Yuma 4×4

Media and Communications

The Best Advertisement in the Whole Graveyard

The Best Advertisement in the Whole Graveyard


I’m standing in Okunoin on the top of Mount Koya, easily the most important place to be buried in all of Japan. There’s over a thousand years of history buried in these hills, but I’m not here to talk about that. This video isn’t really about the dead. In fact the thing we’re going to talk about came much more recently. We’re here to talk about advertising. And actually if I’m being honest, we’re here to talk about termites. At the turn of the ninth century, a Japanese traveler was returning from a long trip to China. He left a disillusioned scholar, but he came back a changed man. He no longer wanted this life of wealth and luxury that he’d been promised through childhood. His name was Kūkai, and he would go down as one of the most respected intellectuals this country ever produced. Kūkai was known for a number of things. Advising the Emperor, adapting Tantric Buddhism, inventing the Japanese alphabet and perhaps most importantly to this story, starting a temple complex on the top of Mount Koya, where we currently stand. He wanted to turn this place into the epicenter of this spiritual awakening of this new form of Buddhism he’d brought back to the country. But it would also be his grave. A few months before he died, the government agreed to make his temple complex part of the state religion and he was entombed in the hills nearby in what would become this, Okinawan cemetery. And he was more than just a monk on a mountain. It’s hard to express just how much respect he’s given even from the secular. His work set up the foundations of the state. The Japanese language itself. He’s a founding father of learned scholar and a living God all in one. A pretty important dude. But he was foremost a religious figure and he had a bunch of deeply dedicated followers who couldn’t just let him die. He was too important. They decided that he wasn’t dead. He was in a state of deep meditation, and he would be awoken again when the Buddha of the future arrived to rise him back up from the grave. And what’s more, when he rose, everyone buried nearby would rise with him. So who wouldn’t want to be buried here. Where else could be better? So Mount Koya graduated beyond that of just a temple complex. It became the most desirable graveyard in the nation. A headstone here meant more than just a beautiful grave. It meant the promise of regeneration. It meant that devout monks would pay specific attention to your grave. And so soon, being buried here commanded a hefty price. So let’s jump forward a millennium. For all the turmoil this country sees, little changes at Mount Koya. As Japan goes from medieval to feudal, from Empire to Corporatocracy, who owns the wealth changes. But what doesn’t change is that they all want to be buried here. And despite the social changes, Confucianism remained. The people were still the children looking for a father figure to give them their life’s past. To give their loyalty to. But as America had stopped the Emperor from being that father at the end of the war, the people needed a replacement. And weary of a state that had brought them into this super destructive war, they weren’t immediately ready to just hand the keys over to the nation. But they needed a replacement. And soon as the Japanese economy started to flourish, the replacement was found in the corporation. The company started to take the place of where this previous Confucian Father had once stood. But the corporations in turn were expected to offer filial piety to their children or their employees, so they started to offer lifetime employment, good wages and a strong retirement package. All you had to do was give them full loyalty. It only made sense that eventually they’d begin to offer the afterlife as well. And so these companies, already somewhat expecting lifetime devotion, begin to buy plots here in Mount Koya. Their expectation is that Corporatism can now spread beyond the grave. Although grave really isn’t the right term. Nobody’s really buried here. They’re more monuments. They’re dedicated to those employees who gave everything to the company. Some of them even have their names carved into the stone itself. And it started off as genuine. Matsushita Electronics, now known as Panasonic, was the first to buy a plot in 1938 and began a tradition that continues to this day. Over 95% of their employees have taken them up on the offer. But over times, things changed. Shrewd marketers began to realize that putting your name here was just as good as any billboard in the city. So why not kill two birds with one stone and turn your monument into an ad? After all, if you’re going to spend three million dollars on a monolith in the mountains, you might as well get your money’s worth. Soon these monuments start to become physically indicative of the companies who purchased them. Not quite a direct advertisement, but definitely blurring the line. Coffee companies. Car companies. Some of the biggest names in the Japanese economy. Some came so close to crossing that line that it became national news. They were equal parts offensive and effective. The year after the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, a Japanese airplane manufacturer added the Saturn V rocket to their monument. Something that they had absolutely nothing to do with. But they knew it was going to make a great ad, and they were right. I mean 40 years later I’m still here telling you about it. “But what does this have to do with termites?” you ask. Good question. All of this has been a build-up to let you know about my favorite advertisement ever. It’s from a pest extermination company. But their grave isn’t dedicated to the employees. That wouldn’t make a big enough splash. But you can’t just slap an ad on a rock and call it a day. That’s too crass. It has to look religious. So they dedicated theirs to the millions of lives lost at their Buddhist hands. It says on the stone “Rest in peace, termites.” Great ad. Rest in peace indeed. This is Rare Earth. Wait, does that mean when Kūkai comes back all the termites come back too? Ah man, some rich people are going to be pissed.

100 thoughts on “The Best Advertisement in the Whole Graveyard

  1. Kukai – A mixture of Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Abe Lincoln, Washington, & a few others. & apparently influential enough to bring back the dead. Unusual.

  2. When I die, I'm going to make my gravestone just a palm sized stone medallion.
    And then I'll have someone go up to this graveyard on Mount Koya, and when nobody is looking, toss it among the trees and Tombs.

  3. Through your videos gleaning the temperament and changes that occurred in Japan post WW2, I'm actually starting to see some parallels between the attitudes of the Japanese and us in the states post 911 and the recession. and the bit about the Japanese turning to idolize the corporation struck particularly home with the recent up-swell of support for free markets and the belief that businessmen are simply better equipped to lead a society than the state.

  4. Hey Evan, not that the show hasn't been great so far (it really has, I don't know how it's not more popular than it currently is) but when is Chris gonna start being in the show? Another great video btw, I love this series!

  5. Oh hey look it's the rich hipster named Kukai who was bored with modern Buddhism and learned a better version that was more SPIRITUAL

  6. That's so weird and disrespectful. I would vandalize those ads if someone did the same in my city. Great series, hope you have fun making them.

  7. How did you not realize upon rewatching the video that you are making uninterrupted eye contact and constantly walking towards the viewer? It's making me uncomfortable and makes me not like you. And all the build up was just for 3 lines about a shitty grave dedicated to termites that you spend 15 seconds talking about? I would revisit the concept of your episodes in the future, this made me not want to watch your videos ever again

  8. I'm sure your sister will give a lovely eulogy about how no one befriended her in high school just to get closer to you 😉

    You've done a great job in raising Japan higher on my travel list. I'll be honest, it's always been fairly near the bottom. I'm excited to see where the series goes from here.

  9. You should pay Pacific attention to how you say specific 😉 but all good. Great videos by the way. I think your speed is fine.

  10. Great video! Really love the slow, informative pace of these videos. It's really relaxing, yet at the same time really informative. Nicely done!

  11. Thought of Chris right away when I first saw that rocket and I'm glad he got to see it. Didn't know about the advertisers though. I was wondering about that. Thanks for enlightening me. It is unusual considering it's supposed to be one of the most sacred places in Japan.

  12. I was so transfixed with the teddy bear on your shirt I forgot to look at the surrounding landscape. I had to watch this twice! Do you sell those?

  13. Feels like these are getting better and better. Your pacing in this one was spot on imo. Loving the breakaway shots too. Although, I have to say, I have been listening to the last few while doing other things – it's like a really intense history podcast that way

  14. I'm a huge fan of your father (I'm terribly in love with him, actually), so I was naturally curious about this series and found it quite different from what he usually does, yet fantastic. I really like the way you present these stories that would probably seem small and uninteresting to most people, but that play a role in cultures that we don't know much about.
    About your pace of speech, please keep it like that. It feels as though you are dragging us into it, instead of merely stating a fact. Isn't that what storytellers do?

  15. This lifetime dedication thing really helps me understand a little bit more about the toxic side of the work culture in Japan. Not that everything is bad, just the extreme side of things.

  16. బొక్కిసం Bokkesam बोक्किसम ボッキサムకిరణ్కుమార్ Kiran किरण キラン says:

    Da fuck! 😃

  17. This is both interesting and very sad.

    Japan's culture is supposed to be about honor and respect. ESPECIALLY for the dead. Using grave stones for real people as advertisements, is downright disrespectful.

  18. Hi Evan, you look very familiar, I felt like I actually met you in person. Did you go to the Tokyo Pub Crawl while you were in Tokyo?

  19. Thanks to everyone who asked about our Patreon. I'll put out a full video when I get the time, but for those who want to jump the gun and get on board from the start, here's the link: https://www.patreon.com/rareearth

    It means a huge deal that so many have asked us to start an account. I never thought anyone would watch these videos, let alone support them.

  20. I had a NDE the other day, as I was floating toward the Light a pop-up ad appeared…not even the afterlife is safe from the evil of advertising.

  21. Whenever an idea reaches a point where it becomes widely valued — no matter how asinine and manifestly ridiculous — the idea soon commands a rising price that people and institutions are happy to pay, brag about paying, and use to advertise a host other asinine and manifestly ridiculous ideas.

  22. I need to go to Japan some day and just chill out and see beautiful scenery out in remote areas cause Jesus Christ it’s beautiful out there

  23. Plot twist Every human buried there reincarnates into a termite and viceversa XD.

    That would be a lot of humans tho.

  24. so your telling me that millions of termites will be reborn in the same graveyard as the man who invented the japanese language

  25. I think you have taken over where James Burke left off. I believe you know the person, his books, and T.V. Shows Tiled Connections 1 and 2. Good knowledge Thank you

  26. The practice of advertising in a graveyard doesn't sit right with me. Thus the fact that I own a Nissan now bothers me. But I do love your series. I'm in the middle of another binge watch. I love learning about these places, their histories, and other cultures. And as an American who didn't care enough about world history in high school to pay attention and learn, I feel like I'm righting that wrong by watching your videos. I look forward to seeing more.

  27. Just binged a bunch of your vids. You use the framing device "I'm not here to talk about that" a lot. Maybe next time you write those words take a step back and attack the intro in a new direction.

  28. This channel presents one of the most unique and informed perspectives available on YouTube – please keep doing exactly what you're doing, Evan! tyvm

  29. It's so weird to see places where I've stood in your videos. Everything about the koya mountain is so amazing.

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.