Japan 2018, Kii Peninsula Shikoku 2018

Day 37: Ceremonies in Koyasan and hidden temples and shrines

My alarm was set for 6.00 and I was ready for the two Bhuddist ceremonies at 6.30 and 7.00. The first was for my ancestors and started by us all, in turn, burning incense – first bowing, the taking the incense from the pot, lifting it to your forehead and putting it on the incense already burning, repeating this three times and bowing again. The purpose of burning incense, as I understand, is to remove negativity from oneself. Thereafter there was some chanting by the monk and his helper, a speech by the monk in Japanese and finally some more chanting for our ancestors.

I have little idea what was said, but internet was mentioned a few times, and in the papers about the temple, it was mentioned that the monk liked to preach about materialism (whilst wearing his apple watch). I have to say he came across as a very friendly man, there was lots of laughing and head nodding amongst the half a dozen Japanese and the head monk himself.

After the first ceremony, we moved to a new hall for the fire ceremony. We were all given a piece of wood and a marker to write down a wish, our name and age. The head monk lit a fire to the beat of a drum – of course there were many rituals associated to lighting the fire, and once the fire was ready we in turn had to put our piece of wood on the fire and pray for what we had written.

After a tofu and rice based breakfast, I packed my things, checked out and walked around Koyasan, not raining.

There are over 100 temples that you can stay in, and I visited some of them as I walked past – they were hidden from sight yesterday. Amongst others, a temple with 30 or so wood carvings telling the story of a very famous carving called the “parent and child jizo”; a yellow temple and a pagoda with roots in India.

I also revisited some of the sites from yesterday afternoon, to see them without rain and visit the main gate, which I didn’t yesterday, because or the rain – very imposing.

Despite yesterdays rain I was still courting the idea of walking the 24 km down the path, I didn’t walk up because of the rain yesterday. That was until I found my shoes. When I arrived at the temple they were soaking wet. I left them outside in the dry, to get some fresh air, as you anyway are not allowed shoes inside. This morning I couldn’t find them. They were eventually found in a cupboard, still just as wet as yesterday – there was still water under the soles. Then I understood once and for all that I wasn’t going to walk down.

Instead I took the train. Of course at Hashimoto, the train I was on arrived at 11.31, and the train to Wakayama departed at 11.30. Even worse, the train I was on, arrived at 11.29, but the driver announced he would wait to drive to the platform until the train to Wakayama had left (I understood Wakayama, the rest is my guess work), as he stopped just before the platform, and waited for the train I wanted to catch, had left.

Again, nothing is that bad it isn’t good for something. The next train was in an hour, so I went outside and by chance found a baker, with very good bread, cakes and coffee.

Back in Wakayama, I dropped my bag at the hotel and planned to visit the modern art museum. It was closed on Monday’s. I googled the top 10 things to do in Wakayama, I’d done them all (or wasn’t interested in scuba diving or an aquarium in Hashimoto), except for visiting three hidden temple/shrines – hidden, because unless you know they are there, you would probably never see them. There wasn’t much else to do, so I took the train to Kimiidera, a couple of stops south of the main station.

Kimiidera temple dates back to1250 and has a great view of the city and Japan’s largest standing Buddha made of wood – and very impressive it was.

I walked the 5km to the Kishu Toshogu Shrine, also called the Nikko of Kansai (Kansai is the town the shrine is, and Nikko is a town north of Tokyo with beautiful shrines and temples), as it resembles the World Heritage site, Nikko Toshogu Shrine. The shrine is from 1621. Here again the view was magnificent, as was the shrine hall.

Just around the corner was Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine, built in 1604. The main gate doesn’t stand alone, but has buildings either side, which isn’t normal amongst the temples and shrines I’ve seen, and is one of three shrines honoring Michizane Sugaware (a scholar, poet and politician, well known in historical Japan).

I walked back to the station, passing a very old bridge on the way. I had to wait 30 mins for the train, again with lots of school kids.

I could have tried counting the bicycles – this is only a very small station, yet there were three parking spots of this size for bicycles – all full.

Back at the hotel, I washed all the clothes that I had worn, as tomorrow I travel to Tokyo and will leave ca. half of what I have at the hotel at Tokyo airport, until I return 8 days later to fly home.

I hadn’t kept track of the time and when I was ready to go out to dinner, I was surprised that it was 21.00. I had decided on sushi, but although they were supposed to be open until 22.00, they were already closed. It ended up being steak (the place that was closed on Saturday). The portion was small, but it tasted good. Luckily I’d ordered french fries/english chips to go with it.

I leave for Tokyo at 12.49 tomorrow, so let’s see if I make it to the modern art exhibition.

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