Daily Archives: January 28, 2012

Breakfast on Koyasan & Wagyu in Kyoto

We woke up nice and early for morning prayer. We dressed only a little bit warm and as soon as we entered the main temple we wished we had put on more layers. It was freezing and there were only two little tiny heaters.

The morning prayer and fire ritual were amazing to witness. I took a video of the fire ritual which I’ll try to post after I return to Australia. I highly recommend staying at Eko-in if you ever decide to visit Koyasan.

After the two ceremonies breakfast was served in our rooms. At first we were expecting a bigger spread after the feast that was dinner. But while this meal looked smaller than our last, it was certainly satisfying and filling. Again, amazing flavours.

We spent the morning before check out exploring the temple and huddling up next to the heater in the computer room to check our emails and so the girls could post some photos to instagram. There’s a lot more to see on Koyasan but because Serena didn’t bring her boots (we left most of our luggage in a locker in Osaka) we didn’t want her feet to freeze off. Also to really see everything I think you need more time on Koyasan and we had to get to Kyoto.

After checking into our accommodation, Hokkaikan Ohanabo (http://www.yado-web.com/kinki/kyoto/egb03/egb03.html) (Which I highly recommend for anyone staying in Kyoto, it’s very clean, spacious, the owners and staff are extremely friendly, the breakfast is delicious and it’s really close to Kyoto station), we went to Pontoccho, a long paved lane way along the canal filled with bars and restaurants. It has a beautiful atmosphere at night and is of course, filled with delicious food.

We went to Kotoshi (http://r.gnavi.co.jp/c473800/lang/en/map), which I had been to before, for some irori dining (cooking over a hearth). We selected some seafood and wagyu to cook over the white charcoal. It’s a beautiful restaurant and we sat upstairs with a window facing the water. There are so many restaurants along this lane way though and I’m sure it would be difficult to pick anything wrongly.

Not far from the restaurant was a little gift shop with products that had bunnies on them. So cute! This was the little bunny dinner scene outside the shop.

Osaka to Mt Koya – Snow!

We stopped off for a quick brunch before heading to Koyasan. Takoyaki and chicken!


Mount Koya (Koyasan) is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect which was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi (also known as Kukai), one of Japan’s most significant religious figures. A small, secluded temple town has developed around the sect’s headquarters that Kobo Daishi built on Koyasan’s wooded mountaintop. It is also the site of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum and the start and end point of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage.

Source: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4900.html

We stayed for one night on Koyasan in the Eko-in temple. You could visit Koyasan for just the day, but it’s much more relaxing to stay overnight and experience a temple stay. There are a lot of temples you can stay at over the mountain that accommodate various budgets.

There were a few reasons I chose Eko-in. It’s close to the entrance to Okunoin cemetery that leads to Okunoin temple and had good reviews online as one of the larger and older temples. Also they conduct two morning ceremonies. Most temples have a morning prayer ceremony that guests are required to attend. Eko-in has an additional fire ceremony where they burn logs representing the 108 mortal sins thus absolving everyone of their sins.

To get to Koyasan took us a few hours by train and then the last part of the journey by “cable car”. The cable car is not a suspended cable car but a tram that runs along the ground, a little like the tram that goes up to the Peak in Hong Kong. Buses run from the cable car station to various locations on Koyasan. We purchased a Koyasan Heritage Pass which is valid for two days and includes return train fare from Osaka to Mt Koya and the cable car and bus pass. It also includes some discount vouchers for various sights on Mt Koya.

Cable car to Mt Koya

When we reached Mt Koya we were greeted by a thick layer of snow on everything! Also freezing cold and poor Serena only wore her sneakers. We spent the afternoon before dinner walking through Okunoin cemetery. It was just beautiful and so peaceful. We only walked about 20 minutes in and turned back because we had to get back to Eko-in for dinner. But if you walk right to the end you will reach the temple.

Ichinohashi Bridge - the entrance to Okunoin Cemetery

Okunoin Cemetery under snow

Eko-in provides vegetarian dinner and breakfast with our stay. We were really excited about the food and were certainly not disappointed. The complexity of flavours in the food, particularly the soups was amazing. And the care and delicacy in presentation was gorgeous. I would love to know how to make some of this food.

Tower of food trays brought to our room.

Udon and vegetable soup on a burner.

Tempura Vegetables

Yummy beancurd items.

Dinner was served at 5.30 then we went for a dip in the hot baths downstairs before getting an early sleep. First prayer ceremony was going to start at 7am. A little later than usual because of the colder season. Zzz.