Sometimes life is stranger than strange, especially if one is married to a Miko.
My dear wife had a calling that we can pilgrimage to visit Kobo Daishi Kukai at Koyasan and then on to Mount Kurama to visit Mao-son, Bishamon-ten, and Senju-kannon, the symbols of the universal soul, forming a Trinity known as “Sonten”.
So as usual I said, “OK!”
And it just happened that way! Away we went.
The pilgrimage would have taken a few months a hundred years ago but we just drove to the airport six am Friday morning, flew to Japan, ran to catch a fast train to another train junction and two trains later that day we arrived at the Cable car that services the top of Mt. Koyasan. Just nine hours of travel and we were there!
We grabbed a cab and by 3:30 pm we arrived at out Monastic Hermitage/retreat house where we checked in just to leave our luggage. We then walked out the beautiful and ancient main gate of that classic Shingon Buddhist school.
The hike up the mountain trail leads through an immense cemetery that is 1200 years old and has the graves of hundreds of the most notable Japanese Monks, leaders, poets and warriors. The grand Masoleum at the end is the Eternal meditation location of Kobo Daishi Kukai who started the construction of this Buddhist complex in 816 AD. We said “hello!”
The weather cleared, sun came out and we were amazed at the energy that this place exudes, the Shingon Buddhists seem to have mastered manifestation and organization! The order and harmony and natural beauty of this mountain area is enhanced by the many ancient Shrines and Temples.
The cemetery record rooms have the names and location of every famous body entombed there engraved on brass plates.
We returned to our room and had a great vegetarian meal, our Shingon host may be Vegetarian but they served Saki with the meal! After dinner we did a night hike through the main Temple area starting at Konpon Daito, the Great Pagoda which was just across the street from where we are staying.
Giant Pine trees and the ancient pilgrimage route is registered as a World Heritage Site. We had the place to our selves, which was the reality of our entire trip. A storm on the horizon kept everyone away except for the dedicated crazies like us! We stopped at the tombs of the famous and made our greetings then headed back for morning Service at our Hermitage. Afterward we packed up and headed to Mount Kurama as a storm formed on the horizon. Luckily we made it to the end of the train line before all trains were shut down due to the torrential rains. Temporarily stranded we did what ancient pilgrims probably did, we ran through the rain to a small pub, bought a bottle of Saki and two bowls of noodles. An hour later the trains were still not running so we hailed a cab. Sort of like borrowing a horse in ancient times, luckily we had enough yen on us to pay our way to Mount Kuruma. By now the rivers were all raging brown water making tremendous noise and we did a small detour since the main road had just washed out. We made it to a small riverside Inn where we changed into our Yukatas and sandals to climb the Mountain. The rain stopped as we headed out and it seemed too good to be true, and it was! As soon as we got about a half kilometer up the mountain the storm hit with torrential rain, thunder and lightning, what a greeting!
Close to the top we entered the Diamond Temple where we participated in a purification service. After that we continued up the mountain to find the very ancient site of the Sonten of Kuramaya. Through the heavy rain we found a protected covered shrine and entered. Out the back side we could see that we were right next to the Extremely Ancient ruins of Venus. [According to the local story more than six million years ago, Mao-son (the great king of the conquerors of evil and the spirit of the earth) descended upon Mt. Kurama from Venus, with the great mission of salvation of mankind. Since then, a powerful spirit governing the development and the evolution not only of mankind but of all living things on Earth has been emanating from this Mt. Kurama site, and a priest named Gantei received the spiritual transmission here.]
We stayed for quite a while, it was one of those moments where the clouds temporarily parted and we were right at the place we came to see! As we left the rains came and we were soaked, as we got farther down the mountain the trail became a flowing waterfall of mud and leaves.
Iori said it was just our Waterfall training. Hours later when we finally reached the road at the base of the mountain we saw a cab on the lonely road and hailed it. We apologized profusely for all the water we were dripping into his cab but we made it back to the Inn. Iori had a leach attached to her calf, a first for her but that is how wet our walk was.
The Innkeeper was happy to see us return alive and made a very beautiful meal and lots of Saki to end our day on a very Happy note.
My old body seems to creek and groan occasionally but I always just say, “Not me, just this body!”
Sign at Koyasan