top of page
  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

Japan - Day 9 - Namba Yasaka, Osaka to Koyasan -the holiest part of Japan!

Japan - Day 9 - Namba Yasaka to Koyasan -the holiest part of Japan!

Namba Yasaka, aka the Dragon Shrine, Osaka, Japan
Namba Yasaka Shrine, Osaka, Japan

Finishing up in Osaka, we start the day broken. Marc has a bite on his leg that is infected, so he intends to get it sorted through our travel insurance this morning, and if you've seen the previous blogs, you will know I've barely mentioned this.. but my feet are broken! Not literally, but they're in much pain from any kinda of prolonged walking now, mostly from blisters and uncomfortable trainers, or at least said trainers are uncomfortable after 100+km of walking in just over a week The irony is, of course, that these are special Vans (usually the most comfortable footwear I own) which are made specifically for walking! I think they overengineered that bit to suit the average rather than wide foot, resulting in not very good shoes for walking with wide feet, unlike their actual trainers - but hey, I liked the colour way, and knowing you walk a lot in Japan, it seemed like a good excuse to buy them. I popped the most offensive blister, the one making my little toe at least twice the size, using a phone SIM card tool. I debated whether this was a great idea and sanitary, but combined with the serenity of being stuck atop of a mountain in Koyasan to come, it was the break my feet needed to return to health. If you remember back to the first Osaka post, we went in search of the Dragon shrine but ended up on the main shopping run, so I used the fact Marc needed some medical attention too to dip out and go find it, and Dex decided to tag along. It was within a half hour walking distance, but our feet weren't up to it, so we chose the 18-minute metro.. thank god.  Its aesthetics are definitely worth a look, but it’s not much of a destination outside of that. You kinda assume that it'll be surrounded by mystery, but it's pretty much smack bang in between buildings, which is useful for breakfast as there's always Kombini nearby. I'm still glad I went, as it was one of those must photograph things I'd outlined while doing research prior to heading to Japan, and I'd have been a little disappointed if I didn't power through the pain to check it out. Fortunately, upon our return to the hotel, Marc had had a good experience with our travel insurers, even if one Japanese doc wasn't interested via video call, but they sorted him out via a local chemist, and he got the required self treatments to ensure it wasn't an issue for the rest of the holiday (and it fully recovered soon after), and he'd just got back to the hotel minutes before us so we could all be readied for the next phase of the journey.

From hotel to hotel, it's a good 2 hour 15-minute journey. You head through the countryside and mountains on the train before arriving at the cable car station. I say cable car, but it's not like a hanging one as we might envision it in the UK, but a tiered train that rides up the mountain on a pretty steep rail - i'll post a video of it in a future blog as I recorded one on the way back down. It's a pretty cool form of transport to experience. We do have similar ones in some seaside towns in the UK, but not quite to this level! At the top and at Koyasan station, we chilled out for a bit as we have a small wait for the bus. There's this cool look out room that oversees part of the mountain, plus there's a mini train museum. As can be often the case in Japan, when we venture outside to find our bus while looking a bit confused as to whether we need to pay at a visible counter or on the bus, a worker is helpful in ensuring we're waiting for the right one. It drops us off in the main part of Koyasan 'town', and we have a small walk to the Koyasan Saizen-in Temple, which is our hotel for a couple of nights. It's here we encounter our first wild snake.. but it had met a bad fate on the road, not that it wasn't enough to jump scare a few of the party.

A part of the Danjo Garan sacred temple complex, Mount Koya, Koyasan, Japan
A part of the Danjo Garan sacred temple complex

As suggested by its name, our hotel has its own small temple and is a Ryokan (Traditional Japanese Inn) where monks take care of the day-to-day chores while also cooking and serving for the guests, yet it has a personable couple running/owning it that don't seem to be connected to the religious aspects, aka, aren't monks, so I'm not entirely sure of how it works.. but you can check out more about it here. That doesn't really matter, though, because it's a unique experience to have all the same. I also usually leave the hotel comments to one blog during a stay, but this time I'll dip in and out of them here, and during tomorrow's blog, and that way I can mix up the timelines a little to keep the content flowing across both days. And speaking of which, there are some important things to point out while staying here, and one such thing is that the gates close at the inn at 9pm (it may have been 10), and once they're closed, you ain't getting back in!

Anyways, after checking in, we head back out towards the main town to have a look around the shops. There aren't too many, but there's still plenty of mascot stuff I fancy in the absence of a plush, and I dwell on an unrelated mascot more expensive piece, which I'll pick up tomorrow. There are a few people around Koyasan, but it's pretty quiet. It's a place you kinda have to want to go and see, whereas Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo have people everywhere and all at once, and even Ikaho was busy in places, albeit dead at the top of the mountain next to lake Haruna too. Alongside seeing some monks walking around, you'll very occasionally still bump in to a minute group of tourists, but it's still really nice and relaxed. We have a couple of heavy rainstorms over the two days here too, and it's the first real rain since being in Japan, and it represents a great excuse to slow down the pace a little, take a load off, and to fix those feet.

Having said that, there are still enough breaks in the rain to get out and have a look around, and our arrival day was mostly dry. Given the constraints imposed on us though either feet, rain, or Ryokan times, we just mooched around on foot (ironically) and made no effort to explore outside of walking distance. If you put blinkers on and head away from the hotel back down the main road towards the shops, which is all of about 10 minutes away, it's easy to miss a lot of stuff other than the main Danko Garan temple complex, which is practically opposite our hotel. We explore said complex accordingly during daylight, and when it gets dark, I break out the tripod and head back over for some night shots. With the lack of light pollution and the fact I'm sitting on sacred ground in the dead of night, which in reality is about 8pm with the dark nights of Japan, I don't mind soaking in the atmosphere while staring at the stars and waiting for those long exposures to develop.

Back home, I'm a bit gutted when I get them back on the computer, not because they're bad, but mostly because the one shot I fell in love with on the back of the camera, and of which looks beautiful in max res, is a bit pants when compressed in to a small jpeg for social media. Compression just mushes the stars and the night sky together, killing all clarity unless you make an effort to view it properly.. grrr.. the joys of digital and screens! Anyways, back in Japan, and I need to head back to our Ryokan so I don't get locked out, and equally, so that my weary feet can be rested some more to be well on their way to recovery.



bottom of page