Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I have been a little removed from blogging, as of late, because I've been on the move; I've been getting into some pretty fantastic adventures and although things are by no means winding down, I've felt the need to write an entry or two. My adventure started last friday for me. My friend C-Monkey, from Australia, was preparing for a journey around the surrounding region, for his last few days in Japan. He suggested I join him for part of it and I did. We got up early, friday morning, and started traveling toward Koyasan on Mount Koya, where we planned to spend a few days. Visiting Mount Koya was already on my list of to-do's and I hadn't even realized that Koyasan was on mount Koya until we had arrived; it was quite the pleasant surprise!
Koyasan is the birthplace of Shingon Buddhism, which is a sect of Esoteric Buddhism. There are tons of temples and shrines to visit and there's even a university of Koyasan, where Buddhism is taught as a major. Cmonkey and I stayed with monks in a temple-lodging location, which was amazing. The rooms were modeled after the Edo-period; They had sliding doors, there were tatami-matted rooms, with communal baths and bathrooms. You would walk into the rooms, at the center of which was a low table with a heated blanked to put your legs under, you sit atop pillows and there's pretty much always tea going around. Meals were served in the room, near the doorway atop trays where, again, you sat atop pillows. Bedding was set up ,typically while we were gone, by the monks; the beds were super-comfortable futon pads set up further into the room.
Part of the deal, when staying at a temple lodging, is getting up for the morning prayer ritual. The service, where we stayed, started at 6am and lasted a little over an hour. There were over a dozen monks and a dozen guests in this dark, candle-lit room, the monks were chanting sutras and mantras, all in sync and the sound set off a powerful vibration throughout the room. Toward the end of the ceremony guest are asked to participate by going through a few steps of offerings. After the service a few of us were invited, by one of the monks, into separate quarters for tea. We all talked with the monks, and amongst ourselves, for the first time; it was really cool to talk with everyone and the general vibe of the room was super upbeat and mellow. We were served breakfast, in our rooms, and then we left for the day.
Cmonkey and I started with a hike over to the huge cemetery, We spent a few hours walking around this amazing place and then by mid-day we were rained-out!
Timing wasn't all that bad though, because I had to catch a bus out to the cable-car line so that I could get back to Osaka by rail; I had plans for that evening in Osaka and there were a few Sakura-Viewing (Cherry Blossom-Viewing) parties that I had intended to go to over the weekend.

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