Spend the night and experience “shukubō” (lodging in the buddhist priest quarters) on Mount Kōya


 

Known as the pillar of the Buddhist religion in Japan, the Mount Kōya is one of the most important places for Buddhists of Japan after Mount Fuji. The easiest way to access it is from the Namba station in Ōsaka via Nankai line to Gokurakubashi station. This is a very pleasant route by which you will be moving slowly towards the beautiful countryside of the Wakayama prefecture. The contrast to one of the biggest cities in Japan - Ōsaka - is staggering. From Gokurakubashi station, you will be taking the cable car to access the terminal station, then a bus that will directly take you to the city center of Mount Kōya. The journey to this quiet place surrounded by the comforting nature will make you feel as if you have been disconnected from the human world for an instant.



Koyasan is a peaceful little mountain town placed deep in the cedar-pine forest. It boasts an residentantial area that is surrounded by about fifty monasteries and temples. One of the most impressive features of this place is the Tōrōdō temple’s lighting which consists of about a thousand lanterns, some of which have been lit for centuries, never to be put out.


In Koyasan, you will be able to visit the biggest cemetery in Japan. By entering the magnificent forest surrounding the cemetery, you will be able admire the statue of the Shingon Buddhism founder, Kōbō Daishi, resting in an eternal meditation. This place is wonderful to visit during the day with the sunlight permanating in between the huge trees, shedding light on the beautiful statues and the ancient graves of this spiritual place. Still, you might want to try visiting the Okunoin’s cemetery during the night as well, as it is lit up by the rows of beautiful lanterns placed on the sides of the main path.


If you choose to experience the shukubō here, in the city of Koyasan, you will be welcomed by the Buddhist priests who will show you to your Japanese-style room. Don’t forget to take off your shoes before entering the room with the sliding doors! The room itself is a representation of tranquility, so the decoration of the room has a floor covered in tatami (traditional Japanese straw mats) and the interior design is fairly simple. The walls are decorated with wood engravings and calligraphy art. In Japan, it is customary to change calligraphy art decorating the room, appropriate to the current season of year. In the middle of the room, there is a low table surrounded by cushions to sit on, used mostly during the traditional vegetarian dinner which is prepared by the Buddhist priests. Each room is separated by a wall made of “washi” (traditional Japanese paper made of rice), so it is important to be mindful of the noise you make while lodging here. Some of these rooms will allow you to admire the beautiful japanese garden just outside, so you should have that in mind when booking a room here. After the dinner, the monks will show you to your lodgings and help you with the the futon bed. Next day, at about 5AM in the morning, you will be able to experience the unforgettable chanting in unison through a Buddhist prayer.







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