Mount Koya Sketches

Mount Koya or Koyasan is a UNESCO world heritage site little known  outside of Japan.  I had no idea what it was at the time I decided to visit it, I know knew that it was the farthest our Surutto Kansai pass could take us from Osaka, thus making sure our purchase of the pass was worth it.  It was quite an experience however, since it brought us to a part of Japan rarely frequented by tourists.  The farther away we got from the steel and concrete of Osaka the more buildings started becoming built primarily out of wood, such as the smaller train stations we passed by.  It’s a full day trip, and the train ride there, transfers included, took us almost 2 hours, which meant lots of people sleeping on trains sketches, seen above.

At the last station before the cablecar up Mt. Koya, I decided to step out into the cold and paint a quick sketch of the train station from the outside.  It was a beautiful scene straight out of a Miyazaki film, with a babbling brook and a tiny roads and mountain paths leading to the town and a quaint little train station on the horizon.  I failed miserably at capturing it and I wish that I’d taken a picture so you could all share it with me.  My only excuse was that it was ridiculously cold at the time (especially since we’d gone uphill steadily) and I’d had to remove my gloves to have any measure of control over what I was painting, so after a bout ten minutes or so my right hand was starting to go numb.

The mountaintop was even colder, but we were rewarded with what might be the most expansive Buddhist graveyard in Japan.  Graves in Japan range from the simple to the fantastic, such as this grave, of a Japanese rocket scientist.  As I mentioned before I used stamps in Japan as a motivation for me to sketch, and so even though it was bitterly cold (there was snow on the mountaintop) I sat my ass down on one of the temples we went to and sketched some boddhisatvas.  I used the penbrush for the last two sketches because it forced me to not pay too much attention to detail (which is good because I was faster and could stuff my hand back in my glove sooner).

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