A Monk’s Life – Koyasan

Bags galore

Bags galore

We’re currently enroute to Mount Koya and lugging all those bags you see there. I literally cannot fit anymore stuff in my backpack and I’m trying to travel as light as I can. For my last leg in Tokyo, I may have to buy a new duffle bag for all the things that I want to buy.

Close to 4 hours later we made it! Mount Koya is a small, secluded temple town deep in the mountains. It’s also one of the best places to experience what it’s like to live in a day and life of a monk. It’s one of the few places where you can stay overnight in an actual temple.

We walked through the mountainous town towards the Okunoin’s cemetery. The area is surrounded by thousands of tombstones and lanterns that line the walkway. The place is as beautiful as it is haunting.

Mount Koya - Okunoin's Cemetery

Mount Koya – Okunoin’s Cemetery

Lanterns along Okunoin's Cemetery

Lanterns along Okunoin’s Cemetery

Supposedly you can walk along the path at night and the lanterns are all lit up, but…I think we’ll pass on the night walk through the graveyard. Thanks but no thanks. I’ve seen way too many horror movies where this is the part you scream at the people in the movie to get the eff out!

Mount Koya - Okunoin's Cemetery

Mount Koya – Okunoin’s Cemetery

Mount Koya - Okunoin's Cemetery

Mount Koya – Okunoin’s Cemetery

We came back to our place and enjoyed tea and some snacks before our dinner. The monks came into our room and prepared our vegetarian dinner for the night. There were a total of 11 different dishes ranging from tofu to vegetables.

We’re then told that we have to get up for early morning prayer at 6:30am. Mom, does this count as going to church?

It doesn’t get anymore legit than this.

Dinner at our temple served by monks

Dinner at our temple served by monks

Kids, Don’t Try This At Home

Deer: Make sure you get my good side.

Deer: Make sure you get my good side.

We took a day trip out to Nara to visit the wild deer park and I can now officially check “deer selfie” off of my bucket list. This particular deer is seriously posing for the photo and she sure knows her good side. Just don’t try this at home.

Oh hey US immigration, I guess this would apply to touching livestock in another country? Oh, well.

Just a gang of deers kicking it

Just a gang of deers kicking it

Tōdai-ji Temple

Tōdai-ji Temple

In the same park, we saw the Todai-ji temple. I mean that picture really doesn’t do this place justice. The scale of it is massive and pretty impressive considering it was built in 728. It also houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha.

Largest Buddah statue in the world.

Largest Buddha statue in the world.

Just for scale, his fingers are probably taller than I am.

Small Japanese bites

Small Japanese bites

Amazing hot noodle soup

Amazing hot noodle soup

We ended our day in Nara with a nice hot lunch at a random local restaurant that was crowded. So it must be good right? That soup was some kind of amazing and I’m still salivating thinking about it.

Ok, one last deer selfie. This guy was waiting with us at the crosswalk and I swear he looks like he’s smiling at the camera.

Smile!

Smile!

Kyoto Highlights

Philosopher's Walk

Philosopher’s Walk

There’s so much to cover for Kyoto that I don’t even know where to begin. Kyoto is the less hectic version of Tokyo. It’s a bit more of a pace that I can get on board with. We’re settling here for 5 days so it’s kind of nice to stay put for a bit and not have to lug my heavy backpack around.

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Make sure you get my good angle!

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Philosopher’s Walk

The first thing we did was walked on over to the Philosopher’s Walk. I was kind of glad that we did this later in the day because the walk was almost completely empty from tourists. It was just so peaceful and everything was so picturesque that I think I stopped every few seconds to snap a photo.

Japanese whiskey to end the day

Japanese whiskey to end the day

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Japanese Yakatori

At night we headed out to the Ponchoto’s district where we ate probably the best meal of my life. Somehow dinner ended up with bar hopping, ended up with clubbing (I know…I said clubbing), which ended up with us karaoking to old school 90s jams. It was a whole lot of fun but we definitely paid for it this morning.

Geisha sighting in the bamboo forest!

Geisha sighting in the bamboo forest!

Arashiyama bamboo forest

Arashiyama bamboo forest

Today was a bit of a slower start, so we braved the cold air, put on our sunglasses, and suppressed our hangovers and headed on over to Arashiyama. While we were walking, we spotted Geishas! We were so fortunate that they stopped to pose for a picture. Within seconds a huge crowd formed around them and people started to snap away.

The bamboo forest was also beautiful, but what you don’t see is the ground level filled with 100s of tourists posing with selfie sticks.

I have a love hate relationship with those sticks.

Monkey feeding time!

Monkey feeding time!

Monkey photo bomb

Monkey photo bomb

Across the way is the Monkey park. They roam freely in the park and you can just hang out with them, but if you want to feed them, you have to go into this special feeding room. And you can bet that I washed my hands like a gazillion times afterwards. Those monkeys were cute, but who can forget Outbreak.

Kinkaku-ji the golden temple

Kinkaku-ji the golden temple

Nanzenji Temple

Nanzenji Temple

Last but not least…shrines and temples. They are everywhere. Each one is beautiful in their own right but my favorite has to be the Kinkaku-ji temple also known as the golden temple. The temple is plated in gold leaf and the sun reflecting off the gold is a sight to be seen!

Tomorrow I’m separating from the girls to go explore the city a bit and shop on my own. The plan is to break my bank account until it hates me.

Wait, this can’t be it

Hida Folk Village

Hida Folk Village

“I just had a different image in my head. I pictured a little old woman sitting in the front of her house knitting….and the fisherman by the stream…and the cobbler…where’s the cobbler?!”

We all laughed hysterically at my friend who is obviously disappointed in Takayama because the reality was nothing like the picture that was shown in her guidebook.

“So…I came to Takayama and all I got was a stomach ache. ”

Quote of the day right there. I mean the guidebook had a major misprint. They showed us this:

Liars!

Liars!

That is NOT the Hida Folk Village. That is Shirakawa-go which is nearly an hour away by bus from Takayama. My friend is right. It’s like showing someone the Eiffle Tower and telling them it’s in Italy. If our expectations weren’t so high, I think this little town would’ve been cute. We did see the Hida Folk Village, but it wasn’t a living village. It was more of a historical preservation place and we wanted to see the actual living village with residents and businesses.

Hida Folk Village

Hida Folk Village

Rice field in Hida Folk Village

Rice field in Hida Folk Village

I cut off all of the disneyland-ish signs that were posted everywhere in the village so you can’t see the fenced off area and all of the touristy stuff. That, ladies and gents, is the magic of photography. Still a pretty neat village though, but it would’ve been nice to see a real life cobbler at work.

More rice fields

More rice fields

More of HIda Folk Village

More of Hida Folk Village

All is not lost though, it was still a cute little town to stop by for one night. Oh, and it’s currently snowing! It’s freezing outside and I’m ready to hop on the train on to Kyoto. Hopefully it’ll be warmer there.

Sake tasting in the small town sake brewery

Sake tasting in the small town sake brewery

$1.50 sake tasting and you get to keep the cup? Ok Takayama, we can be friends again.