Japan – Nagoya to KoyaSan

28/04/16

For breakfast we went to Dennys to have something western for once, I really appreciated the pancakes and syrup! We then walked to Sakae station to get the subway back to Nagoya. At Nagoya station Rudy got some really nice gourmet popcorn and we then headed to our platform to get to Osaka Shin. I used the hyperdia app on my phone to get all the times and platform information so it was a breeze to get to our train.

Once at Shin-Osaka we had to get on the Midosuji subway line to transfer to Namba, this took around 15mins and then it was really straight forward finding the Nankai railway station. I knew that the sightseeing centre was on 2F next to the central gate, so for the first time we weren’t walking around for hours trying to find where we were going! We bought a couple of the Koyasan world heritage passes which allowed us to get on the train, cable car and bus to get to our temple. The train went to Hashimoto and was like a subway train so no proper seats, and then we had to change to a smaller train to get to Gokurakubashi station. This journey took longer than 1 hour, more than what I was expecting! The view from the train as incredible though, I could immediately see the change in landscape and a lot of the houses still had the traditional roofing. Nearer to Gokurakubashi the landscape became much for mountainous and green as we were slowly climbing upwards.

Once we arrived we transferred over to the cable car which had been built at a steep angle so you would not fall backwards as the tram moved forward. I’m sure that some points of the track were almost verticle! At the top we were directed to the correct bus and hopped on, this bus was quick and efficient. The map the bus conductor gave us was very clear and we were easily able to recognise our stop name and press the button.

As we hadn’t eaten any lunch that was our main priority when we got off the bus, we found a place really close by and had lunch. I ordered a tofu noodle dish but it wasn’t very good.. I don’t seem to have much luck when I order! We then headed to our temple Shojoshin-in to check in. It’s absolutely beautiful, definitely the nicest place we have stayed so far. We had to leave our shoes outside and then we were shown to our room. This place is really big and there are only communal showers here.. Our room is amazing, much better than the one in Hakone and I feel like we could have skipped the ryokan there even though the private baths were amazing. We have a little seating area which has a heated blanket, a sink in the far corner and our beds laid out and ready for us. The view from our window is really pretty and I feel very lucky to be here!

We were told that at 5.30pm we had to be downstairs for dinner, I had no idea what to expect apart from it being vegetarian and I also thought we would be dining with the other guests. When we arrived we were shown to our own private room! There were little tables set out with a grand display of food, I was so excited as it looked incredible, the first traditional meal I was actually looking forward to eat. Having no meat was a bonus as I felt like that’s all I’d been eating, instead there were beans, tofu, vegetables both pickled, tempura, boiled, rice, a miso soup, a ginger soup and fruit. Granted, I didn’t like everything that was presented but I tried everything and nearly cleaned up all the food. I thought the ginger soup was the most delicious, and fruit is just so sweet here. I felt full an satisfied and very happy I had been given the experience to try it all. I thought it was an added touch that we were able to dine in our own private room too.

After dinner it was only 6.30pm and I didn’t want to retire for the night just yet! So as we were so close to Okunoin I suggested we walk through the tombstones to see the Memorial hall of lamps, which would look extra special in the dark. Unfortunately it was raining quite a bit so it wasn’t the most comfortable walk and my shoes were completely soaked through. I didn’t let it stop me though and thoroughly enjoyed the eerie 2km walk through the two hundred thousand tombs which were lit by lanterns. Tombstones of great feudal lords and people of all walks of life with the faith in Kobo Daishi are placed here with their ashes. It is believed that this area is a most restful place for all spirits, I can definitely say that I could sense it’s spirituality. It took a lot for me to not get spooked out by the many statues and tombstones.

The walk was relatively easy with only a few steps, and at the end we reached the Memorial Hall of Lamps. This hall is filled with lamps that had been offered to Kobo Daishi’s tomb, it was constructed in 1984 on the 1150th memorial of Daishi’s passing, as the Torodo Hall was too full. As it was late we were not actually allowed into the hall, but it was beautiful nonetheless. The shrine was wonderful and as cheesy as it is to say but it felt really spiritual and happy. Apparently Daishi had designated this area as the place for his eternal repose, and when his disciples entered the cave they found his body as if he were still alive. They then built a structure around the cave and waited for him everyday, and now many people offer food to keep him going inside.

Our walk back to the temple was super fast as it was cold and so wet, I just couldn’t wait to stick my feet under the heated blanket. It was also really dark outside and even more spooky. Back at the temple I braved the public bath only to be the only one actually in there so I had a nice shower, I did sit in the bath and then realised that the water hadn’t been changed for a long time and I immediately jumped out and reshowered!

 

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