Japan day 12: What an adventure in Koyasan


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Asia » Japan
May 17th 2019
Published: May 23rd 2019
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We started the day in Kyoto with me complaining about two very red legs. I must have been bitten by a mosquito. We were about to embark on a very long bout of travelling to Koya-san or Mount Koya.

We walked to the train station just outside the hotel and got on the JR line to Osaka. From Osaka we got onto the Osaka loop line to shin-Imamiya then we got the semi rapid train on Nankai-Koya line to Gokurabashi up in the mountains. As we had inadvertently boarded the train which was reserved seating only, the ticket inspector asked us to pay the fee for the seat. There was no penalty, no fine, no rebuke just a very pleasant exchange. We paid the fee of an additional 740 yen each which is less than $7 each.

Our final ride to our destination was the cable car from Gokurabashi to Koyasan. The cable car ride was only five minutes. On either side there were sheer drops.

Koyasan is the centre of Shingon Buddhism. It was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daisha, also known as Kukai. Koyasan is a small, very secluded town built around the sect’s headquarters. It is also the site of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum and the start of the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage.

The construction of the original Garan temple complex began in 826. Kobo Daishi spent many years wandering the country in search of a suitable place to establish his religion. Since then over 100 temples have sprung up around Japan. We had decided to stay there over Shabbat as we knew it would be peaceful and that we would get vegan food.

We were staying at Ekoin Temple in a ryokan and the young monks that met us to explain the rules were very nice and polite. They showed us to our room which was four tatami mats and would be our living quarters for two nights. Dinner would be served at 1730 and breakfast at 0730. We would eat at the small table in the room. We had a small veranda looking out to a rock garden. In the center was a pipe with flowing water - not conducive to a good night’s sleep for an elderly couple if seen or heard, but fortunately we simply closed a sliding panel and it effectively disappeared.

I decided that I needed to see a doctor about my legs. So the monks phoned through to the local hospital and one who could speak some English drove us to the hospital. I was asked to fill in a form by the two receptionists who spoke no English whatsoever. By the time the young monk had parked the car and come into the hospital I had filled out the form but they were having terrible problems pronouncing my name. Talk about breaking their teeth.

They asked Don and me to sit in the waiting room. The monk disappeared back to the monastery and we prepared ourselves for a very long wait.

There were three people sitting behind us, one man and two women. Suddenly one of the old women jumped up and patted me on the shoulder to try and have a conversation. Don and I didn’t want to laugh at the sign language and attempts that were being made as we didn’t want to be rude. The old man who was with them had got up and moved away at this stage. Then thankfully I was called after a very short wait. The doctor had limited English and Don had our language app and between us we sorted out my problem. He gave me a prescription for anti-histamines and a cortisone ointment. The anti-histamines were stronger than the ones I carry around. The cost of this treatment was just over 4,000 yen or about $40. The hospital called the monastery and the same monk came back to pick us up. By this time it was nearly 2 pm - time for lunch.

We found a vegan restaurant called “Bon On Shya” near our ryokan. This was an organic vegetarian/vegan place with one set dish for lunch or a drink and cakes. We each chose the set plate. It was really quite scrummy. As the pharmacist was next door, Don got my prescription dispensed and I took an anti-histamine tablet. By the time we got back to the monastery it was almost time for dinner.

At 5.30 pm precisely the young monks came in with an 11 course feast. Each course was served together on two dinner trays set up so elegantly on our short table. As we had two chairs in the room we sat at the table in the chairs. After we had eaten and before it was cleared away we brought in Shabbat. We had brought a bottle of wine from home and a packet of matzoh so we could make kiddish and motze and then bensch.

The boys came in some time later to clear it all away. At 7 pm we heard the drums summoning the monks to prayer and then at 7.30 pm they made up our futon beds. By this time the anti-histamine had kicked in and by 9 pm I was fast asleep. I think Don wasn’t too far behind.

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