Kicking Back in Koyasan, Japan

November 25-28, 2013

Massive cedar trees and ancient gravestones in the Okunoin cemetery.



Cable car up the mountain to Koyasan on a misty rainy evening.




First stop in our Japan tour is Koyasan, a temple town in the mountains southeast of Osaka, and the world headquarters of the Koyasan Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. It's very cold the next morning as we wander for hours through the endless Okunoin graveyard deep in a towering cedar forest. The heart of this site is the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, renowned monk and founder of Shingon Buddhism, who is said to have entered eternal meditation here in the year 870. Wishing to be close to Kobo Daishi in death, many prominent Japanese over the centuries have had their tombstones erected here, and it is the largest cemetery in Japan. This is a very atmospheric place, filled with echoes of the past. I especially appreciate the way the monuments and the trees seem to be treated equally with reverence and respect. (No photos allowed of the inner temple.) The mood is doubly mysterious as we return to walk the dimly lit path as night falls.








Kongobu-ji temple complex, founded in 816!











We stay at a wonderful little wood stove heated hostel in Koyasan run by amiable Yuri and Ryochi, where we meet fellow travelers from all over the globe. One rainy night we take a field trip on winding mountain roads to a onsen with peaceful outdoor baths. The natural hot spring mineral water is 42 degrees (C) and we melt with sound of the rain and the cool mountain air on our faces...

Mark watching samurai films at the local restaurant.








More wonders out the train window...