After a waking up from a restful sleep in Niigata we experienced some of the idiosyncrasies of Japan including remote control toilets and chicken nuggets at breakfast. In short, we all had stories to share when we got on the train to Oami.
Traveling north, we spent the ride alternating between staring at the ocean and finishing our readings of Buddhist scriptures. Arriving at Oami we visited two temples and saw two sokushinbutsu 'Buddha-in-this-body'. Sokushinbutsu is phenomenon arising from the Mahayana esoteric Buddhist tradition in Tibet wherein a monk meditates in a small room underground living only on tree sap, nuts, salt, and water. The goal is to decrease the fat storage in the body. Yet, according to the head monk at one of the temples, it is not the diet that is important but instead the holy status of the monk. Each day, a monk checks in on the buried monk waiting to hear for a bell ring signifying the monk is still alive. Once the entombed monk stops ringing the bell the chamber is sealed. After four years the status of mummification is checked and if complete, the monk, now a sukoshinbutsu, is considered a Buddha.
On our way out of the second temple we enjoyed an impromptu snowball fight and finally boarded the bus this time to Yamigata!