Okunoin (Koyasan)

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 | 0 comments

     Okunoin is THE reason that I wanted to visit Koyasan. Of course, finding out that you could stay in Buddist temples while there only increased my desire to go, but Okunoin was what caught my eye in the first place.
  While looking at photos of Japan's World Heritage sites, I came across a picture of Okunoin on a misty day. It was beautiful in every sense of the word. Perhaps not everyone shares my interest in historical graveyards (the catacombs in Paris were also on my 'must-see' list when we visited there), but this is one site that's well worth experiencing, graveyard or not. More than 2 km long from the main entrance to Kobo Daishi's mausoleum, Okunoin is considered the most sacred site in Koyasan. It's home to more than 200,000 gravestones, and the cobblestone path leading through it is shaded by centuries-old cedar trees.
 A shorter (and more modern path) also leads through the cemetary from the Okunoin-mae bus stop, but both paths converge at the Gokusho Offering Hall. From there, the Gobyonohashi (Gobyo Bridge) crosses a stream separating the innermost temple grounds from the rest of Okunoin. After crossing the bridge, food, drinks, and photography are forbidden. Which is unfortunate in a way, since the mausoleum is really a gorgeous site, and I would've loved to have captured it on film. Still, the lack of cameras flashing did make everything feel that much more sacred and peaceful.
  Besides the Gobyo (Kobo Daishi's mausoleum), this innermost area is also home to Torodo Hall (Hall of Lamps). This building is Okunoin's main worship hall, and it houses more than 10,000 eternally lit lanterns that have been donated by worshipers.  Pilgrims often make a trip to pray to Kobo Daishi, and we saw several along the path when we visited Okunoin.
  I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking...here are some of the best out of the hundred or so I took that afternoon!

                                        Pigrims at the main entrance to Okunoin

                                           The Innermost Grounds (photo taken just before Gobyonohashi, at the final point pictures were allowed)

                            Gokusho Offering Hall

                                               Mizumuke Jizo statues

Kongobuji (Koyasan)

Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 | 0 comments

  Kongobuji is the head temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism. The entire area of Koyasan used to be known as Kongobuji, and there wasn't a temple by this name until 1869, when it was formed by combining 2 existing temples. The current Kongobuji is home to Japan's largest rock garden, the Banryutei.

                                      Just outside the steps to the main entrance

Main Entrance



New Products

Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 | 0 comments

   Still working on finishing up the Koysan trip posts, but for now just a quick review of a couple of new products.
    First up: Meiji's Salty Nuts! They made me laugh, so I had to buy them. Pretty good for 126 yen a box. Nice salty crunch to each indiviudally wrapped chocolate piece. Kind of reminiscent of a saltier Mr. Goodbar, only with almonds and a more finely textured crunch.
  Second product: Pepsi Dry. The label claims 'Pepsi DRY is a brand new NON-SWEET cola. Enjoy its sharp and refreshing taste'. Well, they certainly got the 'non-sweet' part right. At half the sugar of regular Pepsi, it basically tasted like someone forgot to add the syrup to a soda fountain. Yuck!  It brought to mind the idea of rotten champagne with a chemical aftertaste. Nothing to be enjoyed there! Yuki and I were wondering if we were the only ones who didn't like it, but apparently a coworker of his came into work the other day complaining about a nasty new Pepsi he'd tasted. Consider yourself forewarned.

                                 A tribute to the dog days of summer....

                                              Gross. Do not buy!

Danjo Garan Complex (Koyasan)

Posted on Friday, June 17, 2011 | 0 comments

  This complex is one of the most important areas in Koyasan. To quote my tourist pamphlet: 'The name Garan is derived from Sanskrit, and means a quiet and secluded place where Buddhist monks may train'. So in essence, it's a big monastery complex. Initial construction began in the early 9th century, but I'm not sure how long it took to complete. Included in the complex are Daito (the Great Pagoda), Kondo (Golden Hall), Fudodo, and Miedo (Portrait Hall).
Daito was intended by Kobo Daishi to be the center of his monastic complex. It took nearly 70 years to build, but the present building was rebuilt in 1937 after being destroyed by fire several times.
Kondo is where major Buddhist services are performed, although none were going on when we were by.
Fudodo is the oldest surviving building in the complex and is designated as a National Treasure.
Miedo is said to be built on the site where Kobo Daishi resided. A portrait of him is kept here but not displayed to the public. The building itself is only opened once a year, on the day that Kobo Daishi died (or, as the pamphlet puts it: 'entered into eternal meditation').
  There are a bunch of other smaller buildings in the complex too, not all of which were named in my guide. And I wasn't really making note of the most important buildings when we toured the complex, but there are a few of them included in the pictures below....

                                            Daito (Great Pagoda)

                                            Miedo (Portrait Hall)

Kongo-Sanmai-In (Koysan)

Posted on Thursday, June 16, 2011 | 0 comments

One of the many beautiful World Heritage areas around Koyasan. I'll let the pictures do the talking for this post, or else I'm never going to finish up our Koyasan trip on here!

Edamame Kit Kat

Posted on Sunday, June 12, 2011 | 0 comments

       We're back in Japan and arrived home to the newest flavor of Kit Kat: edamame! This particular flavor is well-known as a local edamame product in the Tohoku area. Therefore, 10 yen from each purchase is being donated to the disaster relief fund. I'm not sure how long it's been out, but I'm assuming that I didn't miss another flavor during the month we were back in the US.
Rating on this one? Well, my jet lag seems to be interfering with my taste buds for some reason. As in, nothing has seemed incredibly appetizing the past couple of days. But...I definitely detected a bean flavor when I bit into this one. In a good way. It was immediately followed by the typical Kit Kat aftertaste, but points to Nestle for getting the initial bit right. Yuki also liked the bean flavor but said it could be stronger, and that it was kind of weird in combination with the usual sweetness. Final score: 6.5. Worth trying for the novelty, but not worth buying a second one. Donate your 10 yen (and then some!!!) directly to the Japanese Red Cross instead!

7 Months!

Posted on Tuesday, June 07, 2011 | 0 comments

   Pooper aka William Shatner aka Keila is 7 months old today! Actually, she's 7 months and 1 day Japan time.
   A few highlights from her recent developments:
   1. As of 2 days ago, she now has TWO teeth! That's right, another one has come through to join the one that we first discovered on Memorial Day. And when I say "we", I mean Grandma. While I'm still feeling jealous and somewhat stupid as to not have discovered it for myself first, I do conceed that Grandma has way more child-rearing experience than I do.
 2. Keila is sitting up on her own! For the most part, that is. We still have our face-plant and flop-over-backward moments, but we're doing better day by day.
 3. So far, she can eat rice cereal, barley, carrots (but with major YUCK faces), peas (with a rash around her mouth afterward), sweet potatoes (Helloooo Shatner!!), and pears. She LOVED bananas but broke out in a full-body rash after 2 days of eating them. Here's hoping that she grows out of that one over time! Next up is either apples or mangoes, although if she had her choice, I think she'd have a few bites of my chopsticks.
 4. In terms of non-developments: still refusing to roll over from tummy to back after those first few show-off moves. This situation is probably due to the fact that she still hates tummy times and just screams until Mom gives in and picks her up. Smart girl! 'Standing' with assistance is one of her favorite activities however, so we're wondering if she's just going to skip crawling/rolling and go straight to running.
 5. Speaking of feet, this kid has monkey toes! She'll pick up anything and everything with them. And then pass it straight up to her mouth. Of course.

  Tune in next month to see what she's gotten herself into by then!

  Not the best pic, but I was in a hurry to even get this post typed up today....