Koyasan and the pilgrims after Thanksgiving

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One of the other guests at Yougendo was headed up to mount koya (Koyasan), and invited me to join him for the day. He’d finished the pilgrimage walking between the 88 temples on Shikoku a few days ago, and wanted to go up to Koyasan, which is traditionally the final stop on the pilgrimage. I had actually considered staying at a monastery up there one night, but wound up ruling it out because it had sounded too out-of-the-way (among other reasons). Hearing that it could be a day trip, and happy to have some company, I decided to go. On the ~2 hour train ride, I heard a bit more about his trip, some of the characters he’d met, and stories of his fights with a neighbor’s pet kangaroo while growing up in Australia. Entertaining stories to say the least.

To get to Koyasan involved taking 2 trains, a cable car (at such a steep incline that the car was stepped inside), and a bus. Once there, we wandered through a really cool cemetery on the way to the temple. Phil had learned quite a bit about the various Buddha statues in the course of his journey, so he was able to help explain a lot of the things we saw. For example, the bibs on some buddhas and hats on others (an expression of piety and remembrance for stillborn/lost babies, and acts if piety done out of consideration for the buddhas in the cold, respectively).

The older part of the graveyard was really neat, with huge trees and mossy covered stone monuments. The newer side had shiny markers, and one had a rocket(!?) In the old section, there were a few new plots/monuments as well — including one shiny one for the Panasonic corporation.

The town itself really thrived on the visitors and pilgrims. Phil put it well after we saw $60 vegetarian lunches in one window — it’s a 1000(+) year old tourist trap. We found another place just down the street with a similar kind of food but much less expensive. I had a rice dish with “mountain vegetables” which included something that reminded me of fiddlehead ferns. All very tasty.

Dinner was a collection of interesting and as-yet-untried foods from the supermarket across the street, shared in the kitchen at the guesthouse, where the staff were also having dinner (tacos).

Tomorrow, I’ll spend the day in Nara and then head over to Osaka.

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