Wakayama: Dai Garan / Danjo Garan

Located in Mt. Koya/ Koyasan, Wakayama Prefecture in Japan, Dai Garan or Danjo Garan (壇上伽藍) complex is a monastic complex deep in the mountains of Koyasan. It is also one of the two most sacred sites in Koyasan.

The name Dai Garan came from the word dai which means great and garan which was derived from the sanskrit word samgharama which means "a quiet and secluded place for Buddhist monks to gather and practice".
The Konpon Daito pagoda as seen from behind the Kondo
The Konpon Daito Pagoda as seen from the side
Kobo Daishi Kukai (founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan) began the planning and construction of Dai Garan in 816. The monastic complex consists of several important religious structures like the following:
  • Kondo - This building serves as the main hall of Koyasan and is where many rituals and ceremonies are held. The Kondo was originally called the Kodo or lecture hall. It was constructed in 819 but wasn't finished when Kobo Daishi entererd eternal meditation in 835. The Kondo has been destroyed by fire six times during its history, the last incident being in 1926. The present building was rebuilt in 1934.
Konpon Daito Pagoda
  • Konpon Daito - The building is a fundamental part of Kobo Daishi Kukai's layout of the Garan. It was constructed in 816 but was not completed before Kobo Daishi entered eternal meditation. Construction was completed by Shinzen (Kobo Daishi's disciple and successor) at around 887. The building was destroyed by fire (mostly due to lightning strikes0 five times and was rebuilt each time. The present building was erected in 1934 ans was last renovated in 1996.
  • Fudo-do - The oldest building at Koyasan. It was first built in 1198 and rebuilt in the late Kamakura period. It is designated as a National Treasure. It was originally in a different location within Koyasan and was dismantled and moved to its present location in 1908.
Other structures in the Dai Garan Complex:
The temple bell
The souvenir shop
Place to purify your hands
Toto pagoda
Historical marker of the foundation of Koyasan
We visited Dai Garan during our visit to Mt. Koya during our 23rd day of stay in Japan. My wife and I did a little snowball fight in the complex but they left me and headed to the parking lot near Kongobuji Temple. I took pictures of the building in the complex and bought some souvenirs in its souvenir shop before meeting up with my family to visit Kongobuji Temple.
Snowball fight!!!
Souvenir photo in the Dai Garan vicinity

Getting there:

Ride the Nankai Electric Railway from Namba Station in Osaka to Gokurakubashi Station at the base of the mountain. Then ride a cable car going up the mountain. You could also drive up the mountain, however take note that your tires should be able to run through slippery roads especially in winter season.

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