Osaka Ali has been told that religious scholars have counted up to 8 million gods in the Japanese religion. That may or may not be true, but it sure feels like there can be 8 million passengers crowded on some local trains on a normal weekday commute in Osaka. That is why I enjoyed the winter holiday in Japan, a time when people here pressed a collective national “pause” button, and close down offices, businesses, schools and other work places to relax, spend time with family and reflect on past and future.
O.A. particularly likes the sparsely populated trains during the days following New Year’s. The train ride can be so calm and stress-free. With this peace and calm in mind, it was a great opportunity to take up wise and well-read VIP Urano-san’s invitation to visit Hozanji Temple on Ikoma Mountain, west of Nara. The journey took a couple of changes of train lines from my home, including a ride on a cable car up the mountain. In all, the journey lasted about an hour.
Being shortly after the 1st, there were some visitors, but not the throngs that might have been flooding the temple courtyards and stone pathways. Stone lanterns lined stairways led to the beckoning Torii gate. Everything about the day lent itself to a pleasant and refreshing tour.
A temple can be experienced culturally, aesthetically, spiritually, and philosophically, but we prefered a recreational pilgrimage, giving ourselves a chance to renew body and mind. Hozanji Temple’s mountain location provides great views of the city and the sheltering presence of a Japanese cedar forest clears the head and respiration. The fragrance of Japanese incense and the crisp air were enlivening and the architecture and decorative details beautiful and engaging.
My friend shared interesting stories about Japanese history and we had a great conversation about our dreams, plans and aspirations for 2013 over hot udon noodles. This year feels like it is off to a great start.