Japan: Mt.Koya: Sacred Site
Mt. Koya, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism.
After an 80-minute journey from Kyoto, you will arrive at Gokuraku-bashi to take a cable car and climb up to the mountain. You will arrive around noon (approximately 2.5 hours from Kyoto Station).
Upon arrival at Mt.Koya, enjoy lunch (payment on the spot) and leave your luggage at the monastery before starting your half-day excursion on foot, with a visit to Kongo Buji, the holiest temple of Mt.Koya and headquarters of the Shingon sect. The complex comprises administrative buildings, a religious university, and a temple open to visitors. Built in 1593 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt several times.
Continue to the “Garan” where you will see some of the most important buildings in Koyasan and end your visit with a unique experience, “Jukai”, a formal and ancient Buddhist ceremony, in which a Buddhist monk will guide you through the process of “taking refuge in the teaching of Buddha”. The pitch-black setting – except for a few flickering candles – and the ceremony orchestrated by the monks create a spiritual atmosphere, setting the tone for your stay in Koya-san.
After the ceremony, come back to Eko-in Temple around 5:00 pm for check-in. Your guide will assist you and explain the details of your stay at a Buddhist monastery.
The Eko-in Temple was founded by the monk Dosho a direct disciple of Kobodaishi, almost 1200 years ago. “Eko” originally means “Transference of Merit”, which is related to the “Karma” concept. Coming on a pilgrimage to Koya-san and staying at a Monastery is considered an acquisition of merit for Buddhist followers.
Dinner is included in your stay and will be served early in the comfort of your room (between 6.00 and 7.00 pm). Sample the delicious vegetarian cuisine created by monks, called “Shojin” and experience a very different aspect of Japanese society: the world of Buddhism. Tonight, you can also enjoy Shakyo, the transcribing a sutra. Please ask your guide to request it on check-in.
This morning, wake up early (5.30 am) and take part in the morning service (Buddhist ceremony, open to residents of the Temple) in the richly decorated prayer Hall. Prayers and chanting are hypnotic, and the ambience is spiritual. After the ceremony, you will be able to walk around the prayer hall and see funeral tablets as well as several Buddhist artifacts, usually not accessible to the public. This is a rare opportunity to penetrate the most sacred precincts of a Buddhist Temple.
After the morning service, you will also have the opportunity to experience the “Goma” fire service, which is held every morning and unique to Koya-san monasteries.
Enjoy a traditional “shojin” breakfast, with tea, rice, tofu and other vegetarian items (in case the breakfast isn’t to your taste, your guide can also take you to a western bakery in town, prior to your morning visit). After breakfast, explore the property and meet your private guide around 8.00 am. Check-out of the Monastery and start your excursion of the day.
Transfer by taxi to Okunoin and enjoy a morning stroll in the largest cemetery of Japan. Your guide will explain the meaning of statues and funerary stalls along the way to the Mausoleum of Kobodaishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Upon arrival at the mausoleum, you may witness the daily ritual ceremony, where monks have been bringing meals twice daily to the cave where Kobodaishi is said to have been meditating for 1200 years.
If time allows when you come back to the center of town by taxi (please pay on the spot), also visit the Daimon and Reihokan Museum, two other sights worth seeing while in Mount Koya.
Enjoy an early lunch and by 13.30 pm depart by train to Osaka or Kyoto.
This is just the beginning.
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