temples in the sky.

On the train From Namba, Osaka to Gokurakubashi, Wakayama

View from the cablecar from Gokurakubashi up the mountain to Koyasan

Details from the temples

The ancient cedar wood forest & Okunoin temple graveyard

Mount Kōya (sometimes refer to as Koyasan) makes a perfect day trip from Osaka taking around 1 1/2 hours – 2 hours depending on your connections and if you get the limited express or express train. I used the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket which covered the round trip from Namba station in Osaka to Gokurakubashi on an express train, then the cable car from Gokurabubashi up to Koyasan and then finally unlimited bus travel on Mt. Koya. The pass is both good value and convenient, it is nice to not have to worry about buying the correct individual tickets.

The UNESCO world heritage site was first settled in 819 and is primarily known as the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. The original monastery has grown into the mountain town of Koya with a university and 120 temples, some of which offer lodgings to tourist so you can experience authentic buddhist temple life. I’ve been told by locals the mountain is very important to the Japanese people and that most wish to the visit the mountain at least once in their lifetime.

Mt. Koya is one of my favourite memories of time spent in Japan. Enjoying my short time there so much that I use the word ‘only’ before saying I’ve been twice as it is somewhere I could visit countless more times. The mountain town is breathtaking and you feel privileged to watch the monks go about their day. I intend my third visit to include spending the night in a buddhist temple which has be so far prevented from both my previous visits being only in winter months (I don’t think I’m cut out for a temple stay in -2 degrees).

Having visited Koyasan in the middle of winter when it is low tourist season allowed us to feel like we were the only visitors to this beautiful and sacred mountain. In particular the last time I visited it was almost devoid of tourist and I don’t remember seeing another tourist once we left the bus stop in the middle of town. I’ve been told the mountain gets quite busy in the warmer months on the weekends which is something to consider, perhaps visiting when it was so quiet allowed for a more intimate experience. Although if you do visit in winter remember to take appropriate clothing and footwear, both time I have visited Mt. Koya has had large snowfall.

My most remarkable experience on Mt. Koya is walking alone through the ancient cedar forest which covers the two kilometer cobblestone pathway to the Okunoin mausoleum. Along the pathway is over 200,000 gravestones and monuments dedicated to historic figures, children, war heroes, business leaders, and even pets.

the city by the bay.

Famous Yokohoma skyline

Entrance to Chinatown & the Mazu Miao Temple

Cosmo World

A short (15 minutes from my memory) train trip from Tokyo on an express train and your in Yokohama. I last time I visited Yokohama was in 2013 and It was Chinese New Year. Yokohama has one of the largest Chinatowns outside of China so it seemed like the place to be. Yokohama is one of my favourite cities to visit in Japan for when the culture shock sets in due to the fact that it feels quite western; the roads are wide, they have western architecture, the malls are large, and although being the second largest city in Japan it feels so spacious when compared its nearby neighbour Tokyo. Although this probably speaks for how dense Tokyo is rather than how spacious Yokohama is.

Chinatown was an experience, as all festivals are in Japan. Cars and pedestrians were clearly arguing over who’s road it was with thousands of people making their way down the tiny streets to the temple. There was amazing street food as always. At the time I didn’t realise it was the year of the panda so I was confused as to why there was more than one dedicated store to just panda merchandise, I figured they just really loved pandas in Yokohama. The Mazu Miao Templewas beautiful and many people were praying.

Minato Mirai is the new urban centre of Yokohama, built along the water front I imagine it would be the perfect place for a cool breeze during a humid Tokyo summer, being winter when we visited it was freezing so remember a scarf! We visited several of the shopping centers, the highlight obviously being Landmark Plaza as it is home to a Pokemon Centre. The Red Brick Warehouse was also an interesting visit due to its design, it used to serve the port but has since been refurbished into a shopping centre. Next to the bay is the famous Cosmo World, a small amusement park with a ferris wheel that contributes to the famous skyline of Yokohama.

We somehow unintentionally ended up at the Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum? It was honestly more exciting than it sounds, so if you accidentally end up there give it a chance. We sadly missed out on the Cup Noodles Museum which is on my list for my next visit to Yokohama.

post holiday depression.

You may or may not know that recently I spent a month with my best friend (see more of us at our blog together) in Japan. It was an amazing experience, I’ve been several times before but this time was different. When I think back to my trip I’m so proud of myself for getting their and back, I live out of home so I paid for the trip all myself, I worked 38+ hour weeks last year while studying full time as well, which was torture, convinced my boss that I deserve to go away for month and still have a job when I get, continued to pay my rent while gone so my things had a home. Like I did this really grown up thing. I even filled out my own immigration forms.

I rented an apartment in Shinjuku Tokyo for the whole month, spent a couple of nights in Osaka and then used a two week rail pass to kinda sit on trains and commute to all these different places. I think about all the things I saw and I don’t even know where to start, and then I think about all the things I missed out on seeing and it’s like oh gosh. Staying in an apartment for a month really made the experience kinda just seem like I was living there rather than your normal hotel holiday experience, which has probably made the PHD (post holiday depression) all the worse.

Just this morning I had yet another nightmare, I’m in Japan having the most amazing time, I’m off doing some shopping, eating amazing food, there was cherry blossoms blooming outside that I just rushed to see when BAM! My brain kicks in. Suddenly dream me is very confused about why I’m still in Japan? Did I miss my flight home? What’s going on here? Then I usually wake up and realisation sets in that I’m at home in Sydney. Yeah still getting these dreams like once a week, 5 weeks on from getting home. I’m pretty sad. This year’s study load is too large for me to work full time and next year is third year so I’m guessing a similar situation, I imagine my next trip back to Japan may be just before I do my masters or something. So a long long way away.

Anyway so here is an image dump from a day in Shibuya, eating at our favourite pancakes place and shopping at 109. I’ll be dumping lots of photos from the trip over the next couple of weeks.