Koyasan - Peaceful Retreat

Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
Trip End Mar 28, 2010

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The response I got from most Japanese when I mentioned that I was going here was, "Why do you want to go there?" or "What is that place?"  The truth is, this was one of those places which had some reputation for tourism but not enough that locals would hear about it.  Unlike, for example, the temples of Kyoto during cherry blossom season or the giant Buddha statue of Nara.

My reasoning for going there went beyond the fact that I read it in the Lonely Planet.  The description of a small town secluded within the mountains and nature was just the kind of retreat that I needed from being in Beijing.  I didn't care that I was going alone... and rather the opposite, I preferred it.

As I arrived, surprisingly enough, the official tourist office didn't really have English support.  I had the luck of finding a particular office which gave tours to English-speaking audiences.  They were not open every day of the week so this is what I meant by lucky.  There was even a sign which said, "Closed."  I was glad that I ignored that and went in anyway.  I have to thank the lady in this office for helping me budget my afternoon.  Since the history of the town was for Buddhism, they apparently had good vegetarian cuisine.  Therefore, she directed me to get one of a delicious vegetarian lunch nearby (refer to the photo).  They made a special tofu from flour... called Goma.  It wasn't my favorite... but the overall meal was excellent and I would easily return back for it.

Following a general walk in the area, I visited a famous Kongabuji temple where had supposedly one of the largest rock gardens in all of Japan.  I ventured east from there.  There was a large cemetery which led up a slight incline to the another famous place, the Lantern Hall.  The experience was almost like a scene from the movies.  All along the path are moss-covered grave stones which aligned with cypress trees.  The strange part was that I didn't feel uncomfortable.  Imagine that it is dusk, approaching darkness, and you're walking in a cemetery which you haven't been to before.  Yes, there were moments where I thought it would be too eerie for me.  Although I just stuck to the main path where occasionally I would encounter others taking the same walk.

It was a time for reflection, meditation and prayer.  Things that most people shy away from yet things that people need in their life more than they realize.  Regardless, I was there with my sketchbook and Bible.  I was there to hear and get questions answered and as I discovered, the town itself was conducive to it all.  
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