Konichiwa from Koyasan

It’s 11:30pm and I will not be going to sleep any time soon.

I’m writing from Shojoshin-in monastery in Koyasan, Japan.  There are a couple things keeping me awake.

  • Whoever invented futons should be forced to sleep on one for the rest of his life.  I piled six on top of each other and all they do is sag into the center so that my head and feet are elevated and my spine is bowed downward onto the hard floor.
  • Restless Legs. After going through hell to wean myself off my RLS prescription, I used my emergency stash of pills while Lynn was with me so I wouldn’t drive her crazy with my pacing, kicking, and thrashing around all night. Now I have one pill left which I will try to save for my flight home, and I am going through mini withdrawal again.
  • My phone—I dropped it into a toilet! It’s dead!  There’s a chance it may be okay if I refrain from touching it for 24-48 hours and no one sends me a text or any kind of message.

But …

  • I don’t know what time it is unless I turn on my laptop, and I don’t have an alarm! Meditation starts at 6:30, followed by breakfast at 7:30.  There is a note on the info sheet about the monastery that says “Bell rings before 10 minutes.”  Ten minutes before what?  If it’s for morning meditation, will I hear it if I’m in the deep slumber I usually get for an hour or two after being an RLS puppet all night?

So many thoughts.  I don’t usually write at night but maybe if I get this out of my system, I will be able to settle my mind, if not my legs.

Koyasan is the most amazing place I have ever been.  That’s what I was thinking as I wandered through the ancient mausoleum that is where the 9th Century monk Kobo Daishi is meant to be in a state of permanent, deep meditation, praying for the wellbeing of all people. His mausoleum and the thousands of graves and shrines that surround it are in a forest of ancient cedar trees.  This was right before I dropped my phone in the toilet.  I will show you photos if my phone revives.

It took some doing to get here.  This morning I bade farewell to Lynn after another great travel time together of 10 days in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara. Much more on that later.

We took a shuttle from our hotel to the train station, where we had breakfast and then Lynn headed back to Tokyo and off to Scotland.  I took the Wakayama train to Hashimoto, where I transferred to the Nankai Koya line to Gokurakubashi.  Wonderful names.

The second train ride was very scenic, winding up, up, up through the mountains and stopping in tiny towns which didn’t appear to have road access.  Next it was on to a cable car which rose what seemed like a thousand feet up the mountain, followed by a 20-minute bus ride.

I was checked in by a monk who swiped my credit card, then hoiked my luggage into a dumb waiter to take it to the second floor.  He pointed out the shared toilets and baths and the meditation hall as he led me to my room.  It’s a traditional Japanese room, which means super uncomfortable for westerners like me who aren’t accustomed to sitting or sleeping on the floor.  But I have a view of a beautiful garden with mountain peaks in the background.  The sound of a brook, and frogs and birds, is in the background.  The monastery serves guests breakfast and dinner and the dinner was out of this world.

I could hear an Australian guy in the next room asking for a chair at dinner.  He was given one.  I will try to hold out and sit on a cushion to eat my meals but I don’t know if my hips can stand sitting on the floor for three days.

That’s about it for now.  Wish me luck with my phone.

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