2013 KCCN EVENT (November 16th)
Speech in Japanese by foreigners

A A Trip to Koyasan    Jofferson Gonzales (Philippine)

Located in Wakayama, Japan, Koya-san is the place for he who loves Buddhist temples and beautiful scenery. I was there and I loved it.

I and nine other foreigners living in different parts of Japan came to Koyasan to deliver speeches in Japanese, a task that by itself was both a challenging and a rewarding experience. As a speaker, I saw it as a part of my personal program of developing my confidence in speaking Japanese, and an opportunity to actually try to express my thoughts to a large crowd in a language I would not call myself a master of.

Indeed, I feel that those two primary objectives I have in mind were met; that is, I felt a little boost in my confidence in speaking Japanese, and I did speak in front of a relatively large audience who seemed like to have understood what I was trying to say. But there was more that I got in that three-day-two-night stay to Koyasan. The beauty of the landscape and architecture and the warmth of the people who entertained us speakers impressed me.

Before I had come to Koyosan, my image of it was that of a temple or two isolated in the depths of a mountain. I thought there were no villagers living around, and that there were only monks. But I was mistaken. True?there were many temples and shops selling Buddhist artifacts. But far from only having an isolated temple in the middle of nowhere, there was a university, good roads and traffic lights, ATM's, residential areas, and an interesting graveyard in a man-made forest, all of which located up a mountain colored red by the trees in autumn. It is a typical modern community in a mountain where religious and historical architecture is being preserved.

Being situated way above sea level, Koyasan is a cold place in autumn. But the people were warm. It is a small community of monks and non-monks alike, who to me seem to share a connection with each other through Buddhism. The population of the town is small; so small that, I learned, the middle school had very few students that operating it would be, I think, an economically unsound decision. But of course, it should be there nonetheless.

The hospitality of the community started to become evident to me when a member of the speech forum organizing staff actually travelled more or less two hours to downtown Osaka to pick us up. The lady who was the first tour guide in that she enthusiastically explained many things about Koyasan while we were in the train and in the bus. She talked about the places we pass by and their connection to Koyasan. The trip was far from boring.

When we had arrived, the staff was very accommodating and friendly. The activities were more engaging than I expected, and I would say that that may be because of the way staff and facilitators were handling it. When they saw that we did not understand, they were kind enough to interpret for us in English. When they saw that we understood, they were kind enough to talk to us about it Japanese.

The whole excursion was a fun learning experience for me. I learned language and religion, and culture in general. The whole program by itself is already very good. Perhaps, a chance to interact more with the residents would make it even better.

I came to Koyasan knowing very little about it. I left Koyasan bringing with me so much more. It is my hope this activity would continue in the years to come.

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