In recent years, the UNESCO World Heritage Foundation has been protecting the world’s unique architecture, nature and culture. I and many people I know like traveling to these wonderful places just for fun. Japan has so many unique sites with natural and cultural value, and many tourists come to see the ancient wooden buildings as well. Because of this, UNESCO Japan has become a big discussion topic with students at my English conversation school in Nishinomiya.
Introducing Koyasan at my English Conversation School
Last holiday weekend, my wife and I drove to Koyasan, our favorite UNESCO site. This is probably the most unusual cemetery in the world, a highly spiritual place that has no equal anywhere. Not surprisingly, students at the school agree that any trip to western Japan has to include a visit to Koyasan. We even stayed in traditional temple lodging for a modest fee.
I found plenty of parking when we arrived, and right away the vast cemetery caught our attention. Thousands of tombs old and new cover several hundred hectares of cedar forest. We spent almost all day walking around soaking up the fresh air under the trees. Even though there are a couple of good restaurants near the parking area, I found that bringing a lunch box full of sandwiches was also a really great idea.
According to students, the most beautiful religious building in Western Japan is the Okunoin at Koyasan. I have to agree. This sacred structure is the mausoleum of revered Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. It is interesting how people generally report a nice feeling when they enter this building. All of the walks to it are beautiful and seem popular for pilgrims from around the world.
Especially important is the major tomb area just a short walk from Okunoin. I found resting places of well-known corporate giants, scholars, athletes, inventors and people with other accomplishments. Quite a few grave sites display the success of an inventor’s business or the leadership skills of an industry boss. We easily spent an hour or more inspecting just this area.
In 1997, a powerful typhoon came through and blew down several old cedar trees. Although there is some damage, officials were careful to leave everything as nature had intended and the site seems to have in some way improved. In summary, I recommend anyone interested in Japan should experience this unique and amazing place.
Martin Werner Zander