Friday, June 2, 2017

japan 2017: mt. koya

Day 5:
After leaving the Fushimi Inari Shrine earlier in the morning (click here for more on that trip and our time in Kyoto), we went back to the guesthouse to pick up our bags, and headed to the train station. The majority of the day ended up being dedicated to travelling to Mount Koya, where we would be spending a night at a shukubo (Buddhist temple). Mount Koya is known as the world headquarters of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism, so appropriately, we saw many travelers on the train with us whose trips up to the mountain were more of a pilgrimage. What originally started out as a monastery grew into the town of Koya. Now, the city houses 3,279 people and has a university dedicated to religious studies and over 120 temples. The ride from Kyoto up to the mountain was a long one and took us about 5 hours. We first travelled from Kyoto to Osaka with our JR passes, and then got on the Nankai Electric Railway in Osaka which took us to the base of the mountain. At the base, a cable car slowly took us up the mountain, with a bus taking us to our final destination: Shojoshin-in. The ride offered incredibly beautiful views, with plenty of sakura lining the train tracks. There ended up being a light rain on our trip up and the next morning, making the experience even more serene.


The ride on the Nankai Electric Railway to Mount Koya

View from the bus stop at Shojoshin-in

We arrived to the temple just in time for dinner. Dinner, or shojin ryori, consisted of traditional vegetarian monk cuisine that was prepared by monks. We were so tired afterwards that we ended up going straight to our ryokan and calling it a night. Morning prayer services were at 6:00 AM the next morning, and we were up pretty early before then. We watched the monks complete their morning prayer and I got a chance to take pictures of our ryokan in the daylight, as pictured below.

The front yard of our ryokan

The front of our ryokan, complete with sliding doors

The entryway/hallway

Our traditional bedding which was incredibly comfortable

Day 6:
After observing the monk's morning prayers, we walked around the area outside the guesthouse. Before we left Koya later that morning, I wanted to stop by a cemetery I had read about while doing my research for the trip. With the intermittent rain that morning and a bus route I wasn't too familiar with, I was losing hope that we would be able to find the cemetery and be back at our guesthouse by check out later that morning. To my surprise and excitement, the cemetery ended up being a few minutes away from where we were.


The Okunoin Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Japan. It also happens to be the site of the mausoleum of the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi. Over 200,000 tombstones line the pathway to the mausoleum at the very end of a 2 km pathway. Because we were in a time crunch, we weren't quite able to make the entire 2 km walk. We stopped roughly halfway and had to walk back to the guesthouse so we could check out on time and make the trip back to our final destination- Tokyo one last time.








The most moss I've ever seen


The cablecar ride back down the mountain

Stay tuned for my fourth and final post in the Japan series- the brief return to Tokyo!

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