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.

Japan - Day 10 - Kyoto

The next day was different. I felt as a new person after sleeping. As public transport in Kyoto was a bit messy, I rented a bike for 680 yens (less than 5 euros).

It was a very good idea to rent that bike because I was able to see all the important parts of Kyoto in a single day.

I ride it from south to north, west to east. I saw lots of templos, typical narrow streets, the river... In general, I enjoyed it a lot. Specially because in Japan you can ride your bike in the sidewalks and ring a bell to make your way among people!

On the run, I stopped from time to time in one of the 24 hours shops that seem to have mushroomed all Japan. I put here some pictures I took from one. If I remember well, the brands of this shops were: 7eleven, K-circle, Family mart, Lawson and Convenient store.

I took lots of strange japanese products and sweets. In the picture you can see a delicious ice cream (ice cream is really cheap in Japan as Mitsue have said to me before I went), a strawberry bun and something similar to cheetos.

In the evening, back to the hostel I prepared a plan for the following day (because I hadn't prepared anything for that day) with the help of some books that I found in the hall of the hostel. Then, I made some friends from the guests in the hostel: Emily, from San Francisco (she had been in Kyoto for 2 weeks and didn't have a fixed plan... She said she liked going very deep into the culture of the places she visites), Sophie, from France and Hanne from New Zealand. It was interesting to check again that other young people were travelling alone from very far places like me and had similar views. It was nice to chat with those determined and brave women.