aristocratic Buddhism’.
Toto or the Eastern Stupa
Completed on the wishes on ex-Emperor Shirakawa in 1127. The central deity here was Usnisavijaya in the image of the emperor, with Acala and Trailokyavijaya Vidya-raja flanking it. Toto was destroyed by fire in 1843 and was not rebuilt until 1984.
Sanmaido or Temple of Meditation
This cute little temple, originally constructed by head priest Saiko in 929, was used for meditation by the poet-monk Saigyo for thirty three years from 1150 to 1183. As I have indicated in my general complex review Saigyo planted a cherry tree, just out of shot to the left of the area covered by my attached picture of the Sanmaido. The current building was constructed in 1816.
Aizen-do or Temple of Ragaraja
This temple, a 1816 recreation, of a temple constructed on the request of Emperor Go-daigo in 1334 as a prayer place for world peace and the health and longevity of the Emperor. In this temple is the deity Ragaraja – King of passion – the proportions of which is said to be based on Emperor Go-Daigo himself. While it is a little difficult (ok, not possible!) to clearly see Ragaraja in my picture below I could only reach the conclusion that the Emperor was a rather oddly shaped man!
Reconstructed in 1954 this is a beautifully constructed hall of worship dedicated to Sanno-in, the local Shinto deity revered as ‘God of the Mountain’.
None of the buildings covered by this part of my review are formally open to visitors but they are can be viewed close-up with peeps inside possible.
The Garan grounds are open 24/7 and access is free.
Address: 152 Koyasan, Koyasan
Directions: In the centre of Koyasan