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Friday, October 10, 2008

"The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us." - Paul Valery


Japan trip
Day 10 - 15th June - Koyasan, Kongobuji
(Part 1)

It seems more Japanese men than women cross their legs when seated.

If you don't know katakana, it's useful to learn it before going to Japan because they steal a lot of words from English (and then don't subtitle the signs in Romaji).

Hyperdia is especially useful for train travel in Japan because, unlike in Europe, they don't print out "How to get from X to Y" instruction sheets in Japan (or at least if you don't know any secret passwords in Japanese).

I don't know why you must turn off your mobile phone (as opposed to not making calls, or even just not using it) in and around priority seats in Jap trains. Maybe they think the radiation harms unborn children and exacerbates disabilities.

This day, I went to Koyasan to catch the Aoba Matsuri, celebrating the birthday of Kobodaishi/Kukai, the founder of Koyasan in the 9th century. I must thank spiderpig for pointing out that I should realign my itinerary to catch this Matsuri (which let me see the one in Osaka as well).


There was a memorial service at 9am at Koyasan, but I'd have to leave at 6:30 to catch it so I passed. The procession later would be more interesting anyway. Although I caught the 7:50 train from Osaka, I was still 40 mins too early for the first Koyasan Express. I thought this meant the train wouldn't bee too crowded, but lots of people were also going to see the festival; old Japanese folks are capable of amazing alacrity in running into connecting trains to get seats. To make things worse, my JR pass was not valid at all, so I had to shell out Y1230 (though my Amanohashidate supplement alone was Y1380).

At Gokurabushi, where we had to get off the train for a cablecar (the train doesn't go up the mountain, apparently), I saw more (mostly old) people running for the cablecar than in Tokyo and Kyoto at peak hour. It was quite an amusing sight (damn, should've video-ed it, but by the time I started recording they would've run off already - that's how fast they were!) In the end, I missed the cablecar since I went to the toilet (and it was full), but there were 3 a hour so it wasn't too bad. And I got a front seat too, since the rush was past.

"Welcome to KOYASAN, the World Heritage" - cablecar station

Funicular track

Train schedule. This was for my reference on the day but what the hell, I'll just post it (now you know why I post train/bus schedules here)

From the Koyasan cablecar station we had to take buses down to Koyasan (>1km away) because walking on the road was forbidden. Smells of rent-seeking behavior to me, pfft.

Although the population of Koyasan is 7000, there's a "高野山大学" (Koyasan University; I saw some students walking around in the coat). Wth.

Bus schedule and view on what probably counts as the main road of Koyasan (the picture was meant to help me locate the bus stop)

Another bus stop

Car playing the festival's theme song

Breakfast was woefully inadequate, so I had a morning snack.

Onigiri with weird, pink, spicy slime (probably roe) inside. This was a premium onigiri because the seaweed was separated from the rice (and despite having some practice I still couldn't open it properly). Hah.

Old people walking around

Stage, opposite Kongobuji Temple

My first stop was Kongobuji Temple, headquarters of the Shingon sect of Buddhism; many of the places I'd visited previously were HQs of various sects, but I just didn't list them - it'd be too tiring. The number of Buddhist sects in Japan and their histories make the Reformation look like a playground dispute (though there seems to have been minimal violence accompanying religious competition, unlike in the Abrahamic religions).

Kongobuji Temple plaque. Entrance was free, since it was a festival day!




Main hall

Mud 'fence'

A peek at the treasures within


Presumably because it was a festival day, there were a lot of monks running around.

Monks rushing into the temple

Monks falling in

Monks going in after removing their shoes

Roof carvings

Within the temple there was another of those cute anti-smoking posters. I can't decide whether my favourite in the 2008 Summer collection (yes, they rotate them - wth) is:
"As long as you don't look around your feet, the seas of Japan are beautiful" or
"I carry a 700°C fire in my hand with people walking all around me"

Huge tree trunk



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