Day two! We got up at 6am to see the monks perform their early morning prayers in the elaborately decorated main temple hall. There was a lot of non-stop chanting, bell-tolling and burning of incense involved. Halfway through the session, visitors (including us foreigners) were invited to go up to the altar to kneel and pray in the way of the Buddhist. It was a little nerve-racking, especially since most of the other people in the room knew exactly what to do, but we managed not to embarrass ourselves!
After the ceremony, we returned to our room to find breakfast laid out on the tatami mats. It was a simple breakfast, but a delicious one nonetheless. Who knew Buddhist vegetarian cuisine could be so yummy? The food was made even better by the magical view we had from our window: powdery white snow blanketing the zen garden!
We decided to check out of the temple immediately after we had our meal, but not before spending some time admiring the koi pond for the last time. It was pretty overcast and the snow made it hard to take crisp, clear photos but I tried my best to capture the beauty of the pond.
Then, we left our bags with the monks at the front hall so that we could wander around Kōyasan for a bit. Not the best idea. I mentioned we were unprepared for snow. Yep, Converse and thin socks are not ideal for walking on slush. I couldn’t feel my toes within five minutes of leaving Ichijoin. We did come across an interesting temple with a very extravagant foyer, but after a few more minutes of exploration we called it quits and retreated back to Ichijoin with our frozen tails between our legs.
Once we gathered our bags, we headed back down the mountain and took a train to our next destination (Osaka). All in all, I think spending a night in a temple on Kōyasan is a must-do for anyone visiting Japan. It will prove to be an eye-opening experience for anyone unfamiliar with a Buddhist monk’s way of life. Kōyasan is also on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as part of the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”.
ICHIJOIN BUDDHIST TEMPLE
606 Kōyasan, Ito-gun, Kōya-cho
Wakayama Prefecture 648-0211, Japan
* Make a room reservation on JAPANiCAN!
Read PART ONE of our overnight stay at Ichijoin Temple!