Koyasan– A Sacred Tranquility 聖地の静けさ--高野山

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Wakayama Prefecture’s Koyasan is considered to be one of Japan’s holiest places ever since the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi (a.k.a Kukai) founded the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism among its towering cedars in the 9th century.
仏僧、弘法大師(空海)は9 世紀に、そびえ立つ杉の木々の中に仏教の真言宗を開きました。それ以来、和歌山県にある高野山は日本で最も神聖な場所の一つと考えられています。

In 2004, along with two other nearby locations, Koyasan was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.”   
2004 年には近隣の2ヵ所と共にユネスコの世界文化遺産に「紀伊山地の霊場と参詣道」が登録されました。

Nowadays, 117 Shingon monasteries cluster around the mountain’s main temple where 1,000 monks and 3,000 people live, attracting a steady stream of pilgrims.
現在、高野山の主要な寺院の周りには真言宗の寺が117 集まっています。1,000 人の僧と3,000人の人が住んでおり、絶えずやってくる巡礼者をひきつけています。

But it’s not just the pious that make the several-hour long trip south of Osaka --many visitors come just to spend a night as a monk would, at one of the 52 monasteries offering lodging called “shukubou.”       
大阪の南の方へ数時間かけて来るのは宗教心からだけではありません。多くの訪問者は、宿泊を受け入れている52 の宿坊(寺に隣接する宿舎)の一つで、僧侶のような一晩を過ごしにやってくるのです。

The accommodation tend to be rather Spartan, typically no more than a simple tatami mat room with a low table and futon mattress, plus communal washrooms with deep, piping hot baths.                                                        

The price, which is usually around 10,000 yen per person per night, includes a beautifully presented breakfast and dinner served in your room.
料金は通常111万円で 美しく盛り付けられた朝食と夕食が付いており、自室でとることができます。

Strictly vegetarian, you can expect the meals to include numerous small dishes using ingredients such as tofu, yuba, and seasonal vegetables, as well as rice, pickles,  miso soup and perhaps some soba noodles.         

One particular area specialty (although readily available across Japan) that you will most likely be served at Koyasan is a freeze-dried tofu called koyadofu which once rehydrated, has a moist, spongy texture perfect for retaining the flavor of the soup or broth it is cooked in.

Traditionally, the monks here used to freeze the tofu by leaving it out on the mountain overnight.                  

Another highlight of a monastic stay is the opportunity to attend morning prayers with the monks            

In inner temple rooms that are usually faintly lit, the air thick with incense, you’ll be able to watch close at hand as the monks recite their early morning sutra in an almost hypnotic droning chant, sporadically accompanied by a heavy, driving drum beat.

At some monasteries guests can also attend a morning fire ceremony, where a lone, seated monk burns 108 pieces of wood in a spectacular ceremony representing the 108 defilements to be overcome on the road to enlightenment.  
宿坊によっては宿泊客が朝の炎の護摩行(木をたいて仏に祈る)に出ることもできます。座った僧侶が独り、見応えのある儀式の中で、悟りを開くために克服すべき108 の煩悩(欲望)を象徴する108片の薪をたきます。

Staying at a monastery is not the only reason to visit Koyasan.

The Okuno-in is another sacred part of Koyasan, where more than 200,000 grave stones and monuments sprawl across this heavily wooded area.
奥之院は高野山の信仰の中心であり聖地で、 20万を超える墓石や祈念碑などが  広大な森の中に立ち並びます。

It has a wonderfully mysterious feel to it as you wander among its tall cedars, mossy stone stupas and small jizou statues dressed in vivid red bibs.

At its eastern end, the cemetery gives way to the Hall of Lanterns, richly decorated and lit by 10,000 constantly burning oil lanterns, behind which, almost hidden in a cloud of incense and dense woodland, is the off-limits mausoleum of Kobo Daishi.  

It’s also worth paying a visit to the other side of town and Kongobu-ji, the Shingon sect’s main temple, which is home to a famed collection of 16th-century paintings.  

The 500 yen entry fee includes green tea and a confectionery, taken in one of the temple’s newer halls, but the real highlight is the landscaped rock garden.

As one of Japan’s largest, this garden is called “Banryuutei” and the sizable rocks represent two dragons.           

Nearby, you’ll also find Koyasan’s sacred inner precinct, the Danjougaran, a collection of several wooden halls and colorful stupas where Kobo Daishi erected the mountain’s first monastery.   
近くには高野山の神聖な境内、壇上伽藍もあります。 弘法大師が最初の寺を山に開いた場所にある、いくつかの木造のお堂と色とりどりの仏舎利塔の集まりです。

Although most of the structures in this sandy compound are modern rebuilds, they do house some impressive antiquities.

Inside the vivid orange Konpon Daito (Great Stupa), a towering structure located at the compound’s center, the most impressive of these are the five giant, golden-gilded Buddhas.                                                                                    

From Shin-Osaka shinkansen station take the Midosuji subway line to Namba station and transfer to the Nankai-Koya Line.
新幹線の新大阪駅から 地下鉄御堂筋線でなんば駅まで行き、南海高野線に乗り換えます。

Services run almost hourly from Namba  to Gokurakubashi station, some requiring a change at Hashimoto station, and take between 70 and 100 minutes.
なんばから極楽橋駅まで、ほぼ1時間おきに電車が運行されていますが 橋本駅で乗り換えなければならない場合もあります。所要70100分ぐらい。

The last leg of the trip is a five-minute cable car ride from Gokurakubashi  up to Koyasan.                                                          

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