Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Koyasan, or Why Megan Doesn't Like Tourist Traps

Why DOESN'T Megan like tourist traps? I still am not totally sure.

Getting to Koyasan (which is a mountain bestrewn with temples, shrines, pagodas, mausoleums, monuments and guesthouses, and also named a UNESCO treasure or something) was part of the problem. From our machiya in Kyoto, we taxied to the train station, took a train to Osaka, took another train to Shin-Imumiya, took another train to another city, then to an express line through the mountain, then to the railcar up the winding path through the mountain, then a bus down the winding road through the mountain..........all lugging two large suitcases. It was near nightmarish, which could have been prevented by a) researching all the stops on our route and how much time we had to get from point to point, and b) packing lighter. Did I mention pack light? I mean pack light. I don't know what else we really could've done; we are carrying around a ton of souvenirs as well as two kimono sets. Suitcases are sorta necessary right now. Anyway, I was super stressed upon arrival.

Koyasan is, as described above, essentially a hive of monkery. (Side note: if anyone knows of a hive of monkeys, please forward this information on to me at your earliest convenience.) There are about 100 guesthouses which are temples with traditional Japanese rooms available to rent by the night at about $100 per person. English is spoken well enough to get you what you need. You get two vegetarian meals--which were absolutely beautiful and way more food and variety than I expected, but not necessarily....good.--and you can get up and pray and drink tea with the monks at 6am. Ours also had a bath house for the women and one for the men; I was a dirty dirty girl and skipped it. Everything is green and verdant and the air is fresh--though thin due to the altitude--and the temples/shrines/pagodas/halls/houses/etc/etc/etc are marvels of Japanese art and architecture.

So what's not to love? I dunno. To me, it felt very...unauthentic. Contrived. Like because I was surrounded by beautiful nature and shrine after shrine of happy monks, I was supposed to have A Significant Experience. The shops around town were all full of cutesy or Significant, overpriced knickknacks and there were too many white people. This was supposed to be MY secret find where I could sneak in with the truly Significant Experiencers. Gahhh.

Fortunately my husband is often much smarter than his wife and he had an amazing time, complete with a renewed sense of balance and purpose. I'm gonna draw on his face in marker while he's sleeping.