My friend and I had taken a local train from Nara to go to Koyasan, Wakayama, that morning to reach the top of the sacred mountain where the Buddhist Kobo-daishi established the base of Shingonshu Buddhism in the 7th century. We had to transfer from train to cable cars that climbed up the steep mountain side all the way up to the top where the bus was waiting to take us on a winding road still higher. As I got off the cable car and walked up the steep steps panting rather heavily to exit the station, lifting my suitcase in one hand and backpack on my back , a Japanese woman came up behind me and, patting my shoulder, said “Good job! Good job!” It felt strange to be treated like an old person because of my full white hair. It must have stood bright against the Japanese pilgrims who all had black hair. The cool moist mountain air hit our nostrils as we stepped out of the bus and started walking toward the Daien-in Temple pulling our mid-sized suitcases on wheels. As the temple gate became closer, suddenly the pure white cherry blossoms against the dark roof tiles jumped into our view. We stepped over the wooden threshold of the massive gate and found ourselves in a completely tranquil space tucked away from the outside world. The surrounding tall straight cedar forests presented a solemn and spiritual atmosphere.
I chose this Buddhism mecca as one of the places to visit when I was given an opportunity to host a guided tour for a friend from the Southwestern state in the US, who had never been to Japan. I was born in Osaka and had grown up with Buddhism/ Shinto culture, but never had visited Koyasan. I have been compelled to seek the Holy Spirit in the recent months and felt a strong pull to be more inclusive about my childhood faiths, and to look for a common thread in them, instead of rejecting them as pagan religions. The monk’s explanation about some of the golden emblems on his Hakama (trousers, his ceremonial attire) seemed to hint an answer to my quest: These emblems had a cross design hidden in them as some of the Buddhist Daimyos (War Lords) were Kakure-Kirishitan (underground Christians). We participated in the morning prayer and gave Shoko (incense burning) praying for the world peace and all the people living and dead because we are all connected as human beings. I secretly closed my prayer, “In the name of Jesus” as Kakure-Kirishitan probably did 1300 years ago.