Immersion on Mount Koya

This is a guest post by Alena Klindziuk ’18

Sitting out on the wooden open-air porch, looking out on the mountains steeped in fog, hearing the bamboo fountain stock hit a rock as it overfills with water, hearing the wind chime gently sing in the breeze…

I had two images of Japan. One was of modern Japan, best embodied by Shibuya or Shinjuku. The other was of old japan. A collection of images from books, movies, amines. Wooden porches, paper doors, maple leaves, calligraphy scrolls captivated my imagination since childhood. The traditional Japan came to be embodied by Koya-san.

It was not merely because I saw a collection of traditional things there. Even though the pace of our travels is rather relaxed, it is nevertheless difficult to fully immerse oneself in a place – to feel its energy. To see it not as an outsider, being amused and distracted by its peculiarities, but to behold it wholly – to understand its purpose, the flow of energy that gives the life and vitality to a place.

Often when I am traveling, it is difficult to connect to a place in such a way. Yet, when I stepped into a cool, damp, foggy air of Koya-san, I felt immersed. The rain drove away a portion of the tourists, leaving the place more or less pristine. The fog and shadows of giant cedar trees filled the sacred mountain with mystery. The incense, chanting of sutras, monks’ colorful robes gave the place an enchanting quality. The quiet walks through the centuries-old cemetery, and the wonderful wooden bath at the temple filled me with peace. I spent an evening on a porch overlooking the garden meditating, observing the koi fish in the pond and the reddening leaves of the Japanese maple. I wish I could somehow preserve this feeling from Koya san and take it with me.

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