Koyasan

Snow on cedar trees, temples and Buddhas

By Aries Lucea    - 3 min read

Still on my New year holiday, brought the kids to the daycare to take a  trip with my wife to the famous Mt. Koya. The place is 860 meters above sea level and dotted with quite a number of World Heritage Sites pertaining to Esoteric practice of Shingo Buddhism, which has a large following all over Japan.

I always thought of visiting this place, but always had a change of plans at the last minute. I was thinking that maybe I wouldn't experience its beauty at the same level as those who are practicing the faith. But, I was so wrong. The place is completely a world on its own. The quiet beauty of a preserved culture of faith, temples and even a burial ground, against the backdrop of cedar trees filled mountains are amazing.

It was very cold when we reached the place. The town was still covered with snow. Unfortunately, we were late to witness the Shushu-e, a ritual done by monks that has something to do with the New Year. So I haven't seen a lot of monks in robes. I however, saw a lot of them, skinhead monks, maybe the one who are still novices, dressed in work clothes and plowing snow.

But what was the most surprising on this visit was taking a slow hike through the Okunoin Gobyo, a huge graveyard. Who would have thought a graveyard can be a beautiful place. And with the slippery snow,my wife and myself were holding hands for support, making the cemetery stroll, romantic and lovely. I hope my photos give even a bit of justice to the cemetery. But if we weren't pressed for time and it’s less cold, it would be easy to spend couple of  hours alone on this sprawling cemetery. Imagine hundreds of years old trees cutting through old tombstones, lanterns and statues. River adorned with charms and trinkets running through snow covered trees. I should stop now. Since my only point is that the graveyard is really awesome!!!

I also liked the Konpon Daito, which houses 4 giant sized Buddhas. The pagoda is huge and its flaming orange. Its a structure that really calls attention, specially when the structure around it are old brown temples.

Traveling in the snow must be a hassle for anyone. But the winter chill and the snow made a trip to Koyasan worthwhile, making the scenery lovelier and serenely beautiful. Please remember to bundle up, as the temperature goes considerably lower compared to the city.

Unfortunately, we only have 4 hours to spend in this lovely place. The travel to Koyasan from Osaka, and back already cost us 4 worthy but precious hours.

A lot of temples accept guests for a night accommodation. If this type of experience has no reputation of quietness, then we would have brought along our screaming kids and spend the night in those temple lodges. A night in the temple, compelled to wake and pray at 5:00 in the morning, fed expensive tofu and veggie meals will certainly be on our bucket list for next time.

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Aries Lucea

Aries Lucea @aries.lucea

I have been living in Japan for the past 5 years. I love traveling as well as eating. With two toddlers in tow, we try to find ways to be more creative with our travels.

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Mandy Bartok 4 years ago
I'll be heading to Koya-san myself this January. Looking forward to the snow but not necessarily the cold!
Mandy Bartok 4 years ago
Absolutely! I actually didn't know there were other options. ;) It would be a shame to go all the way up there though and miss out on temple stay experience.