We started our day as per our tradition – breakfast onigiri from Family Mart. I am still battling this cold/flu/thing so I opted for a hot can of coffee and several bottles of C1000 to tide me over until lunch.
We travelled from Osaka up to Koyasan, via subway, train, cable car and bus. I know that changing modes of transportation this much seems a bit daunting, but public transport is so easy to use here. There is very clear information at train stations, supplemented by HyperDia and helpful attendants at almost every location. We opted for the limited express service (a beautifully furnished train with reserved seats, toilets and vending machines) from Tengachaya to Gokurakubashi, where we switched to the cable car to get to Koyasan. At Koyasan, we were greeted by a friendly man who helped us find the right bus, advised us of the fare and highlighted our stop on a map.
We were welcomed at our temple lodging by a monk who took our suitcases to our room and instructed us to be back before 6PM for dinner.
Our first area of interest was Okunoin. I visited Koyasan in 2014 and didn’t cover much ground during that trip – while I was on the bus I dropped my camera and damaged my 16-50 lens beyond repair and spent a lot of time trying to fix it instead of sightseeing.
The walk to Okunoin from our lodging was brief, cold and beautiful.
We walked across Ichinohashi bridge, found ourselves in the cemetery (Japan’s largest) and slowly made our way towards Torodo hall.
Koyasan was settled in ~819 by a monk named Kukai and is now known as the world headquarters of the Koyasan Shingon sect of Japanese buddhism. Our visit to Koyasan happened to be the day after Kōbō-Daishi (Kukai) entered into an eternal samadhi (meditation) in 835 – legend says that he will continue to meditate until the arrival of Maitreya.
The cemetery is breathtaking.
It feels very pleasantly and peacefully isolated. The tall cedar trees cast heavy shadows and allow dappled light to fall on the path, highlighting the graveyard around you. As you approach the Torodo Hall (hall of lamps) photography is forbidden. The hall itself was immense, dark and decorated with gold. A priest was chanting sutras.
We made our way back through the cemetery toward the town for lunch a bit more hastily than we’d walked in – almost a light jog – stopping only to take photos of flowers.
When we arrived at the restaurant, Tim opted for Kitsune Udon (udon noodles in a dashi broth with a piece of aburaage), I went for Katsudon (fried pork cutlet on rice with a yummo egg topping), and they were both crazy delicious.