Category: Kōya-san


Kōya-san to Okayama

This morning started similarly to yesterday – early meditation followed by vegetarian temple breakfast – there was no formal tour of the Treasure(s) this time, but we were allowed to wander around them self-guided so-to-speak.  This time there was a family of four in attendance, the other guests presumably having checked out the previous day.

It was, as before, cold – enough that I needed to break out the cold weather gear again.  This time, however, I’d be wearing it all day.  Packing everything up, I went downstairs and left my baggage in the office and headed out to take some photos.

I had been saving Oku-no-in for this morning to get some actual daytime shots, and wandered about for most of the morning.

And just in case you thought you’d turned in your last project at work when you ‘retired’, the company you work for offers you a spot in their corporate grave where you can continue to put your hours in.

I paid my respects at the Kūkai mausoleum, took note of the tour groups starting to show up, and decided to get some lunch.

Some Soba Tempura and I was off to get my luggage and head for Okayama.  It ended up being a little over three hours, end-to-end, but there wasn’t a lot of waiting around thankfully.  On the way, I passed through Osaka where I’ll be visiting later, and got a feel for the city and its transit system.

Arriving in Okayama, I was glad that I had booked a hotel near the station – I was tired and had had enough walking, particularly with baggage in toe.  My room actually overlooks the station as the trains come and go, including the Shinkansen line that runs from Osaka to Hakata I arrived on.  I’m still not sure if the windows are supposed to open or if it’s just for emergencies – I tried, but it felt like the whole window might pop out so I gave up fearing a costly disaster.  No photos, I guess.

Heading out for dinner, I did my best to find the “entertainment district”, typically where the majority of good restaurants are going to be.  I’m not sure I found it – Okayama seems to shut down pretty early on a weekday, and just about everything was closed with no apparent concentration of restaurants or bars.

I ended up heading back towards the station, and stumbled upon an Izakaya/Yakitori style restaurant – small, cozy, and built for the locals.  I just wish it hadn’t taken an hour to find, but the food was great and they threw in some extra sake as “service” (free).

On the way back to the hotel:

Time to change the lights...

Bicycle Lock-up - $1/24 hours (I think)

When staying at a temple, your schedule is somewhat set – and that includes getting up in the morning for 6:30 meditation.  Somehow, I made it in time – and I’m glad I had my winter wear, as the pond outside had an ice glaze on it, having frozen overnight, and it was cold – very cold.

Meditation lasted about 30 minutes, after which we were given a tour (in Japanese mind you) of the treasures of Shojoshin-in, the temple where I am staying.  There were five of us at meditation – a grandmother, mother, and two sons, and another foreigner.  After meditation, the other foreigner left, presumably to go to breakfast, whereas I hung back with the japanese and as a result got to go on the tour.  We headed to breakfast afterwards (which they serve the same as dinner – in your own ‘meal’ room, different than where you sleep but just as private.

Today was to be a day of travelling around the mountain top, visiting all the major temple and museums on offer.  A few kilometres of walking (I generally avoid the easy option – the bus) and snapping photos of:

The temple where I stayed (Shojoshin-in):

It was cold and I needed I warm drink – corn or red bean?  I went with the one on the right.

Tokugawa Mausoleum – can’t see through the fence, unfortunately

Nyonindo Gate

Kongōbuji

The Garan – Dai-tō (Great Pagoda), Kondō (Main Hall), Sai-tō (Western Pagoda).  Met a middle-aged japanese couple here, the husband ran a photo shop and was interested in the camera I was using.  He only had a point-and-shoot with him, having left his SLR (too inconvenient).  With tripod in toe, I attract attention somehow…

Daimon Gate

and finally Reihōkan (Treasure Museum) (no pictures allowed inside!) and Karukaya-dō.  I’m somewhat surprised I could fit it all into one day, but some of the guidebooks did say you could do Kōya-san as a day trip, although it wasn’t advised.

Few more shots of the temple (Shojoshin-in) in late afternoon.  Definitely recommended if you come to Kōya-san and want to be close to the cemetery.

After dinner and onsen, I decided to brave the cold and the Oku-no-in cemetery again – only this time, I would approach it from the main entrance, which is about a kilometre up the road.  Upon entering the main approach to the temple, the path was quite a bit wider and well lit – far fewer feelings of someone jumping out from behind a tombstone (or within one).

Eventually though, the path joined up with the other one, and the way ahead lay in darkness – I’m not sure if they light up the Tōrō-dō (Lantern Hall) or the Kūkai mausoleum, but I decided tonight was not the night to find out and headed back.

Some night shots of the temple (Shojoshin-in) on my return:

As luck would have it, I missed the early morning ferry.  Getting up early enough to catch a 5:55am ferry simply wasn’t in the cards, I guess.

On the plus side, while I might have lost a few hours sightseeing, I also saved some $$ by taking the bus instead of having to grab a taxi to the port.  The ferry is a couple of hours, followed by another three on the train to get to Mt. Koya.  Not the fastest way to get there but the best option considering where I’m coming from.

The last leg of the trip included a cable-car ride up the side of the mountain, and a bus to get to the temple I was staying at.

Meals were included, and happened at set times, so with an early dinner I decided not to waste the afternoon and headed out to the nearby Oku-no-in Cemetery, one of the highlights of any visit here.

I walked all the way to the Kūkai Mausoleum (no pictures allowed in the inner shrine area), and then headed back so I would make it in time for dinner.

Dinner was a traditional Buddhist vegetarian affair – lots to eat, hardly any of which I knew what it was, and given the variety and quantity you really didn’t miss the meat.  This was followed by onsen – bath time is restricted to late afternoon to early evening, so it was now or never.

Aside from getting to bed early, the one thing I wanted to take a walk and try was some night photography at Oku-no-in Cemetery.  The first hand experiences I had read said that as night falls and the temperature drops, you get some really great atmosphere.

Well, night wasn’t falling – it had already fell.  It was after 9pm by the time I got there and started my walk, and in some places the lighting was almost non existent.  I didn’t walk the whole way, instead I spent an hour wandering around in the cold, dark, and eerily quiet atmosphere that only a cemetery can provide.  I wouldn’t recommend doing it alone.

The good news is I got to finally try out my cold weather gear, to combat the frost bitting temperatures up here.  I knew there was a reason I was still carrying them around…

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