sunset at daimon

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Located in the flat valley surrounded by eight hills, like the eight petals of the lotus, Koysan is one of the most sacred sites of Japan. Kobo Daishi, or Kukai, founder of Japan's Shingon branch of Esoteric Buddhism built the first monastery here in the 8th century.

One of Japans most renowned thinkers, writers and calligraphers, Kukai studied Confucian classics in China. Legend has it that after completing his studies under the famous master Huiguo at the Quinglong monastery in Chang'an ( modern Xi'an), he prayed that he might be shown an ideal place to build a monastery in Japan.

He threw a three-pointed vajra into the air. It is said that it rode on a cloud and disappeared into the sky going east. Later, while wandering through the mountains of Wakayama, Kukai encountered  two dogs who led him to Koyasan, where he discovered his vajra thrown from China. It was lodged in a pine tree. He then knew Koyasan is the right place for the garan.

Majesic gate, daimon, leads into the temple city, which today is the main center of Shingon Buddhism. In the past, only the emperor and most renowned priests were allowed to enter Koyasan through the sacred threshold.

Today it's accessible to all; rated as "one of the best hundred sunset spots in Japan" attracts both pilgrims and scores of tourists...

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