My next destination after Hiroshima was Mount Koya, south of Osaka. After doing some research, I decided to stay in a Buddhist temple for one night, and was lucky to secure the last room available at Shojoshin-in, using the booking website japaneseguesthouses.com. It’s reasonably priced at 10,800 (about 90 USD), and includes a vegan dinner and breakfast.
The direct train to Mount Koya from Osaka was not covered by the JR Pass, so I had to buy a separate ticket. I left my big backpack in a locker at Osaka’s Namba train station, and only brought with me a small daypack. It’s a beautiful train ride, especially the last part when the train goes through many tunnels in the mountainous regions. From the last station, there’s a funicular that goes to the top of the mountain, where finally a number of buses will take you to one of the many temples and sights around the area.
I arrived at Shojoshin-in around 4pm, and was checked in by an English speaking employee there, he showed me my room and the location of toilets and showers. Dinner would be at 6pm, and breakfast the next morning would be after the morning prayer at 7am. Besides those activities, you are free to roam around as you wish.
It started to rain shortly after I checked in, so I stayed in my room and took a quick nap until it was time for dinner. I’m definitely a carnivore, but I thought the vegan dinner was absolutely delicious.
Afterwards, I went out for a night stroll and found out that the temple is right next to the western entrance to the massive Okunoin Cemetery. It looked peaceful and eerie at night with the lanterns along the walking paths. I took a quick look and turned around. Maybe I didn’t want to get lost, or maybe I was a little spooked.
I set the alarm for 6:15am the following morning to attend the morning prayer. The prayer is done by the monks, while the visitors sit on benches observing them. It was a hypnotizing experience. Between being still half asleep and listening to the rhythmic chanting of the monks, I felt like being in a trance. I slept a bit more after breakfast, and before checking out.
The main attraction on Mount Koya is the cemetery, so I had to go back to see it properly. It’s a really incredible place, with tombs that are hundreds of years old, all decorated in different ways. There are two main pedestrian roads, but many smaller paths that take you to less visited tombs. One could spend a whole day there, admiring all the little details.
After lunch, I went to the western side of the Mount Koya, to visit the various temples and shrines.
I enjoyed my whole time at Mount Koya, from sleeping in a temple, to the fairy tale cemetery, to the rest of the sights. This was definitely the best sightseeing place I visited during my entire time in Japan.