November 24, 2013

The Sliding Doors of Ichijo-in Temple

The main office of Ichijo-in Temple in Mount Koya. After seeing photos of the other rooms, you will see the incongruousness of the Asus laptop.

The sign says, "Gates will close at 9pm". Lodgers are basically waited on by the monks who live here, so the least we can do is abide by their rules. It is also so cold at night on Mount Koya (not inside the guest rooms, though), it is probably best to go to sleep early.

Long hallways leading to individual rooms. All rooms can be entered and photographed, but only when the sliding doors have been left open.

With minimal explanation, here are the sliding doors that decorate the various rooms in the temple. All (including the guest rooms) are Japanese-style rooms, with tatami mats.

These rooms were used by the feudal lords that would visit Koya in the Edo era, around the 17th century. 

Ichijo-in Temple on Mount Koya

Ichijoin, in Mount Koya. Said to be built between 810-824, the temple ponders the concept of Maitrea, wherein the prime objective is to seek enlightenment in this lifetime and not live life in preparation for the next one. Like many temples in Koya, this one accommodated lodgers. Photos of their beautiful interiors can be seen here.

A shishi lion and an elephant (on the right, you can see its nose extending) have been carved onto the front gate.

The pattern carved here is the temple's crest, with wisteria blooms in the center.

The main temple may look small and plain from the outside, but I assure you that the inside was fabulous and ornate. You are allowed to take photos only when the doors to the temple are open, and unfortunately, I couldn't find the right timing. Morning ceremonies take place inside from 6 am, in the chilling cold. Built around 840 and fully reconstructed in 2006, the temple was frequented by many feudal lords in the 17th century.

The entrance to the main building, which has been made barrier-free. You take off your shoes before entering, of course.

A peek at what you can find inside. The next post will be a real treat!

November 10, 2013

Window-Shopping in Koya

The main street in Koya is made up mostly of souvenir shops, temples, food shops, and pharmacies. 

The mochi at this shop looked delicious, but I didn't have a chance to try them.

Carved wooden ornaments for graves.

A store full of old Buddhist texts.

A pharmacy/apothecary that claims to have the medicine to treat various ills.

Most likely a coloring that a kid did in school. The drawing is of Kukai, the patriarch of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, as a novice. After studying in China, Kukai traveled to Mt. Koya and established a meditation center. He died in 836 and is entombed in Oku-no-in, which takes up a significant portion of Koya. Oku-no-in will be introduced in a future post.

November 9, 2013

A Stroll through Koya

Koya, a town in Wakayama Prefecture that is situated about 1,000 meters above sea level.

In general, it is the north part of Japan that sees fall come the earliest, but since Koya sits so high on the mountains, it was around 8 degrees Celsius cooler than Tokyo.

The town itself is quite compact, and has a population of around 3,500. Due to its history as the headquarters of the Shingon Buddhists, the main street is lined with temple after temple, many of which welcome guests. (They will be featured in a following post.) 

This town's version of a Children Xing sign.

Hydrangeas, taking their time to dry out.

Even the local hospital has a temple-like structure.

A rudimentary sign pointing towards Nyonindo, literally "woman path". Before 1872, women were not allowed to enter Koya, although women did practice Shingon Buddhism. This is the only remaining temple (out of seven) that women were allowed to stay in during their pilgrimage.

Even now, no concessions have been made to make the path easier to walk on. 

Small-scale vinyl greenhouses.

Because trees and wooden structures are abundant, "beward of fire" signs are a comment sight in Koya.

At dusk.

Taking the Local from Osaka to Wakayama

From Nanba Station in Osaka, we took the Koya Line up to the town of Koya in Wakayama Prefecture.

I was on the local line, but the jaw-dropping Tenku express is the train to take.

I got to see this, though: a museum at Kamuro Station that claims to have a mermaid mummy on display.

The view from the Koya Line is calming and beautiful, with mountains and fresh air all around.

There were also a few rivers. And persimmon trees.

To get to the final stop on the line, you have to take a cable car.

The view of the mountains on the elevator at Koya-san Station.

Because it is much colder on the mountain than in Tokyo, I got to see the red leaves.