Tofu is Japanese for Bean Curd, and Koyasan is Cold

March 7, 2008

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Yesterday we headed for Koyasan. I had really high expectations for this part of my trip. I was really excited about the mountain town Mt Koya, temples, and shojin-ryori (the vegetarian meal). The train and cable car ride to Koyasan was gorgeous, and there was snow on the ground! It looked just like a little ski town except the rooftops are Japanese and the temples and pagodas. I had Udon for lunch (it’s like a noodle soup with broth and a yummy tofu triangle on top). After lunch, I walked around the whole [tiny] town, checking out the temples. A highlight of the afternoon was stopping in a market for chocolate. I’ve been on the road for all of 12 days and I’m already craving chocolate?

Before going back to the monastery for dinner, we walked through the cemetery, the largest graveyard in Japan. Very spooky, we decided to return at night, to scare ourselves. Unfortunately, we all wimped out because we were too cold, even inside. It’s freezing here, literally, I’ve been wearing my beanie, 3 shirts, a fleece, and my jacket, and I’m still shivering. These monks have the whole creepy monastery thing down, but they really lack the warm hospitality part. I’m glad we’re only staying one night. To complain a little more, dinner was an amazing presentation, but lacked taste. So I was disappointed in the food.

We got up earlier than ‘early’, to observe the morning prayer ceremony. There was a lot of chanting and incense and mutterings. And then it was group participation time. I did a few little bows. It’s a strange mix of learning about a different religion and customs, and feeling like you should participate, so as not to insult them. This really wasn’t my kind of thing, it seemed forced, like they were bored of being there. Maybe they were…