It’s your friendly neighbourhood Gaijin here, bringing you the first update of my summer vacation! So the summer vacation has just started, which means I am also allowed to go about Japan without feeling the guilt of skipping my student’s classes. The first place I decided to visit was Mount Koya, a spiritual mountain which is known for being Japan’s main location of the Shingon Buddhism. These buddhists possess an estoric view of the world (and lalalalala) – Explain this sentence. Truthfully, I have been raised as a Roman Catholic so going to this spiritual island may be a bit questionable. Though as my friend said, as long as my heart is in the right place – I don’t think I can go too wrong. The mountain is a very beautiful scene where one can easily go to clear their head for a weekend or take a break from the world for a week.
The day started with me travelling to Namba Station in Osaka to greet my Canadian friend who is visiting Japan. After a 2 and a 1/2 hour train ride, I was able to meet with him and catch up while eating some good old fashion Chinese food.
I’m sorry, but truthfully I don’t think that many Japanese restaurants can prepare tasty Chinese food. There are times when I order Mapo Tofu from a Japanese restaurant, and it ends up tasting like Campbell’s Chunky Beef Stew. Like what? Though the Chinese restaurant in the shopping building by Nankai Namba Station, on the 7th floor, was extremely tasty. The soup dumplings were to die for (our total came to about 4000 yen).
We then proceeded to buy a World Heritage pass (2860 yen for a going and a returning train, as well as unlimited bus rides at Mt.Koya) from Nankai Namba Station. The train ride to Mt. Koya takes approximately 2 hours.
This is the Gondola that takes you up the mountain to the sacred Mt. Koya. A quick 5 minute gondola ride lead us to the buses which took us to the hotel, at this point I had traveled around 5+ hours that day and I was exhausted.
We reached our Koudaiin Temple (Japanese Temple Lodgings/ Shukubo) and everything was spectacular. The view, the food, the people and the morning Buddhist service within the temple were all worth the 12800 yen per night lodging fees.
The Mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hidetada
After we had finished checking into our Ryoukan, we started exploring the mountain’s famous sites. First was the mausoleum of two Tokugawa family Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Hidetada. Truthfully, I forgot how to pay tribute at a Japanese shrine and looked it up – I knew that I could make an offering, but I forgot the traditional method. If anyone is visiting any shrines or temples in the future, I suggest reading a shrine/temple etiquette guide such as this beforehand. These mausoleums are made with such beautiful artistry with multiple carvings in every small area, they were truly beautiful to look due to all of the intricate metal work.
There was a huge pagoda where we were able to go in and pray. I decided to be a law biding citizen and followed the rule of not taking photos inside of the temple, while others sometimes decide to clearly disobey the signs (who knows maybe they can’t read them). Nonetheless, I have seen so many foreigners who just blatantly start taking photos just to get the perfect shot – this is not good. I too want those beautiful shots, but the principles of following rules and laws, is something we were taught since Elementary School. Some kids just never listened in class, maybe they still don’t.
Inside the Temples and the Reihokan Museum
You may not take photos of many of the holy Buddhist statues, so unfortunately you guys will have to head to this sacred mountain yourself to see these beautiful sights. The worshiping grounds for these Buddhists are absolutely beautiful with the intricacies of the shrine designs and the devoted worshipers who maintain the cleanliness of the grounds. The Reihokan Museum had plenty of statues pertaining to the Buddhist Deities, and scriptures of Buddhist teachings. Maybe one day, my Japanese will become a high enough level so that I can read them – just maybe.
Have you ever noticed that Japan rarely has garbage cans outside? Throughout Japan, everyone is taught from a young age that they must carry their garbage home. When they grow up, they still practice this habit and outdoors rarely become dirty. Everyone always asks how Japan is so clean, I believe that it is a combination of the individual and the communities’ efforts to protect the land. Through the community’s efforts, beautiful nature such as Mt. Koya can remain sustained and beautiful for the world to see.
I highly suggest traveling to Mt. Koya if you are in need of a break from the big city life, or are looking for a highly spiritual place to do some reflection. The tranquil atmosphere, beautiful buildings and hospitality will provide you with a peaceful place where you can listen to your own thoughts and focus.