Koya-san 1/1 by Tripoto


Mountain retreat: Kōya-san (2 days) If the idea of retiring to the middle of the forest to experience the life of a Buddhist monk for a day appeals to you at all, hop on the small mountain train and steep cable car that take courageous visitors to the monastic complex of Kōya-san. Book a stay at a shukubō (temple that offers accommodation), enjoy a typical monk’s dinner (no meat, no fish, no garlic, no onion; but dozens of different ways to enjoy tofu!), cosy up under a super-cushy duvet protecting you from the cold of mountain nights, and… be prepared to get up at 6am for meditation. Listening to the monks chant with guttural voices while sitting in silence was the most impacting experience of the trip for me. Make sure to go for an eerie stroll around the vast forest cemetery of Oku-no-in. Try and spot the space rocket and coffee cup-shaped gravestones, or the Termite Memorial — built by an insecticide company to apologise to all the bugs they killed over the years.