I flew in from China and arrived in Osaka early evening, just in time to go out for dinner. What a culture shock from the hustle and bustle of china to such friendly and polite people.
The next day I was up early and headed to Koyasan. It’s only a couple of hours from Osaka and easy to get to. You get the subway to Namba station and then transfer to the Nankai Koya Line and get a direct train to Gokurakubashi or get an express train and change at Hashimoto station. Once you arrive at Gokurakubashi then transfer to the cable car which takes you up the mountain to Koyasan.
I was looking forward to visiting Koyasan as the pictures I had seen beforehand were beautiful, just how you imagine Japan to be. It is a very sacred site specific to the Shingon school of Buddhism and attracts huge numbers of pilgrims and tourists a year. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is a beautiful place and feels so peaceful. It was always very quiet. If you have time for a few days or a day trip from Osaka, then it is well worth the visit. The town is amazing to walk around as there are lots of beautiful temples.
I went to my Shukubo. It’s a Buddhist temple where you sleep on a mattress on the floor, have a cold vegetarian meal (I struggled with this part as I eat everything with meat, it was the same meal for dinner and breakfast too) and get woken in the morning to attend the prayer ceremony, it was a great experience and worth staying in this spiritual place. The rooms were amazing and beautiful and we had to go down to the communal bathing area before putting on our kimono’s and heading for dinner. The prayer ceremony in the morning was an amazing experience to be part of, even for someone who isn’t spiritual, though after about 30 seconds of being sat on my knees I had to give up and sit on my bum.
Like my new shoes?? How anyone could walk around without breaking their neck in these is beyond me!!
I then went to explore the town. I stopped first at Kongobuji Temple, the original temple was built in 1593 and rebuilt in 1863, it is the headquarters of Koyasan Shingon-Shu Buddhism. It is a beautiful place with sliding doors painted by well known artists and Banryutei Rock Garden, the largest rock garden in Japan. It’s a very impressive building.
I then walked up to the main complex Dai Garan, meaning great quiet and secluded place, for Buddhist monks to gather and practice.
The first place I visited was Konpon Daito – originally built in 887 and rebuilt many times due to 5 lightning strikes. It is about 50 metres high and the most impressive building on the site.
I also visited the Kondo where many rituals and ceremonies are held, saw some monks and walked around the grounds. The buildings are very impressive although most of them were rebuilt in the 1930’s following many devastating fires. Despite quite a lot of tourists still a very quiet and peaceful place, when the bell is not ringing!!
After dinner and after dark I visited Okunoin, it is a huge graveyard with more than 200,000 grave stones. Some of them huge and very impressive depending on the wealth of the family. I walked the 2km path to Torodo, the lantern temple. It was beautiful all lit up and as I arrived there was a ceremony just finishing and all the monks came out and walked down the path, it was an impressive site.
The next day I was up early again to make my way back to Osaka and head to Hiroshima.
I loved Koyasan and seeing such an old and traditional part of Japan.
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