Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Japan - Day 11 - Koyasan

My plan for the next day was really exciting. I was going to visit the sacred mountain of Koyasan, the head quarters of the Shingon religion.

It was a bit complicated to get to this mountanious region because I had to take several trains and a cable car, but my guide book described the steps in detail and people in the train station was very competent.

When I arrived to Koyasan I went to the tourism office (they have free internet there!) and they found me a room in a shingon temple that was near a very famous and big cementery. The price was not bad at all, a bit more than 60 euros for a GREAT room in a beautiful temple and two delicious vegetarian meals (dinner and breakfast) included.

I went to see the cementery that I have seen before in pictures and it exceeded my expectations. It was really big and strange. With lots of sepultures covered with moss and huge cedars. I think I liked the trees even more than the cementery.

After the cementery I went to see the main temples of the Shingon religion at the other side of the village. They were really impressive with lots of esoteric objects.

Then, I went back to the tourism office and asked for a hiking route around the mountain. The guy from the office was very kind and gave me two maps with a route (one in English and the other in Japanese so I could match the Kanjis in the signs) and warned me about a critical point where the signs were not very clear. He was right, they were not clear at all, but thanks to my GPS and a bit of luck I took the right choice when it came the opportunity (see the cross int the picture, you have to go down the hill there).

In the mountain I found a more hidden temple (the ones in the village were full of foreigner guests) where monks probably lived a more lonely live. Remember, other people will have thought the same you thought and you will probably find quite a lot of tourists in koyasan.

After finishing my hiking route, I went to the temple to have the famous vegetarian dinner. Although I don't like vegetables too much I have to confess that it was a very good dinner with
a lot of details and strange tastes.

Then, I went to sleep early because I had to wake up at 6a.m. in order to attend the first prayer ceremony of the day. The ceremony was interesting. There were several monks sitting on their knees (I was in a chair behind) singing some strange texts (they didn't breathe!!) and ringing a bell from time to time.

After the ceremony I had the vegetarian breakfast, which was not very different from the dinner.

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