© 2010 notworkrelated - David Rutter & Helen Roscoe. All rights reserved. notworkrelated Koyasan 1

Japan – Koyasan 2nd November

We started the day off once more with the cost effective filling breakfast provided by K’s before checking out to start the first leg of the journey. We anticipated around 5 hours of travel so we were keen to get an early start. Our first train with the JR pass took us out of Kyoto on an express train to Osaka where we changed to go to Shimamiya. From here we had to buy train tickets for another train company which included a long winded train journey into the mountains and finally a cable car connection from Gokurakubashi up to Koyasan. The cable car took around 10 minutes and was a steep track up to a small station which still had the same ticket operating gates you’d see in the metro. You tend to find technology in the most unusual places such as vending machines on your way up to a historic temple, or right on the drive of someone’s house, this is something that always amuses us.

So with a short bus journey to complete our travel to this world heritage site we landed at what we thought was our temple accommodation for the evening. The only problem was that Helen had printed off the wrong temple information, when booking this the agents sent through a list of temples even though we had booked only one, others in Koyasan were included in the email, so we realised we were in the wrong place and they sent us up the road to what they thought was our temple. This was around 15 minutes walk up hill with all of our backpacks with us, arriving at the second temple and we found out that this one wasn’t ours either! Nightmare!! Finally we found our temple and it was right near the site entrance, so it would have been the first stop off the bus and the cheapest fare too!! We managed to laugh about it though.

The temple we were checking into is called Rengejo-in, more expensive than some of the others in town but we had read some good reviews and it was a kind of birthday treat for Dave. We couldn’t get into our room until 3pm so we set out in search of some local world heritage sights. We weren’t disappointed and the light was fantastic with blue skies, bright sunshine and red autumn leaves teasing us all the while. The site closest to our accommodation is called Garan and is a temple complex with several halls and pagodas. The Dai-to (Great Pagoda) is the most impressive and beautiful Pagoda we have so far seen on our travels in Japan. It towers above you in strong golds, oranges and reds and glowed in the sunlight whilst school children sketched their surrounding landscape. There were many pilgrim tours taking place as well as tour groups dropping into the site for the day. We loved photographing around this site and with the addition of red leaves against a blue sky it definitely captured our imaginations.

Walking up from Garan we retreated to the temple as we were keen to get our monies worth here. We were introduced to our grand, traditional Japanese style room by a friendly monk who spoke good English. He informed us about the do’s and don’ts, bath-times, ceremonies taking place and so on. We had an hour or so to settle in before the first ceremony which was a 45 minute meditation session. We drank some tea and kept our legs under the table which sneakily had a heater fixed into it, we had noticed the drop in temperature in Koyasan and the paper thin walls weren’t keeping us any warmer. At 5.30pm we attended the meditation session along with other temple guests. It was a really insightful experience as you only ever go into a temple rather than being part of any kind of Buddhist ceremony. The lead monk introduced the session and told us we would meditate until the incense stopped burning some 40 minutes later. Helen has some experience of meditation from her yoga class back in the UK and a few other retreats but for the most part around 10-15 minutes would be the longest. It was a very long 40 minutes but equally we were surprised that it didn’t feel longer. He finished the ceremony by telling us a few tales about the mountainous area, the importance of meditation and a few other more Buddhist related facts. It was something we will both never forget. Afterwards we were led into the dining room where we sat with the other westerners staying the night. We had something like 9 dishes placed in front of us from fruit, to miso soup, several kinds of tofu, pickles, squash, rice and other things we can’t quite remember.

After a quick chat with a nice Dutch couple we went back to our room, used the onset baths and then settled into our beds for an early night. We were due to rise at just before 6am for the morning ceremony. Not before passing the time by light-painting with our head torch and some fairy crazy moves. Much laughter followed!

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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One Comment

  1. Posted 19 Nov ’10 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    i want some of those floor chairs : )

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