Kōya-san – Day 2
After sleeping very well at the temple (you only hear the sounds of the wind and the rain, nothing else) it was time to get up for the morning prayers.
Together with the other guests who stay at temple you can witness here how the monks perform their ceremonies . These are composed of chanting various Buddhist texts. The whole ceremony takes about an hour after which breakfast is served.
Breakfast is extensive and composed of tofu, miso soup, rice and lots of other tasty foods. All of this you can eat in a private little room, which, for us, was the same room that we had for dinner yesterday.
After breakfast we started our day with picking up an audio guide , which is a kind of mp3 player with a selection of about a hundred numbers which explain various sights in the village. Every time you see a number of the audio guide, you can hear a bit about the area. Often this is quite handy because not everywhere are signs with explanations and with the audio guide you at least have an idea of what is noteworthy about the things you are seeing.
With the audio guide on hand we visited Okunoin, the local cemetery. With Koyasan being a very religious place, there are a lot of grave markers here of a lot of important people throughout Japan’s history. At this cemetery you can find already 40 – 50 of the audio guide numbers that explain who finds his last resting place here.
Amongst the grave markers and mausoleums you can find the following people
- Takeda Shingen and his son Katsuyori
- Tokugawa Yorinbu
- Data Masamune
- Famous kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjūrō
Besides important people there are also thousands of grave markers of ordinary people, and even from companies who pay respect to their employees here.
The whole cemetery is about 2km long and the hole area is used as efficient as possible. At the end of the walk, there is a temple where the offerings for Kobo Daishi are collected and presented to Jizo Bosatsu, his taster.
Then you get to the last bridge of the cemetery after which you are asked not to take picture or talk to loud, because you are entering the afterlife, the place where Kobo Daishi meditates for eternity.
There are multiple buildings here with tens of thousands of lanterns and little statues here in memory of a lot of people. All the way at the back you can find the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi.
After our visit to Okunoin it was already time for lunch, which meant that we could rest a little without the rain pouring down on us. We had a bowl of noodles and a beer and we were ready to get going again. We walked to the other side of town to visit the Tokugawa mausoleum.
Besides looking at both buildings there is not much else to see here. We continued to Nyonindo, the only remaining female prayer hall of the seven that were once built on the outer edge of the city to shelter female pilgrims. They were not allowed to enter within the city walls, but came to Koyasan on a pilgrimage walk around the city.
After this visit, there’s no other option than to walk back because the rest of the road is exclusively for buses and taxis. On the way back we walked past the Kongobuji temple which we visited. This is the main temple of Shingon Buddhism and there is a whole tour through the temple. Also here, we put the audio guide to good use. Halfway the tour there is even a cup of tea included.
The temple also has an impressive rock garden.
Having some spare time, we went back to Danjo Garan to use the audio guide for some extra explanation on the different buildings at the site and even on some special trees (it is because there was a tree here that was sparkling at night that Kukai started here with the Shingon Buddhism). Around 4 PM we went back to our temple, tired and soaked by the rain .
The baths at the temple were a great way to reheat ourselves. Around 5:30 PM it was time again for dinner. This time we were showed a different room to eat in, this was a huge 25 tatami room, with gold colored walls and beautiful decorations. For a moment we had to feeling that we were eating like the early emperors .
After dinner we had to make sure everything was packed for tomorrow, because the bus leaves pretty early and after the big breakfast, we’ll just have time to grab our bags and leave for our next destination.