The town of Koyasan can be roughly divided into two main areas. To the east is the Okunoin, a large cemetery and temple complex where thousands of grave markers and memorials are located. Perhaps the most dominant style of memorial marker is the Gorinto (Five-tiered stupa). The shapes of the tiers represent the five elements, from the bottom up earth, water, fire, wind and space.
A set of 3 gorintos in the Okunoin, Koyasan, Japan.
At the other end of the town is the Dai Garan where the main temple complex is located along with many other temples and monuments.
The centre of the main temple complex is the Konpon Daito or Great Pagoda. I sat painting a section of this temple in the chilly morning air, accompanied once more by the sounds of chanting coming from the Kondo or Main Hall.
Part of the dome of the Konpon Daito, Great Pagoda, Koyasan, Japan
This area of the town is also the home of other major buildings such as the Kongobugi Temple. The rooms of this temple are decorated, in a variety of styles, illustrating the life of Kobo Daishi (the founder of the Shingon sect). Not only were you not allowed to take photos, the signs also specifically forbade sketching. This is what I recall of one room in a series that illustrated the four seasons. This room depicted autumn; yellow and orange maple leaves fell down against a backdrop of gold leaf, a striking deep blue stream ran through the background (this is not included in my version).
Recollections of the ‘Autumn’ room in the Betsuden, Kongobuji Temple, Koyasan, Japan
We also visited the Mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Hidetada, the first and second Japanese Shoguns. From what I understand this mausoleum contains the ‘spirits’ rather than the physical remains of the shoguns. Here visitors have to content themselves with admiring the elaborate wooden carvings that grace the exteriors of the two small buildings. Views of the gold-painted interiors are restricted to glimpses in the official brochure. I enjoyed the late afternoon quiet and drew this view of the torii gate at the entrance to the mausoleums. The stamps are available at many tourist attractions, so I’ve incorporated them into my page.
Torii gate at the entrance to the Tokugawa Mausoleum, Koyasan, Japan