29 April 2008

Things I did on my random day off...

高野山 (Mount Koya)

I had the day off today (I still don't know what holiday it is/was) so I went to the world heritage site at Mount Koya. Getting there from my house still took an hour but it was an interesting ride on the train through the mountains and countryside. Although, the train was very noisy and squeaky and the cliff on the one side of the tracks wasn't too enjoyable. Then once we arrived at the station we had to take another cable car up the mountain which was interesting because I had never ridden a cable car.

(From the bottom of Mount Koya waiting for the cable car to arrive.)

I didn't really plan this trip I just thought I would hop on the train and go check out some mountain top temples. Turns out there is a small town on top of the mountain and you need to ride the bus to get around. As soon as you get off the cable car you are greeted by fresh cool mountain air and then the exhaust from the buses and then that semi-cleaner smell from public toilets.

Anyway, we bought the all day ticket for the bus (good idea because the buses were very useful) and rode into town. Initially we thought we would start from the top and work our way down but I have come to realize I get cranky if I don't eat. And sight-seeing and cranky Andrew don't go well together. So, Mount Koya is famous for being the supposed birthplace of Buddhism in Japan. Therefore, the local delicacy is shojin ryori (vegetarian food for the monks). We stopped in a restaurant and had some food but I didn't eat shojin ryori I ate some very delicious tofu dish. I would have taken a picture of it but I was hungry and kind of in a rush to get up the mountain.
It was good and presented quite lovely.

From the restaurant we saw a temple...actually we saw many many temples...more than I could bother to count. Here's a picture of just one.
There are still cherry blossoms in bloom here...oooo!

Mount Koya is also famous for it's graveyard. It was really really interesting! I have never seen anything like it. There were so many graves. It isn't as morbid as it sounds. It was very beautiful. I didn't take many pictures of it because I think it should be experienced in person.

Before I entered I washed my hands and drank some of the holy water.

As soon as we stepped into the coniferous forest it became "dead" silent. You couldn't hear the bustle of the town and buses driving around. Just the silent wind blowing and the shuffling of footsteps of other tourists. The occasional chirping of birds added to the ambiance of the forest.

The trees were amazing. The had to be hundreds of years old, some of them. The smell of incense and pine was very relaxing and peaceful. There were thousands of graves but there was only one that I was interested in seeing. That was the grave of Oda Nobunaga. He was THE guy that helped begin the unification Japan. I didn't take a picture of it but there is one in the wikipedia article. It was interesting how plain it was compared to some of the other more magnificent ones of famous people that also have there graves here.

This is my award winning picture of the trip.

After we saw Oda Nobunaga's grave we went to a temple that housed some monks praying and again neither a photograph or me writing about it could explain the feeling you get when you see this place. It felt like it came from a dream or something magical. I had never seen or experienced anything like it before. The sun shining though the pine trees and the smoke from incenses made the imagery quite powerful.

After we headed for our last destination...this place...

It was huge.

Time was running out so we hopped the bus back to the station. I commend the drivers who manage these huge buses through these really winding roads. Another wonder in itself.
And then we had some delicious sweets as we waited for the cable car to take us back down the mountain and out of the dreamland.

As we waited for the cable car to come we sat and had some sweets and enjoyed the view into the valley and other surrounding mountains. The trip back down was like being woken up from a dream. I didn't want to come back to reality.

...although the new job and new surrounding here aren't all that bad.

14 April 2008

Some pictures for inspiration

I am uninspired to write about my goings on here. Even though i have moved...The words aren't reaching my fingertips at the moment. In meantime, enjoy some photos and maybe write what you think they are about or from or the stories associated with them.