John Harvey Photo

Mt KoyaGo to Slide Show

The large cemetery at the end of rail


Everyone has a limit for temples/castles/cathedrals and when we were planning this trip I was concerned about seeing more temples after having visiting Kyoto.  Mark showed me a picture of Mt. Koya and it was on the itinerary.
 
Cable Car Waiting
To be honest, I had never heard of Mt. Koya before Mark showed me a picture.  In hind site, it's probably because we didn't do that much time reading about Osaka and the area.  Basically Mt. Koya is temple on a mountain that open more than a thousand years ago.  Being Japan, no mountain is really that far away (there is a nearly direct train from Osaka that takes about an hour and half) and if a temple is worth visiting, a whole tourism industry will grow up around it.  There is now more than a dozen "temple lodgings" - Shukubo - at the top of the mountain, each with a different experience.


Rising Up Hill
Getting to Mt. Koya is quite interesting.  First you take a train out of Osaka and you watch as the city thins out, farms start to appear and the town becomes limited to the immediate area around train stations.  Near the end of the line, you climb up into the mountains and the train travels through tunnels interspersed with bamboo forests.  You pull up to a station that has no town around it and transfer onto a "cable car" - a cable driven tram up the side of the mountain.  The tram is very similar to the peak tram in Hong Kong, except it is steeper and (in our case) not nearly as busy. 

Passing The Car Coming Down

Once you get to the top, you hop on a local bus and stop at you temple lodging.  Walk in, pay in cash in advance, notice how cold the air is, and try to get settled in.

  Courtyard In ShukuboOur Room

Okunoin

Fountain Next To LanternLit Stone Lantern
After we unloaded our bags (and got a little warm) we went for a walk in Okunoin.  Okunoin a giant cemetery (but you don't see caskets or anything).  It's set in a cedar forest with ancient trees and everything is covered with moss and lichen.  There are stone lanterns guiding your way to a temple complex some 1.5km away.  Most sites have stupas - stone pillars inscribed with family names, but some sites are much more complex with gates, fences and family of more complex stupas.

Gate Breaking Down


Well Wrapped JizoStatue Being Grown Over
Dotting your path are Jizo - small statues.  There is a variety of interpretation for these.  They are often ornately dressed (often with red hats and bonnets).  Some people believe these statues represent a lost child or baby, even a miscarriage.  Jizo is actually a god and serves as a protector of children.  In the mythology, children don't get into the afterlife because they haven't yet accumulated enough good deeds.  Jizo helps these children by hiding them under his robe.  Either way, Jizo are solom markers of a difficult time.

Knitted Hat On Jizo
Our temple provided dinner and breakfast and they were quite clear we should be on time.  We turned around well before we got to the temple complex proper.  I went out after dinner for some night photography, but the the dark forest combined with terribly unromantic florescent lights made it hard to find much.  The next more however, we were blessed with fog and new snow!  Walking around (almost alone - my fellow travelers decided to give me a two hour head start) in this massive cemetery while it lightly snows was magic.

Path Curving Through TreesCedars Overgrowing RoadShort Tree Growing In SpaceTorii Overwhelmed By Cedar Tree

Large MemorialLit LanternsBronze StatueOrange Capped Statue
 
 
Notes Tied On StringStone Lantern With Snow On TopJizo Dusted In Snow
 
Eventually you do get to the temple complex at the end of road and what do you discover?  Closed for renovation!  There is a smaller temple to the side that houses 20,000 lanterns.  They is lots of signs up (in Japanese and English) tell you to not take photos.  Turns out if you are alone and polite, the monk doesn't seem to mind to so much.  Each lantern has an inscription on it.  Of course I can't read them, but Helen told me it was roughly poetry.
 
Hall Of 20000 LanternsOil Lamps And Electric LampsLamps With Inscriptions

Riding Down Mountain
There are other sights to see at Mt Koya, but after our luck with the weather in the cemetery, I didn't feel like stalking monks in more temple complexes.  We reversed out trip back (love that tram way) and found ourselves back in Osaka with lots of time before dinner.




Cedars Overgrowing Road
Lamps With Inscriptions
Tags: lantern
Cable Car Waiting
Tags: funicular, train
Bronze Statue
Altitude: 820m (2690 feet)
Location: Go To...
Orange Capped Statue
Altitude: 823m (2700 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: statue
Lit Lanterns
Altitude: 793m (2601 feet)
Location: Go To...
Riding Down Mountain
Tags: funicular, mountain, train
Large Memorial
Hall Of 20000 Lanterns
Tags: lantern, place of worship
Courtyard In Shukubo
Short Tree Growing In Space
Altitude: 798m (2618 feet)
Location: Go To...
Well Wrapped Jizo
Altitude: 754m (2473 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Jizo
Oil Lamps And Electric Lamps
Tags: lantern, place of worship
Torii Overwhelmed By Cedar Tree
Altitude: 788m (2585 feet)
Location: Go To...
Stone Lantern With Snow On Top
Altitude: 814m (2670 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Japan, lantern, snow, torii
Path Curving Through Trees
Altitude: 808m (2650 feet)
Location: Go To...
Passing The Car Coming Down
Tags: funicular, train
Gate Breaking Down
Altitude: 842m (2762 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Japan, moss, torii
Notes Tied On String
Tags: Japan, lantern
Knitted Hat On Jizo
Altitude: 827m (2713 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Jizo
Fountain Next To Lantern
Altitude: 856m (2808 feet)
Location: Go To...
Jizo Dusted In Snow
Tags: Jizo, snow
Lit Stone Lantern
Tags: Japan, lantern
Our Room
Statue Being Grown Over
Altitude: 729m (2391 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Japan, Jizo, moss
Rising Up Hill
Person: Mark
Tags: funicular, Japan, train
Tags: Japan(6), lantern(6), funicular(4), train(4), Jizo(4), torii(2)
People: Mark(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > A Fourth Trip to Japan > Mt Koya
From: John Harvey Photo > A Fourth Trip to Japan > Mt Koya

My wife and I were there. I think we stayed in the same room. Nice images.
Mark
Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 at 07:50:32

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