After leaving Kyoto behind us, we made our way up to Koya-san where we would be staying at Daien-in, a Buddhist temple. The day didn’t start off very well as we saw our first rainfall in Japan since we got here, so this put my photography on hold for awhile. After taking a train and a cable car, we finally made it up the mountain where we could then board a bus and head on to the temple we’d be staying at. Since we arrived a little early, we decided to do some sightseeing before checking in at the temple.
Curvy road on the way from Koya-san Station.
A little lost and irritated, we decided to stop for some lunch but instead found the Tokugawa Mausoleum which apparently was a cool place to go. Unfortunately, we were lied to. The Mausoleum cost 200 yen a person and was only two very small buildings, both of which were surrounded by fences so we couldn’t see much of them. So far, Koya-san wasn’t the most impressive of places.
Outside the Tokugawa Mausoleum.
The receptionist went afk.
This was pretty much it…
Out of desperation and hunger, we stopped at the first place we found that had food, which happened to be a cafe on the outside of town. We sat down, chilled out, and got some sustenance as we planned out the rest of the day. After some luggage retrieval, we made our way to the temple, walking down the main street.
Its sooo green here.
After only a short walk, we made it to our temple where we were welcomed by the innkeeper who looked like he might have been a monk in training. As soon as we entered, the atmosphere took over and I felt at ease. After some paperwork, we made our way to our room where we sat down and unloaded our stuff before setting out again for awhile before dinner.
Daien-in, the temple we’re staying at.
Our two rooms!
A view of the garden from our room.
Mom really wanted to go see the Temple of Lanterns so we hopped on a bus and made our way over there. It is said that the lanterns within the temple have burned for thousands of years uninterrupted. However, to get to the temple you must travel through Okunoin Gobyo, the enormous graveyard that holds over 200,000 gravestones and the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen. But because it is a graveyard, I felt it was disrespectful to be running around taking photos, so I was only able to get a photo of the front entrance. It’s painful to know that I don’t have photos of this place because it was easily the most beautiful place on Earth I’ve ever visited. The cedar trees, which are hundreds of years old, tower above you as you walk through moss covered grounds full of gravestones and mausoleums. Sunlight peeks through the branches and casts itself across the gravestones and moss with streams flowing through canals and under bridges. Truly breathtaking. This has easily been the best part of Koya-san yet.
I don’t know what this is but it looked cool.
Entrance to Torodo, the lantern temple.
Upon arrival at the temple, some signs told us that photography wasn’t allowed. Today has been a bad day for my photos D: The temple was pretty cool, the lanterns hung from the ceiling and all of them were lit up. Walking around back, we encountered an elderly lady chanting. It was eerie and soothing at the same time.
We made our way back to our temple before dinner was to start. It was time for the vegetarian meal I had been promised would be beyond amazing. I hate to say I was a little disappointed. The meal was alright, I can only handle so much healthy food. The night at Koya-san was a lot like the visit to Hakone but not as good, which is funny because I had so many doubts about Hakone and ended up loving it while here in Koya-san I was most excited about it and ended up being disappointed. But hopefully, when we get to attend the monks’ prayer service tomorrow morning, my opinion will change. I was really excited to learn about their culture so that hasn’t been checked off my list yet.
After dinner, we made our way to the bathhouse inside the temple which was a lot like the onsen in Hakone without it being an onsen! Instead of being hot springs it really was just a public bath. Despite that, it was still quite relaxing to soak in the hot water. We shall see what tomorrow brings in Koya-san.
Because I wasn’t able to post last night, I’ve decided to do a double post! Here it is, day eleven in Japan.
After a night of tossing and turning on the tatami mat floor, we woke up around 5:20 to attend the monks’ morning prayer service. It was a cool morning in Koya-san and the monks awaited our arrival. Upon entering the main hall, we sat down on the floor and the service began. It was very relaxing as they chanted their sutras in unison and performed their morning rituals. The service went on for about an hour. Afterwards, two of the monks talked to us for awhile. Unfortunately, only Emily could understand them as they only spoke to us in Japanese. Over another vegetarian meal, Em gave us a brief overview. The very animated monk apparently went into detail about their particular sect of Buddhism, the Shingon sect, which focuses mostly on the power of words. They believe that the more you say something, the more true it becomes. The monk spoke to us about the importance of family and how parents have their own hardships they must face and do face while raising and taking care of us. He also advised us to keep our heads raised up so that we may see the world in front of us and share in the experiences with those around us rather than look down towards the ground and feel alone. According to Em, this is truly a brief interpretation of what was said. After the prayer service, we went back to our room to pack up and move out. But first, since it was too early for the bugs, time for a quick stroll in the garden!
A morning walk around the garden outside of our room in Koya-san.
Another view of the garden.
We left the temple with kind words and gifts from the monks and took a bus around Koya-san to see some final sights from the bus window before heading back down the mountain to Osaka. We didn’t get very far as many things were off the road and Dad wanted to see Himeji Castle before it got too late. So back down the cable car we went!
Back down the mountain!
Another cable car climbs up the mountain as we go down.
After a couple train rides and some lunch in Osaka at a small coffee shop where they served avacodogs (avacodo hot dogs), we headed on out to Himeji to see the castle. Upon arrival, we discovered that the castle was under construction for repairs. But we decided to go anyway to see what we could see as we had to wait for the shinkansen (bullet train) anyway. Off we went into the town of Himeji!
Front moat of Hemeji Castle.
Hemeji Castle covered in scaffolding and cranes for repair.
It was a very fun visit to the castle despite the actual castle being off limits to the general public due to its current state. We got to check out the grounds and a tower. They’re offering free reentry to the castle when the construction is done but we’ll definitely be out of the country by the time that comes around, but I still found that to be very kind. While we were there we ran into two very nice people, one of which helped us find out where the best places to go around the grounds would be for taking good photos and seeing some magnificent sights. And the other was a lady practicing her English. She walked with us to the ticket gate, talking to us in very good English, asking us about ourselves a little, all the while answering questions we had for her. She was very kind and fun to talk to, but at the gate we parted ways and explored as much as we could. We ended up having such a good time we were late for the shinkansen and decided to stop by an ice cream shop and indulge ourselves for a while.
Ice cream break!
The shinkansen from Himeji took us all the way to our next destination, Hiroshima. Unfortunately, it was too late to visit any of the museums so we took the street car from the train station to our hotel where we dropped off our luggage and cleaned up for the night. But the day wasn’t over yet! After showering up and relaxing a bit, we headed out on the town to find some dinner. We ended up down the street at a noodle shop enjoying ramen, soba, and udon. We decided to go back to the hotel afterwards and check out the bar there to get some drinks. I got to try Shochu for the first time, it was alright but I prefer my non-watered down sake 😀
Hiroshima from our hotel room.
Hiroshima streets are still busy even in the evening.
A noodle shop we went to for dinner.
Tomorrow morning after breakfast we will be heading out to see Hiroshima before leaving once again to our next destination, Miyajima.
Miyajima island is well known for its sacred grounds, large population of deer, the giant gate Otorii, and most importantly, O-Shakushi, the world’s largest wooden rice spoon. Located a couple of miles from Hiroshima, Miyajima is considered one of the most scenic places in all of Japan. For the longest time, it was uninhabited because no one wanted to anger the gods. The island is now inhabited by people but some traditions still follow, such as no births and no burials on the island. This is why Miyajima has no cemeteries and no hospitals. The island is home to many deer, which are considered sacred messengers of the gods of the Shinto religion. Because of the kind treatment of these animals, they are apparently very friendly with human visitors. Hopefully I’ll be able to get really close to get some good pictures! Even more importantly, I hope I get to see the giant rice spoon!
Tomorrow we’ll be staying at an inn in Miyajima so I will most likely not be able to post tomorrow so it’ll have to wait until Matsuyama. I’ll talk to you all in a few days 😀