2015 No.16


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Strolling JapanStrolling Japan


A pilgrimage to a celestial place
Mount Koya

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If you plan to stay the night, no place is better than a temple lodging where you can experience some of the spiritual practices of Mount Koya. There are 52 of these lodgings (shukubo) within the complex, and they all offer breakfast and supper, featuring carefully prepared dishes of traditional shojin ryori vegetable origin meals. Early in the morning you can participate in a religious service when sutras are chanted and rituals of veneration are performed before an altar. At some lodgings you can try your hand copying a sutra, or you can meditate in the Ajikan way, following the Shingon Buddhist practice of sitting in the lotus position and focusing on your breath. Surrounded by nature in this tranquil part of Japan, your spiritual practice can bring a revitalizing peace of mind you may not experience anywhere else.

Along both sides of the national highways that run eastwest past the temples are shops selling food, drink, Japanese confections and souvenirs. For souvenirs you may want to look at the goma-dofu (sesame paste kneaded with kuzu powder to make a firmly set delicacy often used in shojin-ryori), confections, and items unique to a religious place, like juzu prayer beads and shuincho notebooks for holding impressions of the red seals of temples and shrines.

For some quiet moments during your travels, this sacred spot not far from the heavens may be ideal.

One of the special experiences in the Mount Koya area is the practice of Ajikan, meditation. At Rengejo-in Temple, visitors sit in quiet contemplation, and listen to a monk’s explanations.

Come to Sainan-in Temple for a unique experience: making your own handwritten copy of teachings from a sutra.

Near the pilgrim’s path to Okuno-in is Kobokuaji-kan Hall. There you can make juzu prayer beads to take home as a souvenir of your travels.

A full-course, traditional shojin ryori vegetarian meal served at a temple lodging (Seinanin). One dish, goma-dofu (white sesame paste with kuzu powder kneaded in), is sure to form part of the meal.

The mascot Koya-kun made his first appearance this year, when the temple complex is celebrating its 1,200th anniversary. You might see him if you visit the temples on a weekend or holiday.



Souvenir options include: cute bell-shaped kosuzu monaka wafers stuffed with bean jam (1); and sasamaki anpu, which are steamed manju buns made with wheat gluten and rice flour (nama-fu), wrapped in sasa bamboo leaves (2).

Mount Koya Area Map

●Getting there
From Kansai International Airport, take a train on the Nankai Line to Tengachaya Station (about 35 min). Then take the Nankai Koya Line to Gokurakubashi Station (90 min). Next, board a Nankai Koya-san cable car and alight at Koyasan Station (5 min). From there, buses leave regularly for the Daimon Gate entrance to the complex, and for Okuno-in.

●For more info
Koya-san Shingon Sect, Kongobu-ji Main Temple:
http://www.koyasan.or.jp/en/ (English, French & Japanese)

Koya-san Shukubo Association
http://eng.shukubo.net/ (English & Japanese)

Rengejo-in Temple (temple lodgings):
Tel: +81-736-56-2233 (0736-56-2233 if calling from within Japan)

Sainan-in Temple (temple lodgings):
http://sainanin.com/e (English & Japanese)

Kobokuaji-kan Hall (where you can make juzu prayer beads):
http://www16.plala.or.jp/koubokuajikan/ (Japanese language website)