Koya San was to be reached using a couple of different railways, and finally a vertical cable car into the mountain top resort that is Koya San, the head quarters of the Shingon School of Esoteric Buddhism.
Unfortunately what we didnt realise that the bus stop thta we had been using for 4 days would suddenly send us in totally the wrong direction and it would take us 30 mins to notice, hence a one hour detour before we started on the 3hr journey to Koya San.
The last hour or so of the journey was amazing, we were on a train that was hugging steep drops on either side with thick forest all around and mountain peaks, it was just gorgeous. We stopped at Gokurabashi, then it was the steepest cable car I eva saw in my whole life, it couldnt have been any steeper or it would just have fallen off the mountain. felt like we were miles up, but were only just over a km high.
We had booked a room for one night in the Hongakuin temple(one of many), when we turned up the monks all looked like we turned up naked, the expression on their faces!
The 1monk who had any grasp of English(such was our lack of Japaanese, and the LP phrasebook disnae cover every situation we get oorselves into!), turned up and showed us to our room, yet again, another beutiful tatami, paper screened room, and a wee table that had undertable heating in it, so when we stuck oor legs under the table we got roasted, heaven....., as it was a good deal cooler up here than it was in the city.
We had a luvly walk round the town where we saw a wee monks dragon type dance that involved a lot of drum bashing and lions(monks) stomping around, all different temples in the area. Then it was back for dinner in the room, where we were served up a gorgeous looking dinner, it looked to good to eat, unfortunately, it also looked a LOT better than it tasted. I was pretty prepared for it, being a fussy eater, no liking veggie food, and liking tofu even less. Was brave tried most things, none of it was particularly pleasing to my palate, that is to say I found it howling :P I couldnt stomach facing the green sludge that my auntie k actually managed to put in her mouth, i was well impressed!! The funniest bit was her face tho! Didnt want to offend the monks so had a doggy bag, except this one was going straight in the nearest bin outwith teh Koya San mountain incase buddha saw us!
Having never found the toilet in our mass of sliding doors we decided we must have to do it in the communal one along the hall, so off auntie went while i was trying to cleanse my soul of not eating holy food, when I heard a scream laughter and mens voices, oh no I thought, whits she up tae noo, having been constantly embarrassing me with her spouts of Japanese I could only wonder, when she returned to the room, monk in tow, a look in the showeer room, tehn they disappeared again, only for me to ehar more shouts and sqeals of laughter, honestly, only she could cause a riot in a monastery, the monks were probably sposed to be in deep meditation the noo and she had them chasing after her in the corridors.
Next we had chief monk, English monk and her all in the room, where he displayed the toilet room behind another sliding screen door. Honestly it made me laugh, all these monks racing round after her, chasing her out of the toilets. Although the toilets were nothing to be laughed at, they ahd the ususal amenities, bidet like functions where a wee pipe comes oot from the pan and scoots water up, heated toilet seats, flushing water sound to disguise your movements.
They even had vending machines!! This is truly Japan!
Next day was a 530am rise in time for morning prayers, before a 740bus to Koya San Cable car, then a 3 hr bus trip to Kyoto, then a 2.5hr shinkansen to Tokyo! So early bed, eh I mean futon, very comfy futon!
A drum sounded us in the direction of the morning prayers, it had already started when we entered. I assumed the Zen meditation pose, kneeling on top of my legs, comfy for about 5 mins, before the blood stopped flowing to my legs, tried shuffling discreetly, while listening to teh chanting. The room was just luvly, nice and cosy kneeling on teh heated rugs, listening to teh monks chanting, incense burning, it was luvly, except for the fact that my legs were agony. Eventually gave up trying to be pious and slipped down onto the side, ensuring my feet didnt point forwards, insult i believe. After a while even that position became sore, so back onto ma knees, aaahhh, really sore this time, so doon and crossed my legs after spotting guy next to me doin the same, yippee, comfort as last. After a 20 minute speel from really old head monk, we shot off for breakfast, this time, i had the doggie bag at my side, brown squidgy things, tofu, bean paste were fun last nite but not at 7am. Auntie tried a few more things but the screwed up look on her fae confirmed I had the right idea!
Went to pay, shocked at teh price, it was 70GBP each!!!, more than twice wot we had ever paid before here! Didnae like to insult them and ask for special price, so just smiled asif I had expected it, and signed up! Yup, it was the most expensive doggy bag I eva had.......
Worth it for the whole experience tho, the morning prayers were just amazing, and actually sleeping in the monastery were great.
Hongakuin, Koya San, Kii Peninsula, tel +81-736-562784