We’d set an alarm and all woke a little after 6 and freshened up before the 6:30 service. The baths were only open the previous night (from 5:00 – 10:00) but we all got to wash our faces and brush our teeth.
When we got to the service, we were offered stools, but chose to sit on the floor like everyone else. People kept gesturing we should move to a different spot, which was confusing, but we did our best to cooperate, and we ended up sitting towards the front. There was a large group of students—probably in their early teens—both boys and girls.
Everyone was sitting quietly, apparently meditating until the monk came in to do the service. It was very calming. When the monk arrived, everyone straightened into two lines, sitting neatly back with their knees tucked under them. Although I tried, I couldn’t hold that position for long and had to sit cross legged. Jennica told me that even some of the Japanese school girls switched to sitting cross legged.
The service started with the monk hitting a chime, each time faster than the time before. The gong reverberated through me, which was an intense start to the service. The monk then sat silently for a while, rearranging items in front of himself; it was clear it was ritualistic, but I didn’t know the reason for any of the items or why he placed them where he did.
Then the chanting started—it was very deep and reverberating. I couldn’t even stand to have my hands holding my knees since it distracted me from losing myself in the chanting. I found myself with closing my eyes and letting the chanting push thoughts out of my racing mind as I tried to reach a point where there was nothing but the chanting. I was successful for short periods of time, and kept trying to return to that trance like state.
When the chanting was over, we weren’t sure when to leave the room, so we waited until the large group of school boys and girls left with what appeared to be their adult chaperones. Much to our surprise, the slippers didn’t ‘even out’ when we went to leave. Although we’d all had the larger slippers, there was one pair of small slippers (which I wore), 2.5 pairs of slippers, so the girls each wore a pair and Stan went in his socking feet. We didn’t know where the group had gone or where we were supposed to go, so we wandered until a monk rescued us and led us to the room where our breakfast was laid out. As with dinner the night before, we each had identical collections of small plates and bowls, each with a serving of something different. There was a sweet thing soaking in liquid that I thought was some form of bread, but Bethy told us was tofu—it was really good. I wanted a beverage other than tea, but had to wait until we returned to our room, where I still had some water.
We gathered our stuff to check out, and Stan sat down with a monk to pay the bill for the room. There was some confusion, as Stan took out the 40,000 yen for the room, and 5,000 yen (expecting change) to cover our drinks at dinner, but the monk looked at him as if it wasn’t enough. Stan asked us for a smaller bill than the 5,000, wondering if that was the problem. It turned out, though, that the 10,000 yen notes had stuck together, and the monk hadn’t realized that there were 4 of them—he’d only seen 3.
We left our luggage at the shukubo so that we could spend some time wandering around Koyasan before taking the train to Osaka. We stopped to have ice cream and a powwow to decide where to go, since we knew we only had time for one spot. We settled on <museum>. As with most Japanese museums, pictures were not allowed.
Train to Osaka and claimed luggage
The subway station was “connected” (in this case, meaning a walk outside) to the Shinimimaya Station, but we couldn’t find the subway station and ended up walking through an area that looked like a bunch of homeless people lying around and others standing in line. We were feeling rushed since we were running late to get to Bethy’s host family’s house for dinner and weren’t even sure how to go about finding our way to the missing subway station.
We caught a taxi to our hotel, which was an adventure in and of itself, since we only had the hotel and map information in English—it was a website that didn’t have the kanji on the English page. The taxi driver had to call the hotel to verify directions and then call back when we ended up about a block away.
We were running very late for dinner with Bethy’s host family so we showered quickly and then caught a cab to Osaka Station, from which we took the train to Ashya. I hate being late. I don’t think it stresses Stan or Bethy as much, but it makes me crazy.
Bethy’s family’s neighbor picked us up at the station—he called Bethy several times, from payphones, since his phone picked that day to run out of batteries—and for the charger in his car to be missing. At least Bethy still had phone service—it was her last day to have a working phone.
Dinner: welcomed by her family, tea at table (Jennica and I sat on the couch)
Bethy’s family’s neighbors were a couple from Hong Kong. The husband spoke better English, the wife spoke better Japanese. So, we a “telephone” line of translation going on—English to Mandarin to Japanese—and then back again.
Tea with blossoms (Chinese)
It was late by the time we got back to our hotel, which we followed by cold showers. The cold showers were a nightly occurrence for us (except for Jennica, who reports she can never handle a cold shower, no matter how hot she is).