The trip to Mt. Koya was very nice. It took about 4 hours to get there. I am very well versed in Japans offering of mass transit now. The trip there and back went something like this: Kyoto Subway->Hankyu Rail->Osaka Subway->Nankai Electric Railway->Nankai Cable Line->Koyasan Bus.
At 5:30 we were invited to attend there mediation ceremony. The monk in charge spoke english and guided everyone through how to meditate. Basically you sit cross legged with your back straight, close your eyes and take deep breathes. We then did this for about 40 long minutes. I think the only two people in the room who didn't fidget was the monk and Stan. Everyone else shifted positions at least once. A brief moment of giggles broke out in the middle of it from someone but lucky it didn't spread. I was happy when it was over because I ran of things to think about after 20 minutes and started counting how many times the air conditioning cycled on and off. It was a really long 40 minutes.
Towards the end of dinner, an old lady came in (I can't remember her name) to share with us her life story. She was the wife of the former head monk and had lived at the monastery for the last 63 years. In her youth she had studied English literature at university in Tokyo and spoke very good English. She told us how english was just obscure foreign language when she started studying but when the war broke out she was scorned for studying the "enemy's language". It wasn't until American forces came to Mt Koya looking for weapons during the occupation that her language skills were needed and she had lots of work as a translator. Now her son is the head of the monastery.
We slept the traditional Japanese way on futons rolled out over the Tatami. There were two rooms for the girls and two rooms for the guys but they were all side by side and we were only separated by sliding screens. Next time you complain about your apartment walls being paper thin, it is much worse when the walls really are just made of paper. No private conversations here. The futons didn't do much to soften sleeping on the floor but it explain why our beds at our hotel are so firm.
At 5:30 we were woken up by the sound of a gong. We were invited to here their morning ceremony which consists of a chanting of their scripture. Very interesting to say the least. Then the Monk shared this really long story of how good thoughts can keep water pure and thus by the transitive property, Happy thoughts keep your body pure because the 70% that is water is pure. The monk had pictures and everything. It was one of those stories that sound like something for Mythbusters to test. It was almost comical some of the claims he was making.
We were served breakfast afterwords which looked a lot like what we had for dinner
After lunch we headed back to Kyoto and now tomorrow we start our charette (weekend design project) with some students over at KIT.
Pictures Day 15 & 16