Danjo Garan & The Great Stupa of Mount Koya, A UNESCO World Heritage Site (HDR Photo)
Japan can be hectic. 35 million people in Tokyo. Endless streams of tourists in Kyoto. So where do you go if you want to slow down the pace of travel in Japan? You go to Mount Koya. You sit at the Danjo Garan in the late afternoon and listen to the Buddhist monks chanting their daily sutras.
The multiple modes of transport to get to this UNESCO World Heritage area – train, cable car then bus – is worth the effort for the peace you will experience in this mountain village.
There are many historical sites at Koya-san, including many temple complexes (and some you can even lodge in). The one temple, or more specifically, the one building at a temple that interested me the most was the…
Konpon Daitō 「根本大塔 The Great Stupa」 at the Danjo Garan temple complex
Daitō is Japanese for “great stupa”. Dai 「大」 and is a prefix which means “great” as in huge. The construction of this massive stupa at Danjo Garan was completed over 70 years and was finished in 887.
The building was initiated by a famous Japanese monk, the father of Shingon Buddhism. The Danjo Garan at Mount Koya is the center of the Shingon Buddhism world. The Great Stupa is almost 50m high and its design was inspired by a lotus flower, and the 8 points of the two rooves represent the petals of the flower.
Visitors can enter The Great Stupa from 8:30AM to 5PM for ¥200.
Map of The Great Stupa:
The Danjo Garan is within easy walking distance from the center of the town of Mount Koya. During my visit, I lodged at the Rengein Temple, just a few metres from the information center. In the afternoon I hired a bicycle and road out to the Danjo Garan.
Later in the evening at the same temple complex, traditional stone lanterns lit up the area, almost transporting me back in time… See the photo of the Ishi-Doro stone lanterns, you can see The Great Stupa in the background.