Having reached our "tipping point" for cities, we decided to spend a few days in the mountains. Packing short stay essentials into a small "daysack", we deposited our big rucksacks into lockers at Osaka Namba station and headed for the hills. Our destination was Koyasan, a mountain sanctuary for Buddhist monks and the headquarters of the "Shingan sect of Esoteric Buddhism" which was founded by a monk named Kabo Dashu in 816 - His followers do not believe he is actually dead but meditating in his tomb in Koyasan's cemetery, waiting for the arrival of the next Buddha.
It was a major trek - several modes of travel:
· Walking initially with large bags
· Metro through the city
· Overland train, predominately on a single track up a steep mountain slope
· Funicular for the steepest of climbs
· Bus - Where in blazes did it come from?
· Finally, walking again.
The tomb of Kabo Dashu is said (locally) to be the holiest place in Japan and is surrounded by a huge cemetery, which is open 24/7 - We walked through it at night and it was a truly surreal experience, being lit by stone lanterns placed some distance apart - Shadows appeared creating shapes and figures in the imagination and definitely not a walk to take alone.
Most people stay in temples and are fed vegetarian dinner as part of their experience (Buddhists are vegetarian - Onion and Garlic are also banned from their diet) and then locked down for the night, consequently restaurants and bars close early (about 8 o'clock). Driven by budget and lack of Buddhist devotion we stayed in a hostel. It was however first class with an excellent group of fellow inmates - We had a private double room with shared bathroom, but everyone else (bar one couple) had two storey capsules - Like a human filing cabinet.
Over 100 temples line the streets of Koyasan and we just picked a few of the "must see", broken up with a buddhist vegetarian lunch of various types of tofu. We didn't get up to witness the buddhist chanting at 6.00am prayers ……
Given the lack of open bars we inevitably ended up back at the hostel early, but it sold beer and wine. We were not alone, we had people from Chile, Italy, Germany, France, Morocco, Lithuania, Japan, a Mancunian and an Irish couple from county Cork on honeymoon ……. "The Craic" as they say, was 90 ……. Irish reference meaning "we had a rather splendid time" - although lights out at 10.30pm. And after 2 nights we headed back down the mountain to pick up our bags and head out of Osaka.