Kukai (774-835), or Kobo Daishi, is one of the greatest and most well-known figures in Japanese cultural and religious history. A major calligrapher and poet (in Chinese), he founded the esoteric Buddhist sect, Shingon, and established its headquarters on Mount Koya. Shingon emphasizes nonconceptual means of spiritual awareness, including the use of mandalas, mudras and mantras. The Japanese "kana" system of writing (where simple characters with only phonetic values are used instead of the traditional Chinese pictographs) is traditionally credited to him.