Legend has it that Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, threw his sankosho (a double ended, three pronged Buddhist ceremonial tool) from China, where he had been studying, toward Japan. Back in Japan, while in search of a place to headquarter his new religion, he came across his sankosho stuck in the branches of a pine tree on Koyasan and started construction of the Garan, Koyasan's central temple complex. The pine tree, that caught the sankosho, is still growing there.
The two most prominent buildings of the Garan are the Kondo Hall and the huge Konpon Daito Pagoda. The Kondo Hall is a large wooden temple hall where major ceremonies are held. The building has burned down multiple times over the centuries, and the current hall dates back to 1932. It enshrines an image of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of medicine and healing.
Next to the Kondo Hall stands the vermilion Konpon Daito Pagoda, a 45 meter tall, two tiered, tahoto style pagoda. A statue of the Dainichi Nyorai (Cosmic Buddha, also known as Variocana), the central Buddha in Shingon Buddhism, stands in the middle of the pagoda's interior and is surrounded by statues and paintings on pillars, which together make up a rare three dimensional mandala (a metaphysical map of the cosmos). Mandala are usually two dimensional paintings.
Kobo Daishi started building the Kondo Hall and Daito Pagoda, however he was not able to finish them himself. His successors completed the construction of the two main structures and also expanded the grounds of the Garan with multiple additional halls and pagodas over time. Among these are the Toto (eastern pagoda), Saito (western pagoda), Miedo (founder's hall) and Koya Myojin Shrine, which enshrines Mount Koya's local kami (Shinto deities).
The eight islands of Japan sprang into existence through Divine Intervention.The first two gods who came into existence were Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto, the Exalted Male and Exalted Female. It was their job to make the land for people to live on.They went to the bridge between heaven and earth and, using a jewel-encrusted halberd, Izanagi and Izanami churned up the sea into a frothy foam. As salty drips of water fell from the tip of the halberd the first island was formed. Its name was Onogoro.So far, so good. But when Izanagi and Izanami first met on their island, Izanami spoke to Isanagi without being spoken to first. Since she was the female, and this was improper, their first union created badly-formed offspring who were sent off into the sea in boats.The next time they met, Izanagi was sure to speak first, ensuring the proper rules were followed, and this time they produced eight children, which became the islands of Japan.I'm sure you did not fail to miss the significance of this myth for the establishment of Japanese formal society.At present, Japan is the financial capital of Asia. It has the second largest economy in the world and the largest metropolitan area (Tokyo.)Technically there are three thousand islands making up the Japanese archipelago. Izanagi and Izanami must have been busy little devils with their jewelled halberd...Japan's culture is highly technical and organized. Everything sparkles and swooshes on silent, miniaturized mechanisms.They're a world leader in robotics, and the Japanese have the longest life-expectancy on earth.Text by Steve Smith.