Koyasan and buddhism

Trip Start Dec 22, 2006
Trip End Apr 20, 2007

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday 13 April
An early departure to make sure we beat the Aussies to the local bus!
It's bullet train time again and we are all seriously impressed with the efficiency, style and comfort of the shinkansen! Local bus to Odawara, then shinkansen to Shin Osaka via Atami. A fantastic journey. We had great fun in Atami trying to snap shots of the shinkansen as they shot through the station - so fast, so difficult to capture on photo.
From Shin Osaka on the subway, then train via Osaka, Namba and finally Gokurabashi to Koyasan via funicular and local bus. We finally arrived at our Buddhist monastery, Ekoin Temple,  by late afternoon. A brief stroll through the town's main street before supper at 5.30! Our rooms were simple, but modern and similar to others we had stayed in. The fears of cells, hair shirts and cold showers were soon dispersed. Supper was vegetarian and had the usual mix of cold dishes (generally mountain vegetables), pickles, rice and miso soup. The beer was welcome, though as we found out, the monks are not slow in hiking up the beer prices. We did our best for international culinary understanding and only left what we considered to be a diplomatic "I'm pretty stuffed, thank you!" At least the room had a heater because at over 3000 feet up, the air was decidedly chilly.
S and A asked to try the private meditation class while Steph and I went for a hot Japanese bath. I know who got the better choice!
Sat 14 April
We did volunteer to be woken for morning prayers and what we thought was a fire drill and were duly shepherded to the inner temple for prayers at 6.30. You could say it was a cool experience - I'd say it was bloody cold. The priest chanted, hit a bowl with a stick (nice sound) and clashed/vibrated a pair of cymbals while we looked on hoping to have light shed on the darkness of our understanding (never mind our souls). One of us (no, not me!) described the prayers as mumbo-jumbo. To me it was a mystery. The "fire drill" turned out to be a fire ceremony -at least it got warmer watching an apprentice monk lighting a fire and stoking it with dry sticks while the other dude chanted and banged a drum quite rhythmically. An interesting experience and all before another vegetable and miso breakfast! Oh we know how to have fun!
The rest of the day was more rewarding, however; a walk through the Buddhist cemetery was fascinating - over 200,000 graves crammed as close as possible to the mausoleum of the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi. Greta sights, great photo opportunities, made all the more interesting by a constant flow of "pilgrims" in various attire, moving back and forth to the main shrine by the mausoleum.
An "organic" lunch preceded further visits to shrines and temples and shops galore throughout the village, before we dashed back to the temple to make sure we didn't miss out on our next vegetarian/Buddhist supper, squatting at a table with chopsticks - Oh sublime enlightenment!
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