After Kyoto I went to Koyasan, this beeutiful holy town atop a mountain where the thing to do is stay in one of the many monasteries and cohab with the monks – dine with them, wake up at sunrise and chant with them, slink past them in the hallway in your robe wondering if you’ve got the right pair of slippers on.
Once there, you’ll find yourself surrounded by mountain peaks, beautiful traditional buildings, a temple every 5 feet and an endless Buddhist graveyard in an old growth forest.
I was a week late for the cherry blossoms in Kyoto which everyone was all “ooh, you missed the cherry blossoms” about and I was all “ooh, whatever” about until I got to Koyasan, which is at a higher altitude, where the cherry blossoms were in full swing.
And, erm, they are kind of a big deal.
Not only do they only hang around for about a week, but there’s something so ethereal about them, snowing down pink fluffy little petals everywhere like so much fairy debris….
Everything about my trip here was perfect – met a couple really fun people on the train ride in, perfect weather, no crowds, so imagine my horror when the one thing I thought would be the caker, the monk thing, turned out to fall flat on its face.
For starters, I got yelled at upon arrival. I wanted to be all holy and respectful and shoeless and tip toey and thought I was doing a rather excellent job of it thank you very much until I needed to grab something out of my bag after putting my shoes back on, and in reaching for it, apparently let the very tippy edge of my shoe hit the monastery floor which caused this monkly voice to come booming out of the office:
“you are in Japan now!”
Dude! I wanted to explain that I knew I was on sacred ground and that I took it very seriously and that it was actually technically the top of my shoe and it only really touched the step, not the floor, because I was paying very close attention you see….
Then there was the part where I may have been using the men’s bathroom the entire time.
The guy they sent to my room to explain the very strict rules of the place to me spoke about 5 words of English, none of which I understood, and even though it seemed like he was waving and nodding to the bathroom next to my room, upon entering I realized it had a bunch of urinals in it.
And I couldn’t for the life of me find another.
Or anyone to ask.
So I’d get my pants half off, stick my head out my door, peer down the hallway in both directions and make a mad run for it. I’d also spend my time loitering outside the bathroom door, pretending to futz with my robe, in hopes of seeing someone else use it, but apparently they were all in on the joke.
And as if I wasn’t already the pillar of inappropriateness, I totally had the hots for one of the monks. I couldn’t help it – he was so calm and manly and evolved and spoke 85 languages and looked great in a robe….so I found myself, when I got bored of staking out the bathroom, roaming the halls hoping to bump into him.
If this karma thing is true, I am in deep doo doo.
I got the hell out of there as early as I could and headed to the Osaka train station where I caught the bullet train en route to another town in the mountains called Takayama.