Press Tour (No.087)

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Foreign Correspondents' Press Tour in Kansai

Organized by The Foundation for Kansai Region Promotion

Cooperated by Wakayama

July 15 (Wed.)-16 (Thurs.), 2015

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[Koyasan - Artistic Sanctuary in the Sky]

 

 

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Koyasan, or Mt. Koya, was founded by the revered monk Kukai, also known as Kobo Daishi, in 816 and serves as the headquarters of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism.

In 2015 Koyasan celebrated its 1,200-year anniversary of its founding as a monastery for Buddhist training.

 

Since its recognition as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” in 2004, the number of foreign visitors has significantly increased. The place was also awarded three stars as a travel destination in the French Michelin Green Guide Japan in 2009. It was selected as the only one from Japan, as “20 go-now destinations” in 2015 by National Geographic Traveler magazine which was published in 2014.

 

This press tour will visit Koyasan to explore the devotion of the monk Kukai and attractiveness of the place.

 

 

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■Interview with The Governor of Wakayama Prefecture, Yoshinobu NISAKA

Topics: The charm of Wakayama prefecture and Koyasan

(The schedule may be subject to change according to the status of his official duties.)

 

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■Interview with Reverend Ryusho SOEDA, Director General of Kongobuji Temple

Topics: The sacred Koyasan and its heritage

 

 

■Two Great Sanctuaries of Koyasan

Danjo Garan Precinct and Okunoin or Inner Sanctuary

 

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”Shojinku”

Fresh and perfectly cooked meals offered to the saint Kukai every day for 1200 years

 

■Staying at Shukubo Temple or Lodging Temple

Authentic Buddhist experiences including: Gongyo or Morning Sutra Service,

Shojin-Ryori or Buddhist Cuisine, Shakyo or Sutra-copying, and Ajikan Meditation

 

Niutsuhime-jinjya Shinto Shrine, located at the foot of Mt. Koya

A Speech from Shinto Priest Kouichi NIU

Topics: Relationship between the saint Kukai and local Kami deities

 

Kadohama

Well-established shop selling Koysan’s special delicacy, “Goma-dofu

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Bon On ShyA

 International Café crowded with visitors from all over the world                                                               

 

 

 

*Please refer to the "Highlights of the Tour" for the details of each topic.

 

Tour Date Jul 15(Wed) - Jul 16(Thu),2015
Qualification Bearer of Press Registration Card issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tour Fee Please refer to the attached Application Form
Organized by

The Foundation for Kansai Region Promotion

Osaka Nakanoshima Building 7F,
2-2-2 Nakanoshima Kitaku, Osaka City 
Zip:530-0005

Cooperated by Wakayama Prefecture
Capacity 12 (1 reporter from each company, 2 for a TV company - 2 TV companies max for this tour)
Closing date/time for Application Jun 15(Mon),2015 05:00 PM
■The Foundation for Kansai Region Promotion in cooperation with Wakayama Prefecture organizes this press tour with a goal of disseminating information from Wakayama directly to the world through the participants articles based on press activities during the tour. We ask for your understanding and cooperation to achieve the goal.


■Applications will be accepted on this page by the time of the above-mentioned deadline, but please note that when the number of applicants has reached the prescribed number before your application, your name will be put on a waiting list for cancellation.


■The Foundation may set an upper limit on the number of participants from each country/region and may decide participants in view of their past records based on the press tours if the reporters joined in the past, when it receives oversubscribed applications.


■The Foundation and Wakayama Pref. shall bear no responsibility whatsoever for any accidents or inconveniences that may arise during a press tour. The itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions or other circumstances.

The Highlights of the Tour

 

Koyasan, the Sacred Buddhist Monastary in the Sky

 

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Koyasan (Mt.Koya) is located on a valley which is surrounded by over-900m high mountains and is a monastic complex of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism which was founded by the saint Kukai in 816. Koyasan measures 6 km from east to west and 2 km from north to south. In total 117 temples gather in the area including the Great Stupa “Daito” in the “Danjo Garan” precincts, the “Gobyo” tomb in “Okunoin” Inner Sanctuary, and Kongobuji Temple.

The saint Kukai established the monastery of Esoteric Buddhism in secluded deep mountains. He offered prayers to peace and security of the nation and educated his disciples and lay people to enrich their lives. The saint Kukai is believed to live in the Okunoin Inner Sanctuary still, sitting in eternal meditation to bring peace and contentment to people in the world.

After 1200 years from its foundation Koyasan remains an important place for teaching and training of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism and faith and devotion to Koyasan is strong. It held a 50-day special service from April 2 to May 21 to commemorate the 1200-year anniversary of its founding.

 

 

Monk Kukai posthumous title Kobo Daishi

 

The monk Kukai was born in the Sanuki province (modern Kagawa prefecture) in 774. In 804 he was given the opportunity to study Buddhism in T’ang China. He studied Esoteric Buddhism under the master Hui-kuo and was officially designated as his successor. He returned to Japan in 806. In 816 he was given permission from Emperor Saga to establish a monastery on Koyasan. In 835 he left this world. However he is believed to live here still, sitting in a profound meditation at “Gobyo” in “Okunoin” Inner Sanctuary of Koyasan.

 

 

Kongobuji Temple

 

Kongobuji Temple is the head temple of Koyasan Shingon Sect. It has about 3,600 branch temples throughout Japan.

At the beginning of this tour we will visit Kongobuji temple. Participants will meet the Reverend Ryusho SOEDA, Director General of Kongobuji Temple and learn about Esoteric Buddhism which has been handed down for generations.

 

 

Two Great Sanctuaries of Koyasan

[Danjo Garan precinct or the main temple area for teaching and practicing of Koyasan Shingon Sect]

 

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The saint Kukai wanted to establish a monastery as a spiritual center of Esoteric Buddhism where people take steps to the path of enlightenment. First he developed the “Danjo Garan” precinct and then built “Kondo” lecture hall in the precinct. He also built several buildings such as “Miyashiro” shinto shrine which was dedicated to local Shinto’s deities who protect Koyasan, and the Great Stupa “Konpon-Daito” (Height: 48.5m, a symbol of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism. Picture: right).

The tour will report the “Danjo Garan” guided by the staff of Kongobuji Temple.

 

 

[Okunoin or Inner Sanctuary]

 

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About 2km path lies from “Ichinohashi” or First Bridge, which is the entrance to “Okunoin”. The path is a fascinating and beautiful place containing 1000-year-old giant cedar trees and 200,000 mausoleums and monuments, which include those for great warlords such as Uesugi Kenshin, Takeda Shingen, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and other historic figures.

“Gobyo” is located in the innermost part of “Okunoin”. Monks deliver fresh and perfectly cooked meals to “Gobyo” for the saint Kukai twice a day, 6 am and 10:30 am. The daily meals called “Shojinku” have been ceaselessly offered since his entrance to final meditation which started in 835. 

 

After the “Danjo Garan” precinct, this tour will visit “Okunoin” Inner Sanctuary and walk along the path which is lined with old giant cedars and moss-covered stone mausoleums shining in the patches of sunlight. The tour will watch monks delivering the saint’s meal at “Gobyo” Bridge which is on the way to “Gobyo”.

 

*Note: Photo Shooting:

Photo shooting will NOT be allowed in the most sacred area in the Okunoin Inner sanctuary which is from the “Gobyo” Bridge to ”Gobyo”. Please follow staff instructions on site.

 

 

 

■Niutsuhime-jinjya Shinto Shrine

 

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Niutsuhime-jinjya Shrine, founded about 1700 years ago, is located in “Amano-no-sato” village where authentic Japanese scenery still remains and was selected as one of “the most beautiful 100 villages in Japan”. The saint Kukai searched an ideal place for practicing Esoteric Buddhism after returning from China, and he was given land of Mt. Koya which was originally possessed by the Niutsuhime-jinjya shrine. It means that Mt. Koya was originally Shinto deity’s territory that’s why the saint Kukai built “Miyashiro” Shrine dedicated to the Shinto deity in the “Danjo Garan precinct (described before). The shrine has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, reflecting the fusion of Shinto and Buddhism which developed Japan’s religious culture, which UNESCO affirmed its uniqueness.

 

This tour will meet Priest, Kouichi NIU, who will explain the relationship between the saint Kukai and local Kami deities.

 

     

 

 

                          

■Shukubo Temple or Lodging Temple

 

In ancient times there was no place to stay for pilgrims, therefore temples began to offer overnight lodging for visitors. Pilgrims believed that they would be granted good fortune if they stayed overnight in Koyasan. From around the 14th century, the number of pilgrims significantly increased and many of them were lay people. The pilgrims stayed in lodging temples which were related to their home towns. Now there are 52 Shukubo temples out of 117 temples in Koyasan.

 

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This tour will stay at the “Rengejo-in” temple run by the Reverend Ryusho SOEDA, Director General of Kongobuji Temple. He is the abbot of “Rengejo-in” temple. The temple has deep relationship with Sanada Clan of the Shinshu province. The heroic warlord Sanada Masayuki and his son Yukimasa stayed at the temple for a while after the well-known battle of Sekigahara (1600) where the Sanada Clan was defeated. The temple has austere lodging rooms not like modern Shukubo which provide private rooms equipped with TV and other modern facilities. It is also very popular among foreign visitors. Kiyomi SOEDA, who speaks English fluently and had learned English at Tokyo Woman's Christian University before World War II, got married with the former abbot of the temple. She has looked after many foreign guests and has good reputation for hospitality.

 

Participants will experience Shojin-Ryori, Gongyo Morning Service, Shakyo Sutra-copying, and Ajikan Meditation at Shukubo temple.

 

[Shojin-Ryori, or Buddhist Vegetarian Cuisine]

Vegetarian meals called Shojin-Rryori are provided at Shukubo temples. Shojin-Ryori meals without meat and fish are carefully prepared on beautiful dishes and guests rejoice in its taste. (Right picture, sample images of Shojin Ryori)

 

[Gongyo, or Morning Sutra Service]

Morning sutra service called Gongyo is reading a Buddhist sutra and offering prayers to the main Buddha of worship. (Rengejo-in Temple’s main Buddha is Amida Buddha or Amitābha) It is great to start the day participating in the morning service. (Right Picture/ sample images of Gongyo)

 

[Shakyo, or Sutra Copying]

Originally, copying of Buddhist sutras by hand was a way of spreading Buddhist teachings. Now, however, it is regarded as a spiritual practice in itself.  More and more people devote themselves to the spiritual practice. For example “Koyasan Café” in Tokyo provides Sutra Copying Classes and is very popular. Other organizations throughout Japan have opened such classes as well. (Right picture/ sample images of Shakyo)

 

[Ajikan Meditation]

One of Buddhist meditations is the Sanskrit letter “A” written within the circle which represents the Buddha of Great Sun (Maha Vairocana). The aim of Ajikan meditation is to find a way to reach enlightenment.(Right Picture)

 

*Note: Guest Room and Dining Room of Lodging Temple

Single guest room is provided. Participants sleep on Futon and public bath/toilets only. Rooms are separated with Fusuma sliding doors. No chairs available during meals and morning sutra services.

 

 

 

 

■”Goma-dofu”; Well Established Shop, Kadohama

 

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Goma-dofu, or Sesame-Tofu, which is made from ground sesame and potato starch, is the most popular ingredients of Shojin vegetarian meals. The saint Kukai loved Sesame-Tofu which once he had been served by a farmer living near Mt. Koya. The saint suggested his disciples to pass down the recipe to make Sesame-Tofu which was tasty and also rich in aroma.

 

The tour will go to the well-established Sesame-Tofu shop “Kadohama”. It is one of the most famous Sesame-Tofu shops and makes high-quality Sesame-Tofu without food additives. Many temples including Kongobuji temple serve Kadohama’s Sesame-Tofu to their guests and the Tofu is also offered to the Saint Kobo Daishi in his daily meals called “Shojinku”.

 

 

■”Bon On ShyA”; International Café

 

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Japanese owner who traveled all over the world and his French wife run the international café. The lovely building is a restored old town house. They serve vegetarian meals containing plenty of fresh vegetables, beans and brown rice brought from local farmers. The unique café also exhibits potteries made by local artists and holds music events featuring folk music instruments. This popular restaurant is always crowded with visitors from all over the world.

 

The second day of the tour we will visit the restaurant at lunch time and talk with the owner.

 

 

Itinerary

Jul 15(Wed)

Flight for Participants: StarFlyer 21 Haneda 9:00- Kansai 10:25

10:30      
Start of Tour at Kansai Airport

13:30-14:30 
[Press Activity 1] Briefing on Wakayama/Koyasan and Interview with Governor of Wakayama Pref., Nisaka

16:30-17:30 
[Press Activity 2] Interview with Mr. Soeda, Chief Priest of Kongobuji Temple

18:00
Arrive at Temple lodge (experience Shojin-ryori dishes, meditation, copying Buddhist scripture etc.)

Jul 16(Thu)

6:00-      
[Press Activity 3] Morning service

8:00-9:30
[Press Activity 4] Major spots of Koyasan -1 Danjo-garan

10:00-11:00
[Press Activity 5] Major spots of Koyasan -2 Okuno-in

11:00-12:00
[Press Activity 6] Goma-dofu manufacturer

12:00-13:00
Lunch at Bon On ShyA

14:00-15:30
[Press Activity 7] Niutsuhime Shrine, interview with Mr. Niu, the Shinto Priest

17:30
End of Tour at Kansai Airport