In Koyasan, one of the main sights is Okunoin. Okunoin is the temple where Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most revered persons in the religious history of Japan, rests in eternal meditation. It is considered one of the most sacred places in Japan.
Okunoin is surrounded by Japan's largest graveyard. People from all over Japan, who wished to be buried close to Kobo Daishi, lie there, including former feudal lords, politicians and other prominent personalities. Their graves (over 200,000 gravestones are in the cemetery) line the approach to Okunoin for 2km through a forest of tall cedar trees.
The walk to see Kobo Daishi's shrine had made us hungry, so afterwards Alastair and I headed back into the town to find lunch. We went into a simple little eatery – it was nothing flash at all and we weren't expecting much. I ordered the katsu curry don and Alastair ordered tempura udon.
When it came out, I found that the katsu curry don was AMAZING. The katsu had a light, crunchy crust covering the moist pork. The curry was nicely spiced with a lot of flavour and chunks of meat. The meal was warm and satisfying, and very delicious.
Sigh. I still remember it fondly!
Alastair's udon? I have no idea, I was too busy in raptures over my meal! It looked good?
The following day, we had breakfast at the monastery and an early lunch in the town before leaving for Osaka. One of the shop keepers in Koyasan had passed away a few days ago, and his funeral was being held that day, so lots of shops were closed. It became difficult to find a place to eat, and it had started raining quite heavily, so eventually we just walked into one that was open.
It was a small family run business and we didn’t have high hopes for a good meal. It was still early (just after 11am) and as the shop had just opened, the menu options were limited. We couldn’t order anything that was deep fried as their oil was still heating up and pretty much the only thing that was available was the curry udon.
We consoled ourselves with the fact that if it was bad, at least it would keep us going until we got to Osaka. But when it came out, well - it was delicious! I already loved udon noodles, but fresh udon noodles? Gahbahfuh, they’re just fantastic! The noodles were soft, elastic and chewy with a very pleasing slipperiness. The curry sauce covering them was so tasty and perfect for the rainy day.
After that surprisingly good lunch, it was time to go to Osaka for more good eating. Osaka food stories coming right up!