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Mt. Kōya , Mt. Tateyama , Mt. Hakusan , and Mt. Fuji are four of the most widely known holy mountains in Japan, but there are many sacred peaks in this island nation. Many are associated closely with the spread of Buddhism during the Heian Period (794-1185 AD), especially the mountain asceticism of the Shugendō 修験道 sect, which combined Shinto beliefs with Buddhist doctrine and practice. Its practioners are called yamabushi 山伏 (mountain ascetic or priest). Mountain worship in Japan is referred to as Sangaku Shinkō 山岳信仰, which literally means “mountain faith.” Records suggest such worship emerged well before the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the 6th century AD. Another common term, meaning “religious mountain practices,” is Sangaku Shūkyō 山岳宗教 . Although some Japanese refer to the Nihon Sanmeizan (lit. “Japan's three most sacred mountains”) of Mt. Fuji, Mt. Tateyama, and Mt. Hakusan, this is a very arbitrary designation, and it should not be taken at face value. The below list is not comprehensive. Indeed, one Japanese list (not available herein) recognizes 43 sacred mountains. Hopefully, at some time in the future, a larger, more comprehensive list, will be made available at this site.
MT. KŌYA (KII PENINSULA, WAKAYAMA)
Sacred Mountain for Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism. A mountain monastery called Kongobuji was established here in 816 AD by Kūkai (aka Kōbō Daishi , 774 - 835 AD, founder of Japan’s Shingon Sect ). Kūkai is also intimately associated with the Pilgrimage to the 88 Holy Sites of Shikoku . Since its founding until today, Kongōbuji has served as the center of Shingon Buddhism in Japan, and Mt. Kōya remains one of modern Japan’s most popular pilgrimage sites. The monastery is a vast repository of Buddhist art, especially mandalas, and home to a large number of graves. Dainichi Nyorai and Fudō Myō-ō are two of the sect’s most revered deities. Kōbō Daishi’s name literally means “great teacher of Buddhism.” Kōbō Daishi is also credited with creating Japan’s hiragana syllabary.
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