On our last morning in Koyasan, Slawomir and I were treated to Gomakito Homa fire ritual at Ekoin Temple, where I had stayed the previous night. It is performed by “qualified priests and acharyas for the purpose of destroying negative energies, detrimental thoughts and desires, and for making secular requests and blessings.” All acharyas must learn how to perform this ritual upon entering priesthood.
After morning ceremony, we headed outside to a small room just to the right of the temple. Some people sat on benches, while others sat on the floor.
One monk sat in the corner beside a large drum. In the middle of the room sat an altar with three levels. On the first level sat a monk on his knees, something that I always marvel at. (Curse these decrepit knees of mine.) On either side of him were piles of sticks, which I assumed were for burning.
Candles and tall flowers that looked like cotton candy sat on the second level. The flowers were in red, green, blue, and yellow.
The third level had a small pit for the fire.
The monk on his knees made a bunch of choreographed gestures that reminded me of the signals of a football coach. Then the guy on drums starting chanting and pounding away on the drums. I got completely lost in the drumming. That, combined with the hypnotic chanting can easily put you in a trance. I was moving to the drums, partly to create some heat, but partly because I was totally jamming to this ceremony!
The guy on his knees, meanwhile, lay a bunch of the sticks in a row across the pit, then put another layer across those. He lit one stick, and before we knew it, we had a full out bonfire going. The drums, the chanting, and the fire really had me going. It was like the guy chanting was singing to the fire, making it dance. As the chanting became more intense, so did the size of the flame. It was absolutely beautiful. Seeing that was totally worth losing a couple of toes to frostbite.
It just so happened that Slawomir and I were both heading to Hiroshima from Koyasan, so the long train ride was quite enjoyable.
Once we reached Hiroshima, though, we parted ways for the day. He went to his check in at his hostel and explore the city a bit, while I went to meet my new hosts, Miki and Ryo.
When I arrived, Miki headed out to run some errands, so I was left to do some blogging in peace.
Once she returned, we spent hours just sitting around the table in the living room until dinner was ready. Miki made some sort of badass soup dish.
Eventually, Ryo arrived from work, and he joined in the festivities.
I immediately loved these guys. They were hilarious, kind, sweet, and adorably animated.
I had the honour of being their first Canadian Couch Surfing guest, so I got to put the first golden pin on Canada on their world map.
Miki taught me my second Japanese word: “Itadakimasu.” It roughly translates to “Thank you for this food.” Polite Japanese people will say that before they start eating. It took me a long time to learn, though. Japanese words have way too many syllables. At one point, I gave up and just said, “I…ta…let’s eat!”
Though we didn’t want to, we eventually had to call it a night.