Woke up in the ghetto, got on a train to Koya-san, birthplace of a certain school of esoteric Buddhism that’s very popular in Japan. Since it’s up a mountain (Koya-san means Mount Koya), it was a bit cooler, which made it a very inviting respite from the humidity of the Japanese summer.
The place is mostly a Buddhist graveyard, but has some beautiful old temples where the old intricate wooden exteriors were on the point of falling apart. In general a very peaceful place. 2 odd things of note – a Panasonic sponsored grave, with, presumably, past presidents of the company, and also a grave with a massive space rocket on top of it.
Actually, another thing that was weird. There was a sort of mini museum, with a basement that takes you into complete darkness, and promises you, with the aid of a written sign, some sort of unforgettable experience. You have to guide yourself with along a wall in the dark. I was totally prepared for something to jump out at me or something, but it was just a buddha shrine down there. Quite spooky but slightly underwhelming.
I had previously booked a room at a Shoku-in, which means a temple with lodgings attached. Didn’t really know what to expect, except I hoped it would be good because it was quite expensive.
I walked through the gate and into the courtyard of the temple, and there was a monk sitting on the stairs. He came up to me and pointed to a scribbled “Bereza” on a piece of paper in his hand, so I nodded.
After I had swapped my stinky hiking boots for some size 6 red slippers he led me, hobbling, down some paper screen lined corridors, interspersed with the occasional ornamental garden courtyard, until we got to room no. 5.
It was an amazing room, japanese style reed matting floors, empty except for a hardwood table in the middle. I had my own private garden too completw with pond and waterfall.
Dinner arrived after 6pm after I’d had a soak in the baths. Again it was inredible. 15 or so dishes, tempura, oden, weird jelly stuff (konyakku I think), noodles, pickles, tofu etc – all vegetarian buddhist style food, delicious.