In May 2016, Mike and I went to Japan for his birthday. Our first stop was Koyasan - a small, secluded temple town nestled in a sacred mountain called Mount Koya. It's the center of Shingon Buddhism and as such, the only type of lodging in the area is a shukubo (temple lodging). We stayed at Shojoshin-in, the closest temple to Okunoin (more on that in a bit). Staying in a shukubo means you have to semi-adapt to the monks' way of life - dinner was served at 5 PM; we joined them at 6AM for their morning prayers and breakfast was served shortly after. Our meals were shojin ryori or vegetarian monk cuisine. It was an interesting experience but I don't think I'm cut out for monk vegetarianism. 😆
Aside from the meal schedules provided, we were free to explore Koyasan on our own. Our first and main stop was Okunoin - the largest cemetery in Japan and home to the mausoleum of the monk that founded the complex. Okunoin is actually the reason why we found out about Koyasan in the first place. It's one of the destinations on Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travelist. Mike and I plan on visiting all 500 places listed in the book and Okunoin is the first off our Travelist!The cemetery was a pleasant walk during the day but had an eerie atmosphere at night. The town itself is quiet but probably because it's comprised mainly of temples - I think there are about 110? Definitely worth the visit.