In the cemetery outside Okunoin 奥の院

Wakayama 和歌山

No One Shall Be Alone in the Afterlife

Grave markers in Okonuin for those who died without friends or family.

One of the more haunting sights in the cemetery outside Okunoin 奥の院 in Koyasan 高野山 are piles of unmarked gravestones, purportedly belonging to those who died without friends or family. It is strange to think that in death they may find more closeness than they did in life. You may notice several of the markers are wrapped in cloth, knitted caps, and bibs, a custom meant to draw the attention of the bodhisattva Jizo, guardian of children.

Walking Through the Cemetery at Okunoin 奥の院

A few of the incredibly old gravestones in the cemetery outside Okunoin in Koyasan, Wakayama prefecture, Japan.

Today I had the good fortune to visit Koyasan, home of Okunoin 奥の院, the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, a legendary Japanese monk, and the largest cemetery in Japan. It was a beautiful walk among the tall cedar trees of this high mountain valley selected for it immense natural beauty and topographic resemblance to a lotus flower. Along the way I captured this scene amidst the ancient tree trunks—stone markers, some covered with thick layers of moss, all looking as if they had been there for the last half of forever.

An Auspicious Beginning

A circumhorizontal arc over Wakayama.

How’s this for an auspicious beginning to my first day in Wakayama? The very instant I stepped outside I looked up and saw a beautiful circumhorizontal arc beneath the midday sun. I thought it was a sun dog at first but Wikipedia cured me of that supposition. At any rate, it’s something I hadn’t seen before!