Koyasan in winter- a masculine landscape with feminine lessons


On my way to Koyasan, I started to read the book ‘Nature Mystics: The Literary Gateway To Modern Paganism’ by Rebecca Beattie, because she is interested ‘in the writer’s relationship to their landscape, and the ways in which nature can be a source of inspiration as well as spirituality. ‘ One interesting paragraph was about ‘feminine landscapes’.  Earlier I wrote that 2020 will be the year of women and water for me, and this paragraph gave me the hint to perhaps also look up more ‘feminine landscapes’. 

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A masculine landscape

Based on this text by Rebecca Beattie, one could conclude that a place ruled by elements of fire and air, and towering trees, where death and endings are celebrated, is a masculine place. In Japan, I learned that buddhism is practiced in funeral and other domains of death, while shintoism is reserved for practices of growing and age. In addition, you can smell often incense (symbol of air) and see fire when you walk in Koyasan. In Koyasan, you’ve also the Homa fire ritual, the most powerful and mystical Buddhism ritual from Shingon Tantra introduced into Japan by Kobo Daishi. You write down your wish on a wooden plague. They are put into the fire so your troubles will be burned down, making place for your wishes to come true. The ancient cedar, cypress and fir trees are tall and towering, and could also be seen as masculine symbols too. In addition, until the beginning of the Meiji period (second half of 19th century) , women were prohibited to enter Koyasan. Two years ago, a friend and I also did the so-called women’s pilgrimage. ‘Nyonindo’ were built at each of the seven entrances as a staying hall for women. That means there were no women there for more than thousand of year. I wonder how that would affect the energy of this place. However, a masculine landscape is not necessarily bad. Koyasan still stays my favourite place in Japan. Therefore I decided to return to this place to spend my birthday weekend here.

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A Pre-Birthday reflection during dawn

Today I became 31 and I celebrate that I am still alive during a short temple stay on the holy mountain Koyasan, listening to whispers of ancient trees and chanting monks. When I was 20, I thought 30 would be the beginning of the end, but when, in the shadow of a 600 year old cedar, I look back to the last 12 months I believe my 30th was more amazing than my 20th. Visiting volcanoes in Taiwan, indulging myself in the cuisine of Mexico; swimming in fjords in Norway; sailing the sea around Okinawa, climbing holy mountains in Japan; starting the path of forest therapy guide in the Rockies, packrafting and camping in Utah, kayaking in Texas, dreaming in Disneyland Paris, publishing my first international academic article and presenting my debut roman …. these are just few of the events I can associate with being 30. Spending my last afternoon in Koyasan, walking alone in this ancient forest, where snowflakes kissed my cheeks, was best way to close this chapter. When I booked this trip, I had hoped for snow ❄️, so imagine my reaction when after a 6 hour long journey, with the last part through misty mountains, I took a cable car and arrived gradually in a winter wonderland. I had just read this text by Rebecca Beauty about feminine landscapes and felt ‘snow’ was what I needed. And I got it.


After checking in with the temple, I went to this forest. Nobody was there and very soon I got so mesmerised by all what I saw, the smell of wet cedar wood and the sounds of falling snow that I entered liminality. Only when the temple bell announcing dinner time, I realised I had only walked 600 meter or so. I was totally somewhere else. Today, at my 31st birthday, I had more time to “saunter” around.


Watching snow fall

Today I was out for a longer time. It was not snowing anymore, but still snow was falling from the roofs and trees. I said goodbye to a monk cleaning up snow, and he got showered in light snow. It was beautiful to see, and we were both laughing.

Again I was immediately enchanted by the snow. For minutes I stood there, frozen in time. Sometimes I nested between the roots of an ancient cypress or cedar and watched the falling snow. I noticed that snow has different speeds and sounds. Sometimes snow falls very fast, in a lump, and makes a dull sound. I also saw curtains of fine snow, sparkling in the sunlight. It’s ok, I said to myself, that there are different speeds in the world.

He’ll come, but will be late

Almost two years ago, the same friend and I that visited Koyasan also back then, draw a fortune in another temple in Tokyo. My fortune said about ‘the person you are waiting for: he’ll come, but will be late’. It is quite ironic, because patience is my working point, probably even my biggest. I have to admit I am an insta-addict and live from vibe to vibe. I am impatient. For me, in December and early January, I had anxieties and felt homesick. I want to return to Europe, to my beloved ones, so 9 more months in Japan feels almost like an eternity. This is not all, what is pulling me. In Europe, there is a man. Already, when I read that fortune, I knew it was about him, and yes, many times he tested my patience. Also, today, I wait for his birthday wish, although I know he is overwhelmed by work and sleep deprived (sleeping 5 hours, and the reason, he texted me twice, this week he has no time to think on other things). So I am telling myself ‘he’ll say happy birthday, but will be late’. I reminded myself that Europe is also 8 hours behind, so we live in different rhythms of the earth. However,  today I got reminded to be more patient and just enjoy the pace of life, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and not try to force things. Feminine energy is also about having fun, receptive and being passive, about letting go, about sensuality, about being in the presence. I guess the fairytale of this blog is probably ‘Frozen’ ;).


My most favourite message was found already yesterday evening, but this morning someone reacted on a video I shared that she loved ‘how these 2 trees grew closer together over time. How beautiful! Very wise elders’. And I think I also have to trust that eventually I will grow closer together over time with the person I am intended to do.

Wanna see more visuals and read more reflections of my woodwide adventures in Japan and other countries. Follow Instagram.com/wereldwoud_woodwide