The large cemetery at the end of rail
Everyone has a limit for
temples/castles/cathedrals and when we were planning this trip I was
concerned about seeing more temples after having visiting Kyoto
. Mark showed me a picture
of Mt. Koya and it was on the itinerary.
To be honest, I had never heard of Mt.
Mark showed me a picture. In hind site, it's probably
because we didn't do that much time reading about Osaka and the
Basically Mt. Koya is temple on a mountain that open more than a
thousand years ago. Being Japan, no
mountain is really that far away (there is a nearly direct train from
Osaka that takes about an hour and half) and if a temple is worth
visiting, a whole tourism industry will grow up around it.
There is now more than a dozen "temple lodgings" - Shukubo - at the top of the
mountain, each with a different experience.
Getting to Mt. Koya is quite interesting. First
you take a train out of Osaka and you watch as the city thins out,
farms start to appear and the town becomes limited to the immediate area
around train stations. Near the end of the line, you climb up
into the mountains and the train travels through tunnels interspersed
with bamboo forests. You pull up to a station that has no town
around it and transfer onto a "cable car" - a cable driven tram up the
side of the mountain. The tram is very similar to the peak tram
in Hong Kong, except it is steeper and (in our case) not nearly as
Once you get to the top, you hop on a local bus and stop at you temple
lodging. Walk in, pay in cash in advance, notice how cold the air
is, and try to get settled in.
After we unloaded our bags (and got a little
went for a walk in Okunoin. Okunoin a giant cemetery (but you
don't see caskets or anything). It's set in a cedar forest with
ancient trees and everything is covered with moss and lichen.
There are stone lanterns guiding your way to a temple complex some
1.5km away. Most sites have stupas - stone pillars inscribed with
family names, but some sites are much more complex with gates, fences
and family of more complex stupas.
Dotting your path are Jizo - small
statues. There is a variety
of interpretation for these. They are often ornately dressed (often
with red hats and bonnets). Some people believe these statues
represent a lost child or baby, even a miscarriage. Jizo is
actually a god and serves as a protector of children. In the
mythology, children don't get into the afterlife because they haven't
yet accumulated enough good deeds. Jizo helps these children by
hiding them under his robe. Either way, Jizo are solom markers of
a difficult time.
Our temple provided dinner and breakfast and they were quite clear we
should be on time. We turned around well before we got to the
temple complex proper. I went out after dinner for some night
photography, but the the dark forest combined with terribly unromantic
florescent lights made it hard to find much. The next more
however, we were blessed with fog and new snow! Walking around
(almost alone - my fellow travelers decided to give me a two hour head
start) in this massive cemetery while it lightly snows was magic.
Eventually you do get to the temple complex at the end of road and what
do you discover? Closed for renovation! There is a smaller
temple to the side that houses 20,000 lanterns. They is lots of
signs up (in Japanese and English) tell you to not take photos.
Turns out if you are alone and polite, the monk doesn't seem to mind to
so much. Each lantern has an inscription on it. Of course I
can't read them, but Helen told me it was roughly poetry.
There are other sights to see at Mt Koya, but after
our luck with the weather in the cemetery, I didn't feel like stalking
monks in more temple complexes. We reversed out trip back (love
that tram way) and found ourselves back in Osaka
with lots of time before dinner.
Tags: lantern(6), Japan(5), Jizo(4), torii(2), moss(2), place of worship(2)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > A Fourth Trip to Japan > Mt Koya
From: John Harvey Photo > A Fourth Trip to Japan > Mt Koya
My wife and I were there. I think we stayed in the same room. Nice images.
Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 at 07:50:32
Last Modified Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 01:40:26 Edit
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