He who eats alone chokes alone. ~Proverb

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Japan trip - Mount Koya

BEAR: Visiting Koya-san was one of the biggest highlights of the trip. Koyasan or Mount Koya is located is in the South of Osaka. It's roughly about one and a half hours from Osaka via train. It's also the place where Shingon Buddhism was found by a monk named Kukai. 

Cat marked Koyasan as a must visit because of the view and also because he wanted to visit the mausoleum of his hero, Oda Nobunaga which was in Okunoin which is literally a graveyard.

There is no fancy-smeancy hotel there but you can find lodging in hostels or temples. We decided to stayed at the Shojoshin-in temple. It's roughly about 10,000 yen per person per night. My initial thought about visiting Koyasan wasn't very good. I did not understand why the temple charged by the person and not by the room and the fact that it was bloody expensive.

Our super comfy futons

Our room has no lock, has a sink but no toilet bowl, 2 futons on the floor, a kerosene heater that smells of kerosene, a kotatsu, 2 yukatas and a fantastic view.

We left our shoes outside the temple in a wooden shoe rack. The shoes froze overnight, and when we put them on the next morning,  so did our toes!

Cat hiding under the kotatsu

The room was incredibly wide and spacious which was nice but the toilet located outside was a bit of a hassle considering that it was 5 degrees Celsius in our room and about 0 degrees in the hall. The toilet bowls were wonderfully heated, thank God.

The view outside our room

I wanted to see snow, and Cat showed me a blizzard. It was extremely cold for me as I was used to having 30 degrees Celsius almost all year round. I bundled up like a very fat bear and waddled about, the gloves making me unable to pull my fallen bra strap up without difficulty.

Dinner was at 5:30pm but we decided to have something to eat about 1:00pm, considering we're up in a mountain and not many restaurants were open, we popped into a small one-woman show restaurant and I ordered the curry soba.

Our meal arrived in less than 5 minutes and tasted so good. The bowl was big enough for me to dunk my entire head in, seriously! And the price? Freaking reasonable. This huge bowl of curry soba cost  under 700 yen!

After lunch, we went for a walk to visit the famous Okunoin and the Kongobu-ji, the head temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism.

In winter time, Okunoin looks so hauntingly beautiful. It was a lovely walk. The snow got heavier as we went along.

A super cool looking grave I couldn't resist taking a picture of. Anyone know to whom it might belong to?

The mausoleum of the great oda Nobunaga. I expected it to be much fancier and bigger :P

On our way back

When dinner time came, I found out why it cost us 10,000 yen per person per night.

We had tofu made from sesame giving it a very smooth yet sticky and firm texture; very much like jelly. Fried tempura, sweet grilled beans, mushroom soup.

On the other side was dessert of apples, oranges and strawberry along with a bowl of boiled pumpkin, pea, mushroom, more tofu and lotus root. We also had a strange ginger soup. The dessert above was actually a sweetened, preserved(?) orange and sweet potato. The sakura patterned dessert was something I have no idea what is was. It was slightly sourish and very crunchy and slimy.

Dinner was all vegetarian food and it was out of this world. The food were tasty, super fresh and they paid so much details to the food that it was a sin not to take pictures first. I polished off atleast 3 bowls of rice that night.

Yes, we had to be up by 6:30am in the morning. We had 10 minutes to get up and ready at the sound of a gong. The kerosene heater was extremely smelly and we decided not to turn it on. We slept together in a futon and combined our blankets together. All in all, we had 4 blankets, 2 water bottles and each other to hug. At about 5:30am, Cat woke up and turned on the heater.

It was a long walk to the Main Hall and it was extremely cold. During the ceremony where we had to kneel on the floor, sitting next to the heater didn't help much either.

All I wanted was breakfast, I couldn't wait for the chanting to be over and go eat. Breakfast is understandably less fancy but still as good.

We have fried tofu, sweet beans, seaweed, and vegetables along with a miso soup. So was it worth the 10,000yen?

Many times yes! It was a fantastic experience despite having my toes frozen and painful, bathing in a public bath at night with 0 degrees temperature, painful slipper, water so cold you can't wash your hands under the tap for 3 seconds, and the smell of kerosene and etc. It was wonderful and I strongly recommend this to anyone who's going to Osaka. Make the effort to visit Koya-san. You won't regret it!

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