Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 5: Koya-san

the trip to koyasan was GORGEOUS. its set up high in the mountains... and was about a 3 hour journey from Kyoto (train, subway, train, cable car, bus, on foot)... but was welllll worth the journey. dad loved the train ride through rural japan and had to hit me everytime we passed through a tunnel and show me on his fingers how many he counted. oh dear.









the temple where we stayed (shojoshinin) was also BEAUTIFUL!!!! raked zen gardens, zillion year old trees, friendly monks, old wooden floorboards.... we were lead to where we stayed which was a tatami room with ceiling to floor glass sliding doors which overlooked the side of the mountain and the zen garden below and pond with coi fish. perfect. although dad wasnt too keen on the green tea and red bean paste sweets they had for us.























we rested and then joined a volunteer tour of koyasan's temples and cemetary. We were the only 2 who showed up for the tour so we had 2 cute old men as our guides. they were sooooo sweet and i was sooooo relieved because finally there was someone else to answer dad's zillions of questions! hahaha...






we arrived on the autumn equinox so it was a special day with worshippers coming to pray from all around. but even with the autumn equinox crowd it was pretty empty. the 2 little old spunky men showed us around the beautiful temples (Kongobuji and in the Garan complex), told us interesting stories and pointed out little fun tidbits that we would have never known about if it wasnt for them. one tip was a temple in the corner that you can actually move if you get enough people to grab the wood panels to push. so dad and i gathered all the old ladies we could find and HEAVED HO....




after exploring the temple grounds we headed over to okunoin cemetary... a 2km long holy cemetary where over 200,000 tombstones lay. it was gorgeous. they even had tombstones for a fugu (blowfish), termites and more. hahaha... at the end was the holiest of tombs where the head buddhist (Kukai) who founded the area was laid. in his temple there were THOUSANDS of lanterns lit up. and a few up front had supposedly been burning for over 1,000 years straight.













































We were told that if you pray at this little guy who is all dolled up with makeup... then you can become more beautiful! haha...






























after the tour we sadly said our goodbyes to our new friends and headed back to our temple room to relax and enjoy the view from our room before dinner.

















at 5:30 a huge GONG rang out which meant it was time to shuffle into the main hall for dinner. it was the FANCIEST sprawl of japanese food ever. and ive never seen dad looked more baffled and confused. hahah... he kept trying to be all zen but kept PSSTing and whispering - `whatsssss thissss???` or pointing and trying to use gestures. i would bust out laughing as i watched him try to taste test everything. lets just say he ate the entire pot of rice for dinner. hahah... and since everything was laid out in about a dozen different bowls - dad took that as an opportunity to try and play leaning tower of stacking monk bowls. hahaha...



















after dinner we took another stroll - this time at night - through the cemetery which was right next to our temple. it was pitch black and the cemetary was now lit by the stone lanterns and it was misty from the drizzlin rain. sooooooo spooky..... we walked about 6 minutes down the path and i saw a great shot of the lanterns lighting up the pathway so i stopped to take a picture under this huge cedar tree.... when............. all of a sudden............. WHOOOOOOOF!!!!!!!!!!!! a HUGE gust of wind blew me from top and something smacked against my head!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ive never been so scared in my life. i think i peed AND crapped my pants all at the same time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHH.... dad also looked pale and tried to convince me it was a huge mammoth monster bat - but i wasnt so convinced. i swore it was some sort of spirit.... Kukai (who founded koyasan) actually has the SAME BDAY as me!!! 6/15 and by chance dad and i had visited the temples where he had stayed previously in kyoto..... crazy. spooky. hrmm....


as we were about to RUN back to the temple arm in arm a sweet australian family who happened to stay at the same temple came to the rescue. we stopped and chatted with them... and then walked with them back together. back at the temple it was bath time! japanese onsen style. we donned our yukatas and headed off to the baths. i tried to explain to him how to take a public japanese style bath - but then just let him loose in there.... the bath was awesome. all cedar and smelled soooo good... a good wash and soak was just what i needed after the monster bat/spirit attack!!!!


after that we both CRASHED. ;-)

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