Monday, November 28, 2005

second time around

Excerpts from “Mt. Koya: the second trip”

-It is quite valid to assume that when a hiking map made for Japanese people says your course will take you an hour and a half, it will actually take normal people two hours. Genki ojiisans are usually on a misson to the top and don’t take pauses to enjoy the scenery. However, the hiking courses marked for Mt. Koya are unusually generous in their time estimates, apparently factoring in those of us who take a break at rest benches, trickling waterfalls, enormous tree roots, and the like.

-If spending the night on Mt. Koya, one has a few options: pricey hotels, pricey temples, a hostel, or a government run temple/guest house. We chose the government run temple/guest house, Haryoin, and were surprised by the quality of the food, the lack of more than four other guests, and the availability of all 108 comic books explaining all things relating to Buddhism. It made good reading before ten o’clock lights out.

-Despite the fact that Mt. Koya is a cold, cold place to visit in the winter, there were quite a few white-clad pilgrims with their walking sticks and prayer books visiting Kobo Daishi . I was most impressed, however, by a lone grandma diligently doing her religious practice in front of his grave; she would not let the crowds of chanters get in her way of walking back and forth between the grave and the sutra hall as many times as the number of beads on her rosary.

- We changed trains at Hashimoto on our way back to Kyoto. So did a group of over one hundred elderly hikers. The empty train pulled up, the grandparents piled in, and the only people left standing were those under the age of 30. Namely, us. This was as it should be according to social customs in any country: old people sit, young people stand. And who wants to test the patience of four train cars filled with genki obaasans, anyway? Not me.

*Vocabulary: genki = energetic/healthy; ojiisan = grandpa; obaasan= grandma; Kobo Daishi = posthumous name of Kukai, founder of Shingon Buddhism.

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