We left HGH early in the morning walking through a drizzle on the way to the subway. Our plan was to take a train to Nara (2.5 hour ride), visit Nara, and then leave for Mt. Koya.
The train ride to Nara went fast, as I slept for half of it. We had 2 hours in Nara, so we checked our bags into lockers at the station and then took off to see the largest Buddha in Japan. Incidentally, the largest Buddha is housed by the largest wooden building in the world!
On the way there, we passed busloads of school children on their way to view the Buddha. It was raining quite a bit so the kids all had ponchos on and matching galoshes with umbrellas-CUTE!
We saw a 5 story pagoda, the National Treasure Musuem, and of course the Buddha. For anybody in a similar situation, I would recommend a side trip to Nara. Two hours is too rushed though. I’d say 4 hours or more is ideal.
As soon as we saw the Buddha, we looked at the watch and we had about 20 minutes to make it back to the station! So we half jogged back (still raining!) and I rushed into a Circle K for some ramen noodles and sandwhiches for lunch on the train.
At the end of the trainride, we took another furnicular train up to the top of Koya-san. It was a very pretty little trip, but it was raining cats & cows outside, so we were happy when we finally got to Shojoshin-In. (The bus ride there was very short-15 minutes or so).
Staying at a Buddhist monastary is a very unique and rewarding experience. Our room there was the biggest in size of any of the rooms we had! And, they did provide towels and Yukata (japanese house robes) for guests, a nice hot water maker, and even a TV. The room was very comfy, with two nice futons.
Breakfast and dinner are set at specific times, and were served in the room next door to ours. We were served tea with meals, very yummy green tea. The food is a delight, all vegetarian meals with amazing flavors and textures. See the pictures!!! Every meal I got completely stuffed.
There are prayer services at 6am which they say are mandatory, but one morning we did not make it and nobody commented to us. In any case, the services were neat to see/participate in since it was mostly about honoring ones ancestors! The Shojoshin-In has an Onsen style bath suite for guests (one for each gender) that open at 4:30pm to 10pm. Very hot and relaxing!!!
It was still drizzling at 8pm when I got back from a very refreshing walk, and I was very excited about the next days adventures!