Koyasan and an introduction to Buddah
Trip Start May 05, 2007
27Trip End Jun 10, 2007
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Today is the first big Japan challenge! while planning the trip i came across a small mountain town called Koyasan. Whats so special about this place? well its the home of Shingon Buddhism in Japan and was founded in 816 by a master monk known as Kobodiaishi ( see travel can be educational!) its main temple (Okunoin) is the end of a major pilgrimage and because of this the 117 sub temples in koyasan offer shukubo (temple lodging) so it was my mission to get to this beautiful town and stay the night.
Its quite a journey to get to the town but one that takes you right through bustling osaka and right into the mountains south of the big citys. after arriving at Kyoto station i headed to get my shinkensen (bullet train) to shin-osaka now this was actually quite a pleasant and very efficient experience
Stopping at shin-osaka i headed for the subway. it was no use I didn't know where on the map I was so had to ask a guard (incidentally every guard ive talked to in has gone out of his way to really help me, something that the guards in blighty could take lessons on!) ticket in hand I rushed across Osaka to Namba JR station. By now I was getting the hang of the tickets and purchased my ticket for the 50k trip to Gokurakubashi station! there are different types of service on JR ranging from you will get there before you left to write to your family goodbye coz this is going to be a loooong one! Luckily I managed to .catch one that would get me into the station in this life but had to change at hagimoto! (Well why wouldn't you a!)
Once all that was over a short funicular train ride up the side of Koya Mountain and a coach trip placed me slap bang in the middle of this picturesque town. I made a beeline for the central information office that hooked me up with a room at a temple near by (its the pilgrimage season so I wasn't quite sure if I would be able to get a room but luck was on my side apparently) I managed to get a room at the Daienin temple right in the heart of koyasan
Still with time to kill I decided to walk to the far east of the town to the 'okunoin' temple. to get there you walk through a wooded graveyard full of tombs and mausoleums, now as soon as you step off the bus in Koyasan, there is a strange air about the place and as you walk to the temple it seems to get more intense, im not saying that I want to shave my head and sit under a tree contemplating life or anything but the calming effect is unreal
Straight away I saw a figure jump up and run not walk RUN toward me (im going to be showloon punked here I thought and waited for an a1 kick in) the young monk welcomed me in Japanese and after removing my shoes and putting on some funky slippers I was shown to the office. The first mistake I made was to step into the office with my slippers on WRONG only socks on the tatami mat! Think of the first day at school when you were sent to see the headmaster and you will be where I was right then. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I was surrounded by monks and bricking myself! Turns out that they do a check in like any other hotel. my passport was photocopied and I was shown to my room slippers n all! The room was a traditional sliding door tatami matted painted screened vision of clean living and man it was quiet! It was so quiet I was afraid to fart in case I woke the whole town up!
there was a knock at the door and monks brought in three trays of Japanese style food! three trays! i was arranging pillows thinking that it was everyone round to jeds room for dinner but apparently it was all for me
To be honest it was peaceful in the room that i didnt go out again and just rested after a long day of travel and i planned on a 5:30 start to sit in at the morning ceremony.
Not used to a futon i woke up a few times in the night but had an otherwise ok sleep. at six i went down to attend the service but found that the place was packed with pilgrims and to be honest it just didn't seem right and even felt rude to essentially be a tourist in other peoples belief's so i respectfully dipped out went back to my room and read some of the book titled the teaching of Buddha. at 7 breakfast was served by two bowing monks and again the meal was colossal an so pretty i felt guilty eating it. with breakfast done i cleaned up my room (the monks had been so respectful i didn't want to leave them the work) and went to leave, unfortunately at the same time as all the pilgrims
its all about the bowing baby i have even seen old people bow to subway trains here! its amazing the difference it can make here if you bow at people i let a tour group pass me on a narrow walkway, i bowed only slightly (was getting into it you see) and every person smiled and bowed as they passed! bowing is defiantly the key.
another trip in the morning to the far eastern temple to get the morning sun and see all the different types of monk walking through the cemetery. then the rest of the day was spent heading west through all the main temples and tasting their green tea until i hit the west gate of the town with the mountains beyond. I could truly day i did Koyasan and my feet were ready to drop off. so tired and in pain i took the long journey across the mountains, through Osaka and on the bullet train back to Kyoto my bath and a long hard sleep.