Fudo Myo-o and the Fudo Hall (Koyasan Part 3)

Fudo Myo-o and the Fudo Hall (Koyasan Part 3)

Founded by the monk Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi) during the 9th century, Danjo Garan continues to function as the heart of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism in Japan. While the entire kōya (mountaintop valley) is considered a single “temple,” the complex at Danjo Garan holds many important historical structures that still serve a role in modern Buddhist worship – including the Fudō-do, or Fudō Hall.   (To read this series on Koya from the beginning, click here.) In Shingon Buddhist belief, Fudō Myō-ō is an incarnation of the Buddha and the leader of the wisdom kings. He protects the living and guides them toward enlightenment.

Read more

A Visit to Koyasan, part 1: Up the Mountain!

A Visit to Koyasan, part 1: Up the Mountain!

Kōyasan, or Kōya, is a natural basin atop a mountain in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. The shallow basin (called a kōya in Japanese) sits 800 meters above sea level, and is home to one of Japan’s most sacred temple complexes (also known as Kōyasan), as well as Japan’s largest cemetery, Okunoin. In the weeks that come, I hope you’ll join me for a virtual tour of Kōya and its various sites of interest. Today, we’re taking the journey up the mountain by cable car.

Read more

Hanami and Cherry Blossom Forecasts in Japan

Hanami and Cherry Blossom Forecasts in Japan

Yesterday at Murder is Everywhere, I posted a blog about the traditional hanami – “flower viewing” – parties that happen at sakura (cherry blossom) season. (Photo credit: Xyrenth – used with permission.) Cherry blossoms are such an important part of Japanese culture that the Japanese National Tourism Organization (and other media outlets) publish an annual “sakura forecast” predicting the date when cherry blossoms will open across Japan. 

Read more

A Visit to Eikan-do (Part 1)

A Visit to Eikan-do (Part 1)

Eikan-do Zenrin-ji sits on the southern end of the famed “Philosopher’s Path” that runs along a canal in Northeastern Kyoto. Founded during the mid-9th century, Zenrin-ji is the head temple of the Jodo-shu Seizan Zenrin-ji sect of Buddhism in Japan, and although it’s a popular tourist spot, it’s also very much a living, functioning Buddhist temple.

Read more

Traditional Sweets at Hamarikyu Gardens

Traditional Sweets at Hamarikyu Gardens

Although I can’t do much sightseeing this trip due to chemotherapy (compromised immune systems and crowded places do not mix) I’m cleared for outdoor walks, and since Tokyo’s famous Hamarikyu Gardens are only two short blocks from my hotel, I took advantage of the excellent weather and went for a lovely walk this afternoon. Hamarikyu Gardens opened to the public in 1946, but the park has existed for centuries. Originally the private hunting and falconry ground of the Tokugawa shoguns, the gardens are now a public park. The gardens contain several lakes – some of which originally functioned as duck hunting

Read more

Ginza, Visas, and the Start of the 100 Summits Quest

Ginza, Visas, and the Start of the 100 Summits Quest

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived in Tokyo to begin the first official step toward the #100Summits Project: filing my visa application. Japanese residence visas can be difficult to obtain, but I’m hopeful my plans to climb the hyakumeizan and my publishing contract for 100 SUMMITS–a nonfiction book about my quest to scale Japan’s most famous peaks in a single year–will be sufficient for me to obtain a one-year visa.

Read more

Shojin Ryori – Japanese Temple Cuisine

Shojin Ryori – Japanese Temple Cuisine

Although I love most styles of Japanese cooking, my favorite is shojin ryori, or temple cuisine. This style of cooking, practiced primarily in Buddhist temples, came to China from Japan along with the Zen Buddhism. Since Buddhist practice forbids killing animals for consumption, shojin ryori contains no meat or fish and also eschews the use of “exciting” or “pungent” ingredients like garlic and onions.

Read more