Onto Kyoto

Leaving Koyasan was a hot, humid journey.

I took the bus from Shojoshin-in Temple to the cable car station and had to stand for the ride since the bus was small and there wasn’t anywhere to put my suitcase.  I was already sweating profusely before I boarded the bus and the lack of air conditioning only made that worse for me.  Also, I was stressed as I had to pay close attention to the time for this journey.  In order to arrive in Kyoto at a decent time that evening, I had to make the 3:19pm cable car from Koyasan so that I could catch the 3:30pm train back to Osaka. A tight train schedule getting to my next destination, Kyoto.

I bought my ticket for the return trip to Osaka the day before as part of a Koyasan travel package.  What I didn’t realize though, was that it wasn’t a direct train- I’d have to transfer to another train halfway to Osaka.  Plus, I wouldn’t have an assigned seat, which I wanted.  So at the top station of the cable car, I went to the ticket window to change it to the express train, but had no success.  Trying to change that ticket was my only time encountering any sort of problems with my lack of Japanese speaking ability as the older ticketing gentleman didn’t want to take the time to help me.  He just kept telling me the type of ticket I already had and waved me away.  So, I let it go, deciding that I would deal with it at the bottom station, and got on the cable car.  I dragged my stupidly heavy suitcase down the steep steps to the bottom of the car platform to board it at the front so as to save time at the bottom.  It was so hot and I was really starting to sweat.

The view back up to the top of the cable car platform. Continue reading “Onto Kyoto”

Okunoin Cemetery (Koyasan part 4)

Okunoin Cememtery

So after breakfast I returned to my room to pack and get checked out.  I was sad to be leaving after such a short stay, but onto the big adventure for the day-Okunoin Cemetery.  However, it didn’t take me long to get sidetracked on my way out the temple.  As no sooner was I 20 feet from my room, than the tripod was out and I was shooting.  The place was just too beautiful and every time I turned my head, I saw something new and interesting.

I spent the next hour shooting around the pond that I had been looking at as I ate.  The closer I looked, the more I noticed like the giant spiders or new fish swimming in the pond.  There were little details everywhere that just begged to be discovered.

The monk, who didn’t speak English, was doing his daily routine of cleaning and had made his way to where I was.  He found a gecko that was clinging to an inside window of a door  and summoned me over to show me.  These geckos apparently only live indoors here and it seemed I was lucky to have been able to see one.  I tried to photograph it, but it just didn’t seem to want to have its picture taken as it did it’s best to hide, eventually climbing away behind the wall. The monk then took me to a corner of the pond to show me the frogs that I had missed as they were completely camouflaged and making no noise.

I could have stayed for several days just photographing inside the temple itself and never exploring any other part of Koyasan.  I still spent another half hour wandering around the grounds of the temple after checking out before finally going into the cemetery. Continue reading “Okunoin Cemetery (Koyasan part 4)”

Koyasan part 2

So dinner was wonderful, simple and really not that unfamiliar since it was a lot like other Kaiseki meals I have had at Ryokan’s before.  The only difference was the absence of meat.  It filled me up for sure and gave me the energy to get moving again.

I slowly made my way back up to my room to grab my tripod. I forgot that it gets darker earlier here so I was going to need some support to shoot in the dark. I started shooting around the darkened temple first.  It was so quiet. I then headed out to the streets and wandered up a bit into the town.  Not much to see though as everything was closed.  I did however start to hear a loud crowd coming my way which turned out to be school kids heading into the cemetery for a little nighttime tour.  I decided to go into the cemetery as well.

Continue reading “Koyasan part 2”

Koyasan part 1

People here in Japan were curious as to why I would want to go Koyasan.  It’s out of the way and nothing but temples.  Plus, it’s a little bit of a pain to get there when you have to tote a suitcase.  But, I decided to go becasue I thought it would give me a better glimpse into the traditional Buddhist element of Japan, clearer than just going to the main temples all the toursits go to.

Here’s some background on Koyasan from an excellent website on Japan and Japan travel called Japan Guide:

Mount Koya (Koyasan) is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect which was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi (also known as Kukai), one of Japan’s most significant religious figures. A small, secluded temple town has developed around the sect’s headquarters that Kobo Daishi built on Koyasan’s wooded mountaintop. It is also the site of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum and the start and end point of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage.


Kobo Daishi began construction on the original Garan temple complex in 826 after wandering the country for years in search of a suitable place to center his religion. Since then over one hundredtemples have sprung up along the streets of Koyasan. The most important among them are Kongobuji, the head temple of Shingon Buddhism, and Okunoin, the site of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum.”

So I made a reservation online to stay the night at a temple named Shojoshin-in, right next to the entrance of the famous cemetery, Okunoin.  What an amazing experience!  I arrived a just in time to check in as my journey there was a contiuous chain of just in time events, going from train to train to train to cable car to bus.

The train ride from Namba station in Osaka was spectacular.  As the train ascended into the mountains, you felt like you were leaving one world and heading into a place that was quite far removed and remote.  It turned out I wasn’t the only person on the train like I had thought, there were about 10 other people in the other three cars.  After the train, I had to catch a cable car to the top of the mountain and for that, I was the only passenger.  I missed the cablecar I was supposed to take since I had to make a short bathrrom stop.  It threw off my trip timing and it meant that I would have to hurry even faster once I got to the top.

I got to the top and caught my bus.  The fun of that was that the driver spoke no English and you had to push a button when you wanted the bus to stop.  It was hard to hear the station announcements.  Luckily, my stop was the stop everyone was waiting for so it ended up being no problem.  Shojoshin-in was just down the street about 25 yards but the main gate had been closed and it took me a minute to figure out how to get in.  I found a gardener who called someone to help me.

Continue reading “Koyasan part 1”