Hi, I’m Gisella. I'm a 'solo' traveller and a chef for hobby.

Koyasan. The pilgrims' way (day 1: Shukubo)

25 June 2013 - 9:15pm -- gisella
Location: 
Shojoshin-in Koya-San
Japan
My "shukubo" room at Shojoshin-in temple, Koyasan (Japan)

In a few words, my sister found the photos taken in Koyasan. Kind of no-way, now I really need to tell about this place.

***

It has been more or less in the middle of my journey. Once left Tokyo for a while, after some days exploring the beautiful Kyoto. I woke up early morning, packed my stuff, bought a sweet and a hot cappuccino in a bottle at the convenience store; I walked slowly crossing the bridge towards the Gion area, it was a bit cold...

But instead of going straight, like the days before, I took the escalator to the underground into the Gion Shijo Station. Train, my head still a bit lazy, then a switch in Osaka. Train again, running off the city, up and up to the mountains of the Kansai Region - I got lost looking at the landscape out the window, the transfer passed in a while.

Train transfer in the Kansai Region, Nankai Line   Train transfer in the Kansai Region, Nankai Line

Stop at the last station, Gokurakubashi. Another world, looking like a place where time stopped fifty years ago... and, oh yes, apparently the last station! A few steps, into the next transport. Cablecar, climbing slowly the mountain's slope. Then stop once more, Station of Koyasan. Some minutes of bus, along some narrow turns. Crossed the small town and stopped almost at the opposite side.

Cablecar to Koyasan, Japan  Cablecar to Koyasan, Japan  Cablecar to Koyasan, Japan  Cablecar to Koyasan, Japan

It was afternoon, now. Standing  at the bus station, aside my backpack, I put on gloves and scarf and I took off the map. No need, really. Turning the sight just a bit, I saw the place: Shojoshin-in, one of the over 50 temples hosting pilgrims who pass across these mountains. The traditional name of this accommodation is shukubo, and this is the kind of overnight that I chose that day.

To know more about shukubo, read the post about accommodation in Japan

Well, it makes a certain effect to cross the gate of a shrine and look for... the reception. But it has been a smiling moment, when the monk "in charge" took me to my room and explained (in English, be quiet) the simple rules of the monastery - time of dinner and breakfast, time to use the traditional bath, time of the gates' closure, and of course, time of the morning's prayers.

After the monk disappeared at the end of the corridor, all around was silent. I closed the sliding door made of paper, I switched on the electric heater. And finally, I took a breath. Happy, because I had been able to reach that place, very small and hidden, in the middle of Japan!

Shojoshin-in "shukubo" temple in Koyasan, Japan   Shukubo at Shojoshin-in, Koyasan, Japan

Time to go to sleep comes quite early, at the temple. In a few minutes I started to hear other guests getting to the rooms nearby, and then the bell rang calling for dinner. Each guest was invited to crouch on a pillow between two shields, behind the small table near to the tatami floor. Dinner was strictly vegetarian, and it's incredible how many small food with different shapes and colors can be made by soya, tofu and vegetables!

Then, we tourists are done this way... as the stomach gets full, discipline goes down. Pins and needles in the knees, so gradually the way of seating started to become weird. Moving back and forth, to see the faces of people on the other side of shield. Somebody crawling with the camera in his hand, "can you take me a picture, please?"... and talks non-stop started, telling about own life to a perfect unknown.

See my picture of the vegetarian dinner in the post about food in Japan

The monk at the door started yawning, time to get back to the room. But not to sleep, at least before the last amazing moment of the day - getting to the bath room, I saw that it was empty!

Shukubo accommodation in Shojoshin-in, Koyasan   Shukubo accommodation in Shojoshin-in, Koyasan

Perfect chance to try the traditional Japanese bath... one of those things you read about on Internet, then you never know if you're going to look for it. Well, it really works like they say. Some time - half an hour, maybe? I don't remember - into the wooden bath full of hot aromatic water... enough to become addicted.

Refreshed, relaxed, I got back to my futon. I fell asleep in a few minutes.

***

(see you later, with the second part of the trip)