Too Much Tofu

October 30, 2006 — Jason del Sur

Yesterday is best presented as a haiku:

Five thirty a. m.
There’s no hangover today
A monk at my door.

Two days ago I awoke with a a raging hangover from Halloween festivities and a missing camera. I was going to Koyosan for the evening, so I knew it would be a relaxed day. In Koyosan, a small mountain town about two hours south of Osaka, you stay at a Buddhist temple. They serve you dinner and breakfast in your room at the temple, but it’s all vegitarian. Some tasty and some not so tasty. Definitely the best miso soup I’ve ever had. But the weird tofu squares that explode with wettness when you bite into them, not so enjoyable.

I didn’t know what I was going to be having, so I prepared myself (and relieved my hangover) with the best thing I could think of at the train station: McDonalds. Nothing says no meat after this for a day like a double cheeseburger and fries. Plus all I had had the day before was conveyor belt sushi and octopus balls (imagine six tiny corn dogs, only instead of hot dogs in the middle, it’s octopus. The octopus ball stand is their version of Chicago’s taco stand. Funny enough tako in Japanese means octopus).

If you ever go to Osaka, definitely take the overnight trip out to Koyosan. It’s a little while away, but the train ride has some awesome views and the cable car ascent to the town is spectacular. There’s some awesome temples and shrines. One of my favorites was this room filled with nothing but hundreds and hundreds of lanterns. There’s just rows and rows of them. They’re on the ceiling. They’re everywhere. Unfortunately by that point my newly purchased disposable camera was already out of film.

The town shuts down after dusk/dinner time–5:30ish–and you don’t know what to do with yourself, but you can do things like read the provided Teachings of Buddha, even if it’s in Spanish. I found the place where they keep the books, and they have every language from German to Polish to Arabic to Portuguese. But no English. I understood about half of the teachings of Buddha, thanks to my high school Spanish.

So you end up falling asleep around 10. It still has been some of the most sleep I’ve gotten all trip. They wake you up at 5:30 for the morning service, which is nice-the service, not the being awoken at 5:30-only you can’t understand what’s going on. But the gong is cool sounding and the fire they build is awesome. Well, because both gongs and fire are awesome.

I also reccommend checking out the cemetary at night. It’s giant, about a kilometer long. While a Christian cemetary tends to be be very creepy at night, a Buddhist cemetary has a very different feel. It is peaceful and serene, even as the candle light lanterns light your path.

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