Japan – the Spirituality of Koyasan

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Inspired by our potential visit to Japan, we decided to learn more about the country, even if through fiction. We learned about the Koya Mountain and the town of Koyasan from some heavy books packed with illustrations. The town was created when the monk Kōbō-Daishi, also known as Kūkai, deemed the place fit for a temple and his Buddhist lifestyle. This was the beginning of one of the most sacred places on Earth – the heart of Shingon Buddhism.

Nowadays there are many temples here that attract plenty of tourists, not only because they are beautiful pieces of art, but also because monks still inhabit them. One can even sleep in the traditional rooms in the temples themselves and take part in the morning prayers. Welcome to Koyasan!

traveling to Koyasan in Japan

 

Seduced by this opportunity ourselves, we decided to add Koyasan to our list of destinations. Let’s start with the ride there, as it was actually quite fun.

We woke up at about six in Kyoto to pack our bags and take the early bullet train to Osaka. It took us such a long time to get to the train station, though, that we had to sprint down the platform a mere minute before the train was to leave. We managed to jump into the train just the last second. We could now catch our breath and wipe our slightly sweaty foreheads.

traveling to Koyasan in Japan

We were giddy about the speed of the train – a whopping 270 km per hour! Anyway, here comes our cordial conductor lady. At our turn she gives a strange look and says, “You do know this is the train to Tokyo? Osaka is in the opposite direction.” Whoops. 

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The next train stop was Nagoya – we could get off there and take the train in the opposite direction. Although this meant a waste of time, there was a positive side – we took the Nozomi bullet train for free. No one insisted on fining us either, although they would have been entirely within their rights to do so; instead, they compassionately helped us despite our mistake. Thank God the trains are fast – we arrived in Osaka in about an hour and half. After that we had to switch trains three times to arrive at the train station beneath Koyasan and then ascend with a cable car to about 900m above sea level. From there one can only get to the city center by public transport, as it is forbidden to walk the dangerous road there. Ten minutes in the bus, and voila! – we arrived at our temple.

 

traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
The entrance of our temple – Yochi-in.
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan

 

We were welcomed by a young monk, who courteously asked that we waited while he called our guide – an older monk, who showed us the temple and our room and gave us some green tea and a cake. It was almost two o’clock in the afternoon, and there were so many things to see! We gulped the tea down and rushed off. We only had a few hours to experience the whole of Koyasan!

traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan

traveling to Koyasan in Japan

 

The village was absolutely charming. It consisted of one main street, numerous temples, each more exquisite than the last, and small confectioneries and pottery shops. We’re not particularly religious, so we did not delve too much in the details and meaning behind each temple or monument; rather, we simply appreciated their lovely, grandiose exteriors.

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traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
No one can feel tall next to these trees. 🙂
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan

 

So many temples! Thankfully, now it’s time to climb the main street of Koyasan up to Yochi-in, where tranquility is law.

 

traveling to Koyasan in Japan
traveling to Koyasan in Japan

traveling to Koyasan in Japan

 

We went to bed in the temple very content, and though our walls were made of paper, we slept well due to the clean air. In the morning we prayed and sang together with the monks and learned some of their meditation techniques.

 

 

traveling to Koyasan in Japan
Couldn’t miss our room even if we tried.

 

 

This article was brought to you in English by Nick Kotsev.

 

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