Bossin’ Like a Monk in Koyasan

You know who’s like a boss? This Bus.

You know who else is like a boss? We are. Because we’re awesome.

You also know who else is like a boss? Monks in Koyasan.

Here’s the story of how we bossed like monks in Japan:

Koyasan is home to many temples and a World Heritage Site graveyard. But, if you get to visit, check out staying at a temple. The time we stayed over, it was a ridiculously cold Spring day, the kind of cold that chills the bones of any person whose just not used to the cold.

I was thoroughly freezing, but Frank–being the more level-headed one–was prepared and a lot warmer. We had very low expectations for our overnight stay in the temple. It would probably be cold, small, wooden and solemn. We would have to be very quiet and very pious. I mean, who knows, maybe those monks still live in the fifteenth century…BC. And there would be no modern anything, because–hi–they’re monks; they have no need for modern pleasures. Or meat. Or booze. Or fun things.

Ugh. Why, WHY….

…with all these assumptions.

At around 5:00 pm, the little town of Koyasan shuts down and everyone who’s not staying in an overnight temple has to go home. Just like every bartender in my early 20s told me: “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” Just like that, everyone clears out and the bar becomes a ghost town.

Our temple, Ichijoin. Our temple, Ichijoin.

Koyasan is no different. It’s just us, the weary travelers, the monks and the ghosts living in the graveyard. Staying the night in the temple of a secluded, mountainous town reminded us a bit of our overnight trip to Mont St. Michel, whose guests could literally explore the island like it was their own private Idaho.

As we entered our temple, Ichijoin, one monk greeted us and gave us powdery incense to cleanse our hands with. It smelled good and I seriously wanted to know where I could purchase it. Unfortunately, my efforts to find a gallon of it at the Costco came up fruitless…

We were shown areas of the temple, like the baths, meeting rooms with 300 year-old murals and a prayer room. We walked up to our room on the second floor. As we walked in, the frigid Spring weather suddenly subsided: our room was warm! With lights! And big bay windows overlooking a zen garden! And a big flat screen TV! And wifi! And a super cool bidet that blows hot air on your bum! This temple is anything but the 15th century BC. It’s totally modern!

Our view. Our view. Pretty cool. eh? Pretty cool. eh? Nice view, good for contemplating about nice views. Nice view, good for contemplating about nice views. Sitting in front a very VERY old painting. Sitting in front a very VERY old painting. The Robe Up version of "suit up." The Robe Up version of “suit up.”

All the cold chill of the day just melted away in our room: a very modern version of old Japanese temples. Ichijoin temple was in fact very old, but it sure didn’t look like that inside our room.

We put on some robes we were provided and waited for dinner, certain that it would be tofu and rice…and probably more tofu, because, I mean, come on, we can’t everything we want. Warm room and bum-warming bidet? Something has got to give.

…And, yet, we were wrong…in all the right ways.

Yes, there was a lot of tofu and a lot of rice. But, it was awesome and offered on about 5 serving trays per person. For dinner, there was fruit, vegetable tempura, a scenic Spring sakura garden made out of mochi and tofu and seaweed rice rolls. For breakfast, there was tofu hot pot, sides of grapefruit jello, plums and rice. It was amazing, delicious and definitely not modest amounts one would think a monk would have to eat. Nah, living like a monk was looking pretty good at that moment as we devoured every single last dish in front of us.

Eating food like a boss. Eating food like a boss. This is literally half of dinner. This is literally half of dinner. And this is half of breakfast. And this is half of breakfast.

The next day, we attended morning prayer. Each one of us went up to the front, prayed and then went back to our seats. We participated along with the monks as they chanted and service was done in less than an hour. So much more efficient than the masses I was dragged to as a kid. If this is what bossin’ like a monk is all about, well, then count us in!

Think you might want to overnight it in Koyasan? Let us know!

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One response

  • Hi! Found your blog on Pinterest this morning. My husband and I are staying here for a night in May. Any suggestions? Also, we will be headed that way from Kyoto. Any tips on the easiest way to get there?

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