The Ichinohashi Bridge separates the world of the living from the underworld.
Thousands of lighted stone lanterns illuminate the path that leads to the mausoleum where Kobo Daishi, the founder of Koyasan, is resting in eternal meditation.
Most visitors choose to walk through the Okunoin, the largest cemetery in Japan, at night.
The weather in Mount Kōya is usually cold, humid, and misty – just perfect for a late night meeting with the ghost of an old samurai – or even maybe with Kobo Daishi himself.
Legend says that the monk chose to build a Buddhist temple in Koyasan after once meeting a hunter walking with a black and a white dog.
The hunter was actually the spirit of Mount Kōya and he gave him a permission to build a temple.
Today, there are 117 temples in Koyasan.
Although they were originally built to accommodate travelling monks, nowadays about a half of them are also open to tourists who wish to live the Buddhist monk life for a while.
They only serve vegan food and the meals generally consist of different types of tofu. Almost all restaurants in the town are 100% vegan, even the ice cream stores (expect tofu ice cream).
A good number of the monasteries have their own private onsen – the only option for a bath in many temples. Visitors are also expected to join the prayers at 5a.m. in the mornings – maybe it’s a good prevention from meeting evil spirits on the way to the mausoleum?
Although many people would definitely find the monk life to be quite tough, it is also a beautiful one: