I woke this morning to heavy rain. Kinda like the rain we get in Scotland only warm. I thought it was rather pleasant as I walked to the local 7-11 for some breakfast; like having a warm shower with your clothes on, but the locals clearly thought I’d lost it as I casually strolled through the downpour in a t-shirt and jeans while they all had waterproof clothes and umbrellas!
I had pencilled in a trip to Mount Koya, or Koyasan as its also known, today but the torrential rain was making me doubt the decision. Rain at sea level may be pleasant but at 3000 ft up a mountain it might not be quite as nice.
I had all but decided to switch plans and go back to kyoto today instead when the magic phrase appeared on a japanese weather forecast:
“Wakayama prefecture, 50% chance of thunder storms”
Walking through Japans largest graveyard in a forest, 3000 ft up a mountain, in the rain, might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but doing it all in a thunderstorm! Who wouldn’t jump at that!?
So, off I set towards Koyasan hopeful of some lightening strikes to make for some dramatic photos.
It’s just under 2hrs from Namba station on the Koya line, then as we approach the mountain and the slope steepens, the train line stops and we climb on board a cable car to take us up to 3000 ft
The cable car ride is very quick, 1500ft of ascent in just over 5 minutes and usually with some stunning views but not today as the entire mountain was cloaked in a thick mist. Once at the top its a short bus trip to the huge necropolis of Okunoin (walking is forbidden along the initial stretch of the narrow mountain road)
I realise I keep using words like “huge” and “largest” to describe Okunoin and these don’t really give any real sense of how big it actually is. I’ll just quote one fact and leave it for you to picture the rest:
Okunoin has more than 200,000 tombs.
TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND tombs!! The thunder didn’t arrive but I’m so glad I went today. The combination of autumnal colours, the rain and the atmosphere of the place made for what I hope will be some very moody, atmospheric photos.
I’ve been to Okunoin twice before and loved the place, but today in the mist, just watching leaves fall from the high cedar trees and silently settling on pathways and tombs, some of which date back to the early 1100’s was magical.
I spent several hours there, exploring parts of the forest id never seen before, usually on my own as most visitors keep to the well defined pilgrims path.
It wasn’t all fun and games though…
One risk from leaving the beaten track is that you’re more likely to walk face first into a giant tree spider’s web, which I just narrowly avoided (complete with spider) when I turned, not looking where I was going for a second only to stop inches from the web and its occupier!! I’m not too proud to tell you that I screamed like a little girl before lurching back and narrowly avoiding a second one!
I had an image of me leaving the forest like Indiana Jones on his way out of the temple of doom but with no one to brush them off for me!!
Needless to say i made a speedy retreat back to the path after that!
The other scare was when I stopped again at Sugatami-no-ido, the reflection well.
If you followed my blog last time I was in Japan you may remember this site. Legend has it that if you look into the well and don’t see your own reflection, then you will die within 3 years…
Last year I did it with no problems, so I casually wandered over today and glanced into the water only to see… Nothing! There was water, I could see the trees behind me but just darkness where I should have been. I convinced myself that it was just bad light and shuffled slightly to the left and there i was!
I’m not sure how these legends work, is it first answer only, or can you make an adjustment and try again, or maybe it was just warning me if I don’t make some adjustments I’ll be dead in 3 years!?
Anyway, I’m off to Kyoto tomorrow (while I still have time!) to visit the silver pavilion, walk the philosophers path and do some more shopping. If the weather is nice I may even have another go at Meiko / Geisha spotting!