I began my day floating through the perfectly timed Japanese train system up to Gokurakubashi. Here we paused for about 15 minutes where the train tannoy proceeded with this bizarrely timed 20 minute educational talk on my final destination of Koyasan, translating it line by line into French, Japanese and English. Talk over, we headed off the train in our touristy hoards and onto a cable car which provided incredible vertiginous views of the valley below! The rain began to fall as I finally arrived at my hostel so I was glad to be greeted with a cup of tea and a gorgeous capsule cupboard bed! I really cannot profess my love enough for the pleasure I take in sleeping in these cosy little capsules but maybe it is the inner Harry Potter in me that just lives for the cupboard under the stairs experience, who knows! I then used my best Japanese language skills which are still disappointingly limited to eventually find Hanabishi where my hostel owner had explained I could find a classic shojin-ryori which is like the traditional Buddhist vegetarian meal and the culinary speciality of Koyasan! My goodness what a feast! I was presented with no less than 9 dishes including baked Aubergine, steamed rice, a tiny carrot dish, pickles upon pickles, the most beautiful silken tofu in a delicate Wasabi spiced sauce, dumplings that bursted with a soup centre, soft sweet mushrooms, miso soup and then a classic mystery bowl of unfamiliar tastes and textures all unique and delicious, or in Japanese ”oiishi”!
I still had time to kill after my feast before my meditation class was going to start so took myself for tea at a beautiful gallery and cafe filled with local pottery and artwork where I sheltered from the rain. There the gorgeous little boy who was the son of the cafe owners proceeded to show me his manga cartoons explaining their contents in a mix of French and Japanese, neither of which I am proficient in but of course we made it work! Soon enough it was 4.30 and time for my meditation class… so I turned up to this temple and paid my 500 yen before being led into one of the beautiful temple rooms filled with western tourists. I joined them seated on little cushions and one of the monks began our class. He explained first that we were being filmed for Japanese TV (hilarious) and then went on to talk about our type of meditation which was the most basic level and taught us postures and breathing techniques before dimming the lights and letting us begin! It was bizarre but very comfortable and filled with contradictions, “your hands must touch but not touch”, “you must be tense but relaxed”, “keep your eyes open but also closed”. Once I got the hang of it however things became way easier and it was really relaxing! I was kind of ready t carry n when the lights were slowly bought back up! I then trekked back to my hostel in the rain, very ready for a chilled evening and a cosy sleep in my cupboard!