Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Japan: Koyasan

We were up really early; excited for our next destination. The day's adventure had us traveling to and staying over night in the mountaintop town of Koyasan. Unfortunately, we were not able to use our Japan Rail passes, but the cost-versus-efficiency difference was worth the financial sacrifice. We were the first ones in line at the train station, which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND, as there were people standing for a significant portion of the 1.5 hour journey. We enjoyed our seats, our view, and a nice bottle of wine along the way. Yes, breakfast wine became a routine on the train, and it was WONDERFUL!

Our train journey had us disappear into the gorgeous mountains of every varying shade of green that you can imagine. At the end of our train journey, but within the same station, we climbed into a cable car that took us STRAIGHT up the mountain in about 5-minutes. At the top, you are deposited into a bus station that takes you down into the town. It isn't that far of a distance from the station into town, and I would have preferred to walk, but they actually absolutely forbid you from doing so.

Cable car to Koyasan!

Up we go!

We were quite early to town, too early to check into our ryokan. Ryokans are classic and traditional Japanese "bed and breakfasts", and they are an absolutely "MUST DO" if you are spending any time in Japan and want to true taste of the local home life. Since we were so early, they allowed us to store our bags while we explored the town of Koyasan on foot. There is a well established bus system for the town, but we decided to forego this option to be able to explore the area at our own pace per our own random route.

Enjoy some some of the the sights/sites we found while we were casually exploring:

Entrance to our ryokan

Koyasan itself is a very small and picturesquely quaint mountain town full of ancient shrines and temples to explore, zen gardens to ponder over, and cute shops that are not out to price-gouge tourists.

We stayed at Joki-in Ryokan and could not recommend it any more highly, if you are looking for a specific place to stay! It is right in the center and convenient to walk almost everywhere in the town. It was so wonderful.

Traditional tea service at check in

View from our room, overlooking the inner garden

Our room, they come and layout the bed when it is time

Our room name/number....not really sure which

Our room entry, no lock, just sliding rice paper doors

After check-in we went back out to further explore the town:

Dinner served in our room

When you are ready for bed, you let the front desk know, and they come prepare it for you: bringing in mats and comforters for the floor. My biggest thrill was that the bed set up and food service was done by "baby monks" the midst of their religious training.

Breakfast is served

Of course my apples are made into elegant and simple art

One of the things that Koyasan is best known for it is massive, MASSIVE  Okunoin Cemetery, and we saved it for the morning to explore. It is the largest traditional cemetery in the country and is absolutely captivating. We explored it for 2 hours and it wasn't nearly long enough!

Okunoin Cemetery

Okunoin Cemetery

Okunoin Cemetery

Okunoin Cemetery

Okunoin Cemetery

Okunoin Cemetery

Okunoin Cemetery

Okunoin Cemetery

Okunoin Cemetery: Offerings

And then it was time to go. I truly think that you capture the essence of Koyasan and staying in a ryokan in a single 24-hr period, if you are pressed for time. Don't get me wrong, I could have stayed here for a week and loved it, but I don't feel that we missed out on anything by continuing on our journey. I do highly recommend this as a stop on any trip to Japan though, and if not Koyasan, please ensure that you spend at least one night, somewhere, in a traditional ryokan!

Sad departure trip from Koyasan