Koyasan is a 3-1/2 hour trip from Osaka.  We first took the shinkansen from Kyoto to get to Shin-Osaka; then it was a short transfer by subway line to the Nankai Koyo line; a rapid express train ride to Gokurakubashi station;a cable car ride up into the mountains; followed by a bus ride to Shojoshin-in.

Entrance to Shojoshin-in Temple

View from our room overlooking a garden and mountainside

Shojoshin-in temple is next to the entrance of Okunoin’s cemetery.  This is not like any cemetery we’ve ever seen before!  Set in the midst of a several-hundred year old cedar forest, there are over 200,000 tombstones and Buddhist memorials, some of famous samurai lords, lining a 1-1/4 mile pathway.  At the end of the path is the mausoleum for Kobo Daishi, where he is believed to be in eternal meditation since March 21, 835.

We were called to dinner in the Main Dining Hall by the ringing of a bell.  Food served here is “shojin ryori,” the vegetarian cuisine of the Buddhist monks.  It was absolutely delicious, with a surprising variety of flavors and consistences, and quite filling, too.

The next morning, we were awakened by a bell calling us to the morning prayer service, which starts promptly at 6:30 AM.  It was “spoken” in some Sanskrit and some Japanese, in mesmerizing rhythms and harmonized, sometimes in half-tones, with occasional ringing and striking of bell-like and cymbal-like percussion instruments. 

No pictures or videos are allowed of the prayer service, but the experience really cannot be described well in any tangible form. 

For anyone considering going to Japan, if you are near Osaka or Kyoto, I would highly recommend spending a night on Koya-san!