Nippon Trip: Kōyasan

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Michele Moricci

KŌYASAN We are about to make a journey into a journey. Leaving the chaos of Ōsaka, we are going to dive into the most pure relax. Not far away, Mount Kōya is waiting for us. Following the suggestion of a friend, we booked a room in a Buddhist temple. An intense night to savor the philosophy and way of life of the monks at the association of Shukubo.

Kōyasan – the sacred mount of Japan – is so devoid of perdition that we feel out of place! We ask for directions to our “onenight-house” and of course we get them in the blink of an eye. We find ourselves in front of a Ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel): a Bōzu welcomes us, counsels us to remove our shoes before entering and guides us to our room.

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The floor is covered with Tatami, on the right we see a small Tokonoma (niche) set up with western TV instead of the usual Buddhist statues or Ikebana compositions. At the center of the room, a wonderful table lies by the window and we can see the elegant garden full of flowers and Bonsai.

Left our luggages and savored the smell of wood that hangs in the room – we set off to explore the mountaineer village. We have soya bars or something like that for lunch and then we get lost in the many temples scattered nearby. On our way we come across little japanese kids asking questions to tourists for practicing in English – no doubt, a formative pastime.

We move to the North East to undertake the journey within 2 kilometers of the famous “Lantern Walk”. Walking through the Okunoin cemetery is really impressive, sun filters through the many trees and illuminates an expanse of graves and all forms of Buddha covered by many layers of gags – useful to protect children and travelers. The air is fresh and the silence surrounds the quiet afternoon between the lanterns. We dock to the Mausoleum of Kōbō-Daishi, where pilgrims and faithful pray compounds or pour water to their protective deities.

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It’s time to get back to our Ekoin for an ascetic dinner prepared for us by the monks. The sky turned gray and the silence hangs undisturbed in Shukubo. Everything is ready for the dinner at 6.00 pm, the tables are laden typically in a room full of paintings and colorful sheets of gold. Nor exciting ingredient neither a marvellous presentation make this meal part of the World Heritage cuisine according to Unesco.

After dinner we retire in our room. We find the Futon already organized for the night – (traditional Japanese bedding consisting of padded mattresses and quilts pliable enough to be folded and stored away during the day, allowing the room to serve for purposes other than as a bedroom). Outside meanwhile starts to rain, so we wear our Yukata and we let soothed by the drizzle that gently beats on the roof. Before going to seriously sleep, we take courage and put off for an O-furo (hot bath): the thermal water boiling restores our spirits and cleanses us from all worldliness of the previous days.

In the morning, the alarm rings at 6.00 am o’clock for the daily function, but we stay rolled in the soft and warm futons until our departure…

NEXT STOP > KYOTO


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Michele Moricci