It was a painful awakening this morning, and we were down in the lobby by 6am arranging our luggage to be delivered straight to Osaka. This is a genius idea that I wish other countries (especially the UK) would implement, as now we didn’t have to haul our monstrous bags across trains, buses and a cable car to get to Koya San!
This was organized swiftly, we filled out a form and left our bags in their capable hands. Seeing as we were up so early, we decided to take an impromptu walk to McDonalds for a dirty McBreakfast. So impromptu in fact, that we didn’t realise until arriving outside that I had made the walk still wearing the token hotel slippers – whoopsie, I did wonder why I was getting stared at so much!
In my opinion, the only worthwhile meal to have at McDonalds is their breakfast, and this is even more worthwhile when one has a hangover. We munched our food down and I took the walk of slipper shame back to the hotel to get properly dressed, pack an overnight bag and check out. We were on the subway to Kyoto Station by 9am, meaning we could take an earlier and more direct route to Koya San. I use the term “direct” quite loosely though, as the trip still involved four trains, a cable car and a bus!
The journey took less than three hours which is quite impressive for all of that, each connecting train was ready and waiting for us to hop straight onto from the previous one. I buried myself into my book and Chris had some bizarre TV show to keep him entertained, so the time flew by. Once you get to the final train the scenery gets better and better, more rural and bright greens everywhere. The cable car was a fun novelty and reminded me a little of The Peak Tram in Hong Kong.
The final part was the bus to the temple, which was foolproof as there is a man standing guard directing you onto the most direct bus route to your temple. A bus was already waiting and heading in our direction, so we arrived over an hour early and were able to check in ahead of time. It felt quite strange to be checked into our “hotel” by a monk, then leave our shoes by the door and switch into leather slippers! The room was, as expected, very traditional with tatami mats and paper doors, with a great view out to the garden.
After settling in and having a mooch around the temple and gardens, we decided to head out to explore the “town” area and get a bite to eat. There wasn’t a lot to the town as expected; a couple of souvenir shops, a few little cafes, a convenience store or two and the usual splattering of vending machines. Who knows how they got hauled all the way up here! I presume there is a driving route and they didn’t strap them to the roof of the cable car!
We bought a few snacks for the return train journey and continued searching for a lunch spot. We weren’t sure what we wanted and out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign for toasted sandwiches! Of all the things I expected to find up Koya San mountain, a toastie wasn’t one of them! It had been over ten days since I’d had a proper sandwich so this sounded like a dream.
The café, if you could call it that was actually a few tables put together in what seemed to be a shop and working area. It looked like it may have even lead through to their house behind. The toasties were amazing! A kind of western-Japanese hybrid of ham, cheese, salad, omelette and Japanese mayo, and cooked properly in a sandwich toaster. Each portion was two sandwiches so this filled us up nicely. It didn’t stop us grabbing a soft serve ice cream afterward though, I opted for cheesecake flavour this time.
From here we decided to stroll down to Okuno-in to explore before our dinner, and before it got too dark. There were lots of graves decorated with flowers, fabrics and trinkets. It was a strange but interesting place, very serene – I guess you would call it spiritual! We strolled around and took random pathways leading us to various little roads and dead ends. We encountered a bunch of monks stomping past us at one point too.
Once we had done a thorough exploration we headed back to the room to chill out a bit and attempt to put on our “Yukata”. By this point we were exhausted, but our beds hadn’t yet been made up so we couldn’t rest – this was probably for the best! The meditation was taking place but feeling sleepy we chilled out for a while longer and listened to it from the room.
Quite promptly afterward, our dinner was brought in. This was a varied mix of veggies prepared in different ways, mostly pickled. It may be obvious, but Chris and I aren’t exactly adventurous eaters, so we found some of it a little weird! The rice, vegetable tempura and non pickled elements of the meal were quite tasty, but the bizarre jellied and pickled items, and otherwise unidentifiable objects were a little much for us!
We did try our best to give a fair effort though, and it was a good experience, but one time is definitely enough! After dinner was cleared away, our beds were put up and not long afterward we scrambled in to relax and get some sleep. At least that was the plan. The duvet was so comfy as the room was quite chilly, but the pillow was the most bizarre little thing. It was made up of little beans so your head just sunk in it and couldn’t get comfortable.
I tried using the cushions we sat on for dinner but they just kept sliding off the bed. In the end I gave up and used my travel pillow, and Chris decided he wanted a share of it too, so it wasn’t the best nights sleep! I am not sure if we’re just fussy with pillows but it was so thin too that it was quite pointless being there.