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Nara and Koyasan

Over the past few days I’ve been to Nara and Koyasan and back to Kyoto. I’m leaving Kyoto today to go to the Zendo that I’ve mentioned before. There have been a couple of delays in getting there, but I’m looking forward to it. It looks like somebody is going to owe me ten bucks.

Nara was the capital of Japan before Kyoto, about 1200 years ago. It’s still surprising that when I head out to a smaller city in Japan, it’s still pretty big, and there’s not much level open space between one city and the next. The Daibutsu is the largest Bronze Buddha in the world. It is housed in what is reported to be the largest wooden building in the world. The original one which burnt down hundreds of years ago was fifty percent larger. To give an idea of how big that statue is, this guy was only a small fraction of the size. Nearby is Nigatsu-do, which has a great view, that is when the weather is clear. I didn’t know this earlier in the trip, but in many shrines and temples there are calligraphers that will write the name of the temple in a nice notebook for visitors to take home. I asked him to write the lyrics to Free Bird, but he didn’t seem to understand.

The next day I headed up via train, funicular, and bus to Koyasan (Mt. Koya). It’s a sacred place, and has a huge cemetery with over 200,000 markers, going back over a thousand years. The train ride there headed up the mountain, and I finally saw what I could consider small towns. I stayed over night in a Shingon Buddhist temple. There are about 120 temples in Koyasan, and half of them provide lodging and meals. It was high class, and a nice time. I spent the next day walking around with a couple from Oregon. The biggest draw in Koyasan is the cemetery and the temple it houses. Some of the statues in the cemetery were really interesting, especially as they were being slowly reclaimed by the mountain. At the original entrance to the area is a huge wooden gate, with two big scary dudes standing guard. The light was horrible for this one, but he’s pretty amazing. The museum in Koyasan was great as well, but I couldn’t take photos.

I’ve been bumming around in Kyoto for the past couple of days, and I’m leaving for the Zendo as soon as I finish writing this. I have a fair amount of trepidation about the next few days, but it kind of goes away when I realize that I’ve decided to do this regardless. It’s been a little tougher to be excited about it, because my feet and legs have been sore since I arrived in Japan. I think I might have strained something in my right foot. Each step I’ve taken in this country has been an opportunity for personal growth and renewed commitment. Seiza is torture. Where’s the UN when you need them?

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