National Geographic : 1907 Oct
KOYASAN, THE JAPANESE VALHALLA* BY ELIZA R. SCIDMORE THE Japanese Valhalla, the na. tional necropolis, the greatest graveyard in the Empire, is in the sacred green grove of cryptomeria crowning the summit of Mount Koya, in Kishiu, some forty miles east of Osaka, in the. heart of the oldest Japan. The site was chosen eleven centuries ago by Kukai, the Tosa priest, best known by his posthumous title of Kobo Daishi, a most conspicuous and interesting figure in early Buddhism. Kukai had a miraculous birth, an ex citing novitiate, and, being sent to China as a government student, he succeeded to the mystic and occult doctrines of the yogi sect, as brought directly to China from India by two Hindu patriarchs and transmitted through seven cnosen abbots to himself. Before he left the seat of continental culture and learning, with his sacred books, pictures, and articles of temple service, he hurled his mace, or tokko, in air, and it flew through space to land in the branches of a tree on Mount Koya--like the golden torje at Lhassa, which flew through the air from India. Guided to the spot by the celestial ra diance streaming from the tokko, Kukai fulfilled his vows of building a temple there, and for the final years of his life he taught the mystic Shingon doctrines, the occult, secret laws, in the mountain top monastery. One meets memorials and traditions of Kobo Daishi in every part of Japan, but at Kovasan he is naturally all-pervading and supreme. That forceful person could have known no rest during his brief span of sixty years, for ten men could hardly have built all the temples and the shrines, carved the statues, painted the pictures, planted the pine and camphor trees, climbed the mountains, lighted the lan terns, started the sacred flames, or per formed all the miracles attributed to him. He lived and moved in an atmosphere of the supernatural, it would seem, time doubtless adding to the number and qual ity of his miracles and attaching any stray miracle to his credit. It was his early manner, or first style in building, to con struct a temple in a single day, bidding the setting sun stand still and light the workmen at their tasks-and in proof one such temple is shown intact today on the shores of the Inland Sea. At Nikko he persuaded the mountain priests and saints that their rude deities and Shinto spirits were but manifestations of Buddha. He raised temples and shrines there by the score, and hurled his brush across the Daiyagawa to write a Sanskrit word on an inaccessible rock, which every tourist may see distinctly to this very day. An image of Fudo which he brought from China was carried to the seat of domestic war, and after three weeks of ceremonies and incantations by a great body of Shin gon priests, the rebels were overthrown, and the image remains the object of uni versal pilgrimage at the great temple of Fudo at Narita. He once exorcised dragons by spitting at them the rays of the evening star, which he held in his mouth, and he cast magic spells and transported himself, or his astral body, at will. His followers believed the great yogi to be the reincarnation of one of Sakya's disciples, and the scoffing priests of other sects were in time so dismayed by his miraculous power that they were converted, bowed to the pious juggler, and flocked to his temple of Toji, in the * Article and photographs copyrighted by the National Geographic Society, 1907.