May 2018, and I was out hiking the hills on the Eastern border of Kyoto Prefecture, in an area known as Hino-no Satoyama. It was a clear, calm & fine day, perfect conditions for hiking. I remember arriving home feeling elated, although, in saying that, I experience that emotion most times I return home from a days hiking.
Over the coming weeks my joy would be shattered when I began to feel some discomfort with my left knee. After applying a salve and strapping to the area, all to no avail, I headed-off to the doctor. The diagnosis was the cartilage over the said knee was the cause of my problem and I needed to rest-up until it healed. I thought my life had come to an end. But the news wasn't all bad. Cycling was okay, and beneficial to the healing process. Now, almost a year after that near-fateful day, I feel I can get my gear out of storage, and go hiking again.
I arrived at the station just on 9am and was eager to be on my way but, in the back of my mind, I was feeling some apprehension as to how my knee would respond. The conditions couldn't be more perfect - clear, calm, fine & warm. My first stop was at the southern entrance to Tokufu-ji Temple - this is an enormous complex and is a day-tour in itself. As seen in this satellite image.
The street I have been walking along for the past ten-or-so minutes, suddenly ends and I descend down a flight of steps to a junction where three tracks converge. A post, placed there by the guardians of the 'Kyoto Trail', points me, in one direction, to Fushimi Inari-taisha,in another, to Sennyu-ji Temple, and the third to (Mt)Inariyama. My course is via the third route but, before I proceed, I take a short detour to Fushikura-Daijin Shrine (map location). This complex has seen better days and, as one reviewer said - "This site has been returned to nature". My sentiments exactly. The shrine emits an eerie atmosphere, bordering on spooky.
Moving on from Fushikura-Daijin, I leave the sounds of the city behind and head-into a territory I enjoy so much, and my next junction. It's just on 9:30am and the sun is streaming in through the trees, illuminating the canopy of overhanging leaves.
I reach my next junction, where four tracks converge. Two of those tracks, in the left of the image, are part of a circuit that takes the hiker through to (Mt)Inariyama and ends-up back at this point. I take this track, but I don't plan to return here. Instead I hope to descend down to another shrine and make my way in the other direction.
It's not quite 10am, and already I am beginning to work-up a sweat. I reach a clearing and decide to take-a-break. Some of this section has required some steep climbing and, although my knee seems to be bearing-up, I don't want to risk aggravating the cartilage. A little further on and another junction. Here I can descend into Yamashina or proceed. Needless-to-say what option I take.
Next stop is at this interesting collection monuments, small shrines and religious icons.
The 'Google Map' app' on my smartphone informs me I have arrived at Oiwa-Inari Shrine. Although this complex was on my itinerary, I didn't realize it extended this far up the hill. But there was more to come.
About now I wasn't quite sure exactly where I was, then this tree with attached sign relieved any anxieties I was beginning to have. I was still on course and proceeded.
At this site was a large platform constructed over a deep ravine, with a small shrine erected on top. Behind the shrine was a large rock-face with a collection of Torii of various shapes & sizes.
From the platform my path descended down more steps to emerge . . . .
. . . . at another collection of Torii and religious icons. One would be forgiven for thinking they were actually at Fushimi-Inari. This, according to my map app', is Oiwa-Inari Shrine and is a very large complex. As seen on this satellite map.
Emerging from Oiwa-Inari, I arrive at this junction. I have now joined the 'Kyoto Trail' - a 80km trail that partly circumnavigates Kyoto City - and, whereas the trail heads straight-ahead to my next destination, I turn left here, and take a shortcut through an industrial area, being careful not to be run-over by the many trucks carrying aggregate.
My course takes me under the Meishin Expressway then across a busy road, before re-entering another forest and onto my next stop.
Oiwa-jinja Shrine (map location) is located on the highest peak of Mt Fukakusa, Mt Oiwa. The name means 'Honorable Grass', as it provided feed for Tokugawa Ieyasu's horse when he rested here on his way to Kyoto. The shrine is famous for it's male & female deities, which are believed to reside in the two Iwa (boulders) near the peak.
I emerge from the forest onto a gravel road and arrive at the (Mt)Oiwayama observation platform, and my first break for the day. Although I have only been on the trail for two-hours, it's been quite a strenuous journey so far. Sitting here, in front and below me is an awesome view.
And this is the view. To my far left I can see the skyscrapers of Osaka City. Just in front of me is Fushi Momoyama Castle (on the treeline on the left), my next destination. And Kyoto City makes-up the remainder of my panorama. What a view, and what a glorious day to appreciate it while having lunch.
Lunch over, I make a beeline for Fushimi Kitabori Park and onto my next stop . . . .
. . . . Fushimi Momoyama Castle.
The current structure is a 1964 replica of the one built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the original built in 1594. The castle is rarely open to the public, which is a pity, as the view from the upper Tenshu would be awesome. I have visited this site many times over the years and never tire of coming here. The grounds are abound with many Sakura and is a popular destination for those wanting a quiet location to celebrate Hanami, as I did on one occasion. The grounds, that the castle is sited, is very large, as can be seen in this satellite map, and is rich in history. Many Japanese come here to pay to homage to Emperors who are entombed here. In one area is the Tomb of Emperor Kanmu and, in another area, is the Tomb of Emperor Meiji.
From the castle I make my way to the Keihan Fushimi Momoyama Station and home. But, before I catch my train, I treat myself to a celebratory can-of-beer and reflect on the past three-and-a-half hours. Because of the joy to be out hiking again, plus the great scenery I have experienced, I had forgotten all about my knee. But I'm not going allow myself to become too complacent. If any harm has been done, it won't be until the following day before any symptoms emerge. I wake the next morning, my legs feel a bit stiff, which is normal after a hike, and I test my luck by heading-out for a short bike-ride. I return feeling elated that my knee has passed the test. So now I can go-ahead and plan a more substantial hike. And that, I hope, will be another story.
As always, thank-you for reading and, until next time,
Video of hike - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqxcqfN1Umc&t=3s
Course details & map - https://www.strava.com/activities/2303372709