Back in the mountains

Wednesday, 22 June A little bottle of sake and…

A three hour ride into the mountains was totally worth it! Koyasan, the centre of Shingon Buddhism, is a small and secluded temple town surrounded by a stunning cedar forest.

The trail led me through a widespread cemetery. Hundreds of graveyards mixed with massive trees, some of them more than 600 years old and more than 50m high (the trees I mean). Graveyards must have been old as well and they came in all sorts of shapes. Who would want a massive coffee-cup-shaped stone (branded!) as a headstone? This person must have drunk shitloads of coffee. Or maybe was he sponsored by UCC (a Japanese coffee brand)? The person not far away from this one was clearly a Nissan lover. And the one next to him (or her) must have been a rocket scientist, why else would you have a gravestone in a shape of a massive rocket? Again, I’m talking about a sacred more-than-thousand-years-old cemetery…

The temple, Okuoin, is the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. And it is my favourite temple so far! First, finally I saw some Buddhist monks in action (singing, chanting, holding prayers, walking around…). And second, there must be about a million lanterns in this temple! They are all over the place. Inside, outside, in the basement, around the temple, everywhere. And they are simply gorgeous. I wondered how the hell do they lit all of them but realised that they are all electric ones. I was a bit disappointed but hey, who would blame them 🙂 .

I found a forest trail that is supposed to go all around the town. As I started walking I was interrupted by a “Watch out for bears!” sign. Funny, at my last hike a few days ago, it crossed my mind that I have actually no idea of what sort of (dangerous) animals or insects live in Japanese forests. I got so spoiled in New Zealand (where you can hike barefeet as there is pretty much nothing that ca kill you) that it completely slipped out of my mind. Today I got the answer. Bears! “Hm, what’s the chance to meet one?” Probably very slim. However, hiking there on my own, noone knowing where am I, maybe I should at least try to be wise and stay away for once. The last thing I want is to finish in the local newspaper under the headline of “Stupid tourist ignored the warning signs”. If I had a chance to see the headlines myself, I wouldn’t even be able to read them… And, I guess I’m (finally) growing up :).

On my way home I stopped in Osaka, the food capital of Japan. “Sushi traiiiiiiiiin!” I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun at a restaurant. “Excuse me, what’s this? And how do I use these? Soya sauce? Not soya sauce. Uuu, I’ll take this one, and this one, and that one please… And sake too!”

 

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