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Sacred places, a special graveyard and sleeping in a temple


We got up, showered, packed and ordered coffees with the free drink vouchers we still had. The ice latte was big, but my machiato ended up being a tiny cortado. We bought some buns and onigiris on our way to the station after checking out and having a really socially awkward conversation with the hostel guy (the highlight was: "I've heard the monks have *suuuper* wifi", excuse me, what?). We took the circular train to Shin-imamiya and once there we asked in the first information point we saw. There, we got directly a Heritage Ticket for Koyasan and got everything explained, so we even had time left to decide to take the backpacks with us instead of leaving them in a locker.
Our first train was to Hashimoto, where we had to wait a bit and change to another to Gokurakubashi. The higher we went, the greener everything was! The last step was a cable car to Koyasan, which had nice views and some romantic music.

On top, just outside the station, a man asked us where were we going and pointed us to our bus and told us our stop number. From there, it was just a couple minutes until Ekoin, our temple lodge. We arrived at the same time as another two groups, so they made an introduction to all of us and showed us to our rooms. Ours was a 2-in-1 room in the ground floor, directly in the inner garden. Inside, we had tea and japanese sweets! We chilled a bit and then went to the other side of Koyasan, where we say the Head temple, the Visitor center and the Danjo Garan Complex. This last one was impressive. Big, beautiful, magic! Since we wanted to attend meditation at 16:30, we didn't have time to see the Dai-mon Gate. Back in the Ekoin, it was super full. Apparently a big group had arrived. In meditation (in English), we were already about 30! A monk tought us how to breathe (same as explained in the instructions in our room) and left us to it for 15 minutes.

Then he told us dinner would be served in our room at 17:30, so we went there, changed into our yukatas and waited for it (and they called before bringing it in just in case). It was a lot: many different types of tofu, some jelly things I've never seen before, pumpkin soup, tempura and fruit. When we managed to finish it, we called them and they came to make our beds. We changed again and went to the cemetery, Okuno-in. We started with light, and while we were there it got totally dark, lights turned on, and looked misterious and magical. We saw a couple times the people from the guided tour and sounded, well, like a tour. The temple in the end had lots of lights and looked beautiful. We walked back to Ekoin and went to the Ofuros to have a bath. After, we had some tea, strolled a bit around taking pictures and chilled before going to sleep.

The cable car to Koyasan
A corner of the Danjo Garan complex
Our meditation room before it got full
A dinner at the temple lodgin
Okuno-in with the last day light
The cementary is totally illuminated at night
Thousands of lights at the temple
Being a bit dumb in a yukata


We woke up at 6 to be at the main temple of the precint to join the monks praying at 6:30. Their chanting was somehow soothing enough to keep me from raging with many guests showing up late and being disrespectful. At 7, they redirected us to a smaller place outside to see the Goma fire ritual. It felt a bit of a show, since it was so full of people. One monk was banging a drum while the other burned the wish-sticks (of the people that payed 300 yen), before putting some incense and oil onto them. For clarification: my description is meant to be funny, not bitter... it was absolutely beautiful, even if it felt so... touristy (although the monks insisted they have to do it every morning, with or without people).

Back in our room, breakfast was already served. Another big vegetarian feast! After if, Alex went into the ofuro while I packed, and then checked how the cemetery looked like by day. The bakery I saw and wanted to try was closed for the day, so we went early back to Osaka, got some 511 buns, and took another train to Kyoto (which was actually faster than going through Osaka!).

The Goma fire ritual
Vegetarian breakfast with the monks
Ekoin entrance
The cementary by day
Published: 28 July 2019, by susana

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It was Alex's birthday. And I got a notification: one of the flights you are following is cheaper than ever. Dresden - Osaka, Tokyo - Dresden. Comfortable, cheap, and with a nice airline? Buy first, think later! So as it happens, our first experience in Japan had to be during raining season! Which, was amazing (we might have been super lucky with the weather, though!)

Entry 3 out of the 6 from this trip

June 2019