Japan 2018, Kii Peninsula Shikoku 2018

Day 36: Koyasan

Koyasan is the center of Buddhist study and practice and founded by Kobo Daishi in 816. Koyasan was chosen as he wanted a monastery in the mountains, far from worldly distractions, a place where Buddhist monks could concentrate upon practicing and praying for peace and welfare of the people. It is situated at 900m in a valley 6 km east to west and 3km from north to south and surrounded by 8 low peaks. The topology is reminiscent of a lotus flower surrounded by eight petals.

Kõbõ  Daishi mausoleum is situated here, and since the tenth century it has been believed that he has not passed away, but had entered an eternal meditation.

This was the end of my journey, getting the last stamp in my book and thanking Kõbõ Daishi for helping me through the journey of the past 35 days.

I left Wakayama on the 8.35 train to Nara, with a change at Hashimoto and then a cable car for the last few hundred meters. It was originally my plan to walk up, 24km along the original route taken by pilgrims, the Choishi-michi route, with 180 stone markers to guide the way.  However, heavy rain was forecast. The rain started at 9.30 and as I write this it is still raining and planned to rain until tomorrow morning. It was litterally thrown it down all day and the monk where I am staying has said it will be far too wet and slippery to walk down tomorrow, after so much rain. So my plan B, to walk down the path tomorrow is likewise not possible.

I arrived at Koyasan at around 10, found the temple I was staying at, Kumagaiji, dropped off my bag, taking my rain jacket and umbrella with me.

First stop was Okunion, a cemetry and sacred area that extends 2km and is lined on both sides of the path by hundreds of cedar trees, many of which are several hundred years old. Amongst the trees are more than 200.000 grave stones and memorial pagodas for people ranging from important historical figures to commoners. Many companies also have gravestones for employees that have passed away.

The mausoleum is at the end of the path through the cemetry. This is what everybody had come to see and is usually packed, not least on a Sunday. Probably due to the weather, there weren’t too many today. As Kobo Daishi is in eternal meditation, he still needs food, so two meals a day are ritually brought to him.

I got the last stamp that was missing from my collection and walked back through the cemetery.

The rain really began to fall heavily now. I was happy that I had made the trip, it really felt that by coming, I had now completed my adventure, and had the chance to thank Kõbõ  Daishi, who it is said is together with you throughout the journey, for helping me complete.

Next stop was Kongobuji, head temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism. The temple contained Japan’s largest rock garden and really beautiful screen paintings in every room. I hadn’t really planned to go in, but anything to get out of the rain!

The Danjo Garan complex comprises of several buildings where Buddhist monks trained. I visited the Konpon Daito, the Great Pagoda from 816, rebuilt in 1937 in its original form, after fire burnt it down.

I also visited Kondo, the Golden Hall, originally from 819, but like the pagoda, burnt down many times. It is here where major Buddhist services are held.

I also got stamps in my book for the three places I visited. I looked around at the other buildings, including a white bell tower, but it was raining so hard I decided to call it a day.

I was beginning to feel cold and stopped off for curry noodles to warm me up.

I walked back to the temple and checked in and escorted to my room. I was given a list of what was going to happen – dinner at 17.30, doors close at 21.00, two services tomorrow at 06.30 for ancestors and at 07.00 for family and friends, breakfast at 07.30 and check out at 09.00. And the onsen closes at midnight.

As Buddhists don’t eat anything that needs to be killed, they are vegans, so dinner was rice, miso soup, vegetable tempura, different types of tofu, tomato in white wine, seaweed, baked avocado with cheese and fruit. The different courses were split into two tables, as you can see below, some for me and some for my ancestors, that I could eat on their behalf. The food tasted good, the problem was kneeling on the floor for so long – that was really tough.

It’s still raining. I think I will go take an onsen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *