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.