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

B Report on my stay at Koyasan Heiko Lang (Germany)

I was generously invited by the KCCN to Koyasan, in order to deliver a speech at the symposium “What I wish to share ? my treasure”.
It was my third time visiting the Koyasan area. Before, I had twice the opportunity to join the University of Tokyo’s “Field Seminar” event, which consisted in a study excursion to the Kii Peninsular. In the early summer of 2007, I went as a regular member of the University’s AIKOM program, in 2011 as a research student at the same university. On both occasions, we had the privilege of Ms. Matsuyama and her colleagues from the KCCN being our guides. The invaluable explanations of the surroundings of the Koyasan area certainly played a big par in making our stay very memorable.

This time, now being a PhD student at the University of Tokyo, I came to be invited to Koyasan through the good offices of my long acquaintance Mr. Kimi of the AIKOM office, who established the contact with the KCCN. I was at once thrilled at the prospect of being able to return to Koyasan, a place that occupies a special place in my memories of Japan. Being asked to speak at the symposium about “What I wish to share ? my treasure”, I decided to prepare a presentation about my hometown Augsburg’s famous “Festival of Peace”, and I argued that the culture of peace and reconciliation which is represented by this Festival is the most important thing I would share and pass on to future generations.

Prepared with a copy of my paper and warm clothes (we had been kindly advised beforehand by Ms. Matsumoto that the temperature in Koyasan would, despite the early season, be quite chilling), I departed on November 15th at Tokyo’s Shinagawa station for Koyasan. The travel to the Kansai region was smooth and not in the least tiresome; thanks to the KCCN’s generous travel allowance, I was able to travel comfortably by Shinkansen. Our group’s meeting point was Osaka’s Namba station, where I got acquainted with the fellow exchange students who had also been lucky to be invited to the event. As most of them are studying at Osaka University, and had not been to the Koyasan area before, I got the impression that all were particularly excited. In the train towards Koyasan, a KCCN staff member kindly explained to us the cultural and historical importance of the various places that we passed on our way.

Our place of stay was a temple in the immediate vicinity of the Koyasan University, where the event was to take place. The lodging proved to be of great splendor, our rooms being beautifully decorated with wall paintings, very spacious, and very comfortable.

While our chief task was to deliver a short speech at the cultural event, we had many opportunities to enjoy Koyasan, thanks to the generous hospitality of the KCCN staff. On our first day, we had the privilege to take part in a Buddhist prayer ceremony with meditational chants. In the evening, after enjoying a gorgeous meal prepared in vegetarian fashion (shojin ryori), we had a chance to make our own prayer beads (juzu) under the spiritual guidance of a monk. Through these experiences, together with the forest meditation session or the early morning prayer service in the temple where we stayed, we had a chance to experience and deeply share the religious tradition of Koyasan. These experiences were thoroughly enriching spiritually.

The main event, the cultural exchange symposium “What I wish to share ? my treasure”, took place in a very spacious hall at Koyasan University. After a Buddhist musical performance, I had the honor to deliver, among with the other fellow invitees, the prepared speech. After all had delivered their speeches, we were asked by the attendees to share our thoughts, as foreign students, on Koyasan or Japan in general. After the speech session, there were more musical performances featuring many instruments from various parts of the world.

To conclude, I wish to express my deep gratitude to the KCCN staff for their warm welcome, their seemingly infinite hospitality, and their insightful guidance to the important cultural assets of Koyasan. I felt very privileged to be invited the event “What I wish to share ? my treasure”, and I hope that I was able, in a very modest sense, to contribute to the symposium through my speech. I hope that this visit to Koyasan, which I will deeply cherish in my memories, will not have been the last one, and I would be truly honored if I could again, in some form or the other, contribute to the KCCN’s activities in the future.

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