Koyasan

I must admit sleeping on a thin futon wasn’t easy but it seemed like no time after I rested my weary head on the Japanese pillow that it was time to wake up and attend the morning ceremony at 6:00. We sat on a stool in the outer section of the temple while the monks knelt in the inner section. Starting with a traditional Om the chants continued with intermittent gongs, drums, bells for quite some time. At one point the group of visitors was welcomed into the inner sanctum for a couple of rituals. After seeing the fire ceremony we returned to our seats until the reading and chanting was finished. One of the priests came and explained a few things to us before we returned to our rooms to prepare for breakfast. This was served in a common dining area. The meal was presented in a similar fashion to the previous evening in a number of small bowls on a tray with legs. While we ate the priest explained some more to us about the history of Buddhism in Koyasan and how he came to be in Koyasan after being born in the German speaking part of Switzerland. A few of the visitors asked questions which he answered in detail. After breakfast concluded we made our way out for the day. Green tea isn’t quite the same for Karen so she tried a dispensing machine tea in a can. To her surprise it still wasn’t what she was looking for. It was milky and tasted alright but was cold! Given it is still taking time to become used to some of foods also we headed to a small food store next and bought a few snacks to tide us over.

From there we walked to the eastern side of the town to Okunoin, an area of over 200000 graves and memorial pagodas, some belonging to feudal lords and others to everyday commoners. It is set in a beautiful, peaceful forest of cedars and other trees. The main path runs for about two kilometres from Ichinohashi Bridge

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to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi Kukai, a great Buddist monk. Kobo Daishi Kukai was the founder of Koyasan in the late 800s. The belief that he did not pass away but lies in eternal meditation has brought pilgrims here for 12 centuries and resulted in Koyasan being World Heritage listed by UNESCO in 2004. Even though it was a Saturday and many people were on the paths leading to his mausoleum it was a pleasant place to walk as you can see from these photos.

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Most of the gravestones are quite old

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but some were quite recent.

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Another thing we observed was that a number of the small statues had a red bib on them. This attracts Jizo to them and he is believed to watch over children in the afterlife as a surrogate parent.image

As we came to the mausoleum there was bridge.

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After that photography isn’t permitted.

After looking around the mausoleum we retraced our step back over the entry bridge. Here we noticed black Buddhas. Visitors can ritually splash water over them to show respect to their deceased relatives.

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Our return walk brought us past a number of temples and lodgings (Shukubo).

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By now it was after 13:00 so we started to look for somewhere to eat. We settled on a small restaurant with a window display of the meals which helped us see what was available.

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The English menus helped us to order. It was run entirely by two little old energetic women. The two were doing the cooking, waiting and serving, washing the dishes and taking payments. Amazing. After ordering our meals came quite quickly and were delicious. The presentation of the sushi was exquisite.

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When we came to pay the lady who took our payment was clearly rushed and overpaid change to us by ¥1000! She was quite relieved when Karen pointed this out and returned the overpayment to her.

Next we walked to the western side of the town and visited another temple complex named Kongobuji. It is the administrative temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism.

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We were especially taken with the 17th century building (above) used to store ancient manuscripts. Needless to say it was closed to travellers like us.

As we were just across the road from the Danjo Garan complex which we had enjoyed exploring the day before we went back to look around more. We were pleased we did as we came upon a lovely bridge, lake and shrine.

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On our return trip we also visited a small but lovely garden just opposite the Visitor Information Centre.

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Once back at our lodgings we rested and chatted with our room neighbour, Colin in the tranquil gardens of our temple lodgings.

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Dinner was again beautifully presented as you can see. This time we were able to eat more of the foods. Perhaps we are becoming more used to the new flavours we are experiencing.

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Tomorrow we travel to Kii-Tanabe by local bus and then train for the start of our trek the day after.

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2 thoughts on “Koyasan

  1. Hi Karen and Mark, You seem to be having a much more fun and interesting time than those of us who visit the fun factory at school each day. Denise

    • Nice to hear from you. Yes there is definitely life after teaching. Tomorrow we start the Kumano Kodo and the first day looks quite punishing unfortunately. Have a guy from Newcastle joining us. Cheers Mark and Karen

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