Monday, October 15, 2012


So today we have the first ever guest blogger! Ben is posting today about our trip to Koya-san to stay in a temple run by Buddhist monks and explore the Oku-no-in cemetery...

Hello all. Yesterday we travelled from Nara to Koya-san, the headquarters of the Shingon school of esoteric Buddhism. We caught a train to Gokurakubashi at the base of the mountain on which Koya-san is located and then boarded a cable car/train to take us to the top.

From cable car looking down the mountain
We checked in to our temple and our traditional Japanese room and quickly went to our meditation class at the meditation hall. Here we were left, with legs crossed, trying to meditate (but failing) for the next 30 mins. I couldn't cross my legs properly and both Megan and my legs fell asleep. Apart from this it was a relaxing experience, but alas we did not (and could not in such short a time, according to the monks) achieve enlightenment. 

After meditation we went back to our room to receive our dinner, delivered by the monks on trays. The vegetarian fare was wonderfully presented, but not to either of our tastes; although we did get rather large beers, which were delicious. 

Following dinner we signed up for a night tour of Oku-no-in, the ancient Buddhist cemetery down the road, with one of the Monks, Kobu (I think). Megan and I both loved the tour and we learnt a lot we would otherwise have been unaware of. After the tour it was back to the hotel for an early bed time in preparation for our early 6am rise for morning ceremony.

Morning ceremony involved a lot of chanting from the monks and some very good use of cymbals. Following this we went straight to the fire ceremony which was magnificent. The ceremony started slowly with lots of chanting and some drumming. After a while the fire was lit and slowly built up to a climax in time with the chanting and drums, before dying back down to nothing. 

Breakfast was served in our room on trays again - another vegetarian meal in which flavour did not seem to be a major priority. Neither of us would last long in temple life. We took another trip to the cemetery to see it in daylight. It was just a beautiful as it was the night before. We got lots of photos and would definitely recommend anyone coming to Japan take the time out to visit this magnificent place.

Buddha of Beauty - Megan threw in a coin for luck (not that she needs it.)
Megan wrote that.

From Koya-san it was on to Hiroshima today for some admiration of the destructive power of the A-bomb. More on that to come later...

Love Ben xox

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