An hour and a half and two trains later we arrived at the cable car that leads to Koyasan, within the Kii peninsula. The same ticket gets you on all trains along with the cable car. Once again, they are making it very easy for tourists.
Koyasan was founded as a monastic center of Shingon Buddhism over twelve centuries ago. There are over 40 different temples that have lodging, although not all of them speak English.
We stayed at the temple Muryokoin. The monks were so nice, and helpful. And many of them spoke English well. Every time they greeted us, or opened or closed doors, they knelt down.
This is one of the monks showing us to our room.
When they were not showing us around they RAN everywhere within the temple. You could hear the sound of them running echoing in the hallways. It was so cool.
The first thing we did after checking in was get some lunch.
Udon noodles always hit the spot, especially with the cold weather.
Although it was not snowing very much it was much colder than in Nagano.
As you can see Fred would have been colder had he not been so prepared!
This is Kongobu-ji, constructed in 1593.
One of the largest temple complexes in Koyasan is Danjo Garan. Danjo Garan was extablished in the 9th century as a secret training place for Shingon Buddhism.
Konpon daito pagoda is as bright as my pants and Vinny's sweater, inside and out.
On our way back to the temple we stopped in for coffee to warm up. (My camera is a little fogged up from the temperature change.)
We spent over half an hour chatting with the coffee shop owner, Junko. She laughed the entire time, which was totally contagious. She asked Fred how old he was, saying that he was definitely the oldest in the group, and then told Vinny that he was the biggest, and probably the best heater.
Junko pouring us tea. Before the tea Fred and I had coco cohi (chocolate coffee) while Nancy and Vinny had just cohi (coffee). Junko laughed as she told us afterwards that our coco cohi was way tastier and a much better deal at the same price.
Dinner at the temple was meager, and cold. (Breakfast was almost identical to dinner.)
It was a great experience though.
I am sure we ate more than they typically do.
After dinner we walked to Okunoin, the largest cemetery in Japan with over 200,000 tombstones.
It was a little scary to go at night so we returned the following day.
I woke up early for goma, the fire ceremony at the temple. They burn 108 sticks (which represents the whole of existence) and chanted. It was mesmerizing.
(But the picture taken with flash was an accident. They specifically said no pictures and I brought my camera anyway so I could take ONE picture secretly. Of course I was tired and I forgot the flash was on. I felt like such a dope when it went off. The ceremony is not for tourist entertainment!)
The temple in the morning.
Then back to Okunoin for more exploring. We took the bus down to a different entrance, one that was closer to Torodo.
Torodo is translated as Lantern Hall. It was constructed in 1023 and contains thousands of lanterns, a few of which have been burning for over 900 years.
Our final stop was Daimon, the main entrance to Koyasan. Daimon is an important sight for those who continue to use the established pilgrimage trails in the Kii peninsula.