Listen to the sounds of monks chanting on Mount Koya
Legend has it that Kukai threw his vajra (ritual thunderbolt sceptre) all the way from China and it landed in the mountains of Wakayama, where the monk found it on his return to Japan, when he was searching the wilderness south of the capital in Kyoto, for a suitable place to found his religious retreat and spread the word of Shingon (tantric) Buddhism.
Even by car the route to Koyasan is long and winding and the journey by foot in Kukai's day must have been especially arduous.
Kukai had been granted use of the area by the Emperor Saga and work began on the buildings in 819 which were not complete until 835 just after Kukai's death.
However, Kukai (now Kobo Daishi) was not cremated but interred as stipulated in his will and his followers believed he had entered a state of deep meditation, not death. To this day, the head priests of Koyasan continue to feed and clothe the over 1000 year old corpse.
During his lifetime Kukai appears to have been a man of incredible energy and talent. He was a noted linguist, who could read and speak Chinese and studied Sanskrit, he wrote poetry and practised calligraphy, supervised engineering projects, opened schools and produced many religious tracts codifying his new doctrines.
Now opens the store of mystic words
Where the hidden treasures emerge into the daylight
Where all the virtues and powers materialize
The Buddhas in the innumerable Buddhist kingdoms
Are nothing more than the Unique Buddha in the depth of our soul;
And the lotuses of gold, as many as the drops of water in the ocean,
Are our body.
Kukai and His Major Works
Tantric Poetry of Kukai
Books on Japanese Art and Design
Japan Koyasan Kobo Daishi Japanese Buddhism Kukai Kukai Yazd Guide