posted on Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mount Koya

I set off at seven o'clock and reached Horyuji the first and only temple to visit on the way to Koya San. Some of the temple buildings are originals dating back to the 8th century making them the oldest wooden buildings in the world. The temples and pagoda are in classic chinese style of the Tang dinasty, beautifully maintained yet lacking the aliveness of the active monasteries and temples I had visited in Kyoto. I then continued on road 24 once more through seemingly never ending ugly suburbs scattered with shopping centres and myriads of signs and flags competing for attention. Once reached road 370 the scenery dramatically changed as I began climbing the twisty road leading to the holy mountains of Koya san. Being the burial place of such an influential figure as Kobo Daishi the all place matches to its natural beauty a lively spirituality witnessed by the frequent sight of pilgrims. Left the heavy traffic behind and after 5 days spent sightseeing busy cities I was happy to be back in the silence of mountains and forests. After 20 Km finally I stood in front of the majestic red Daimon the western gate delimiting the entrance to the holy site of Koya. From there on a sequence of temples and monks toing and froing was a sign that this was indeed a different place where spirituality is still very much alive. Despite having become a popular touristic attraction with the inevitable commercial side to it, it still keeps its purpose very much alive. Not able to find the temple / youth hostel upon asking I was escorted by a friendly young cyclist, student of the local buddhist college where Shingon priests start their academic training