My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

No plan, getting lost in Hino-no Satoyama.

   It was this noticeboard that alerted me to the area known as Hino-no Satoyama, and, since that day three months ago, I have ventured into the area some seven times. Three of those times were a reconnaissance expedition, two were a planned hike, and once when I was invited to join the couple responsible for erecting the noticeboard.

   The options available are quite extensive, as can be seen in this map. Some of the tracks are well marked and beaten, others, like the ones I experienced with the couple I joined, are almost nonexistent, where an amount of patience is required.

   This 'No Plan - Getting Lost' outing was an opportunity for me to check-out some of the tracks not covered on my previous trips, and hopefully see some sights I had also missed. 

   My starting-point was an athletic park (map location), where a junction of three tracks converged. One of which I had taken on my first hike. 

   Little did I know, when I set-off, that I would return to this point 2-hours later, albeit by the (almost) same route. Which left me with the third track to take. 

   With these types of outings you can never be sure what you will experience. In some instances I have found myself returning and spending up to a year exploring the many tracks that area. Then there is the scenery, and hazards, as can be seen in the above images.

   According to my map, the track I took had the promise of a waterfall so, after crossing a small stream, I headed-into the bush. For the first few hundred meters my track was well defined, and followed the stream I had just crossed. I reached this waterfall and felt confident I was on course. But that was soon to change. Either I veered off course, or the track became non-existent, so, from this point, I was on-my-own and decided to press-on and continue uphill to, what I hoped, would be the main track at the plateau of the hills.
   As I made my way up the hill the calling of a wild deer caught my attention and I decided to see if I could catch a glimpse of the animal. But to no avail. So it was back to my ascent. By now I was working-up a sweat and needed to find a spot to take-a-break and store my jacket. I was relieved when I stumbled across this outcrop of rocks. While I was taking on some well deserved water, I took the opportunity to check my map to see if I could ascertain my location, which wasn't easy - my map is only lines drawn on a sheet of paper and has no contour lines. But, little did I know, the plateau and main track were just a few meters from where I was sitting and, to my delight, when I emerged, there was a sign pointing me in the direction from where I had just come from. So I wasn't lost.

    To confirm where I was, a small sign directed me to (Mt)Hinoyama (373m), and my third visit to this site. I knew that on the other side of the summit was a junction which would lead me to my first descent of the day, to the settlement of Sumiyama (map location).

   I have an envy for those that live in these settlements. With only the one road in and out, there isn't much transport passing through, plus there is the serenity and beauty that surrounds you.

   In preparation for this hike, I did a reconnaissance bike-ride into the valley the week before, to check there was a track up the hill. My map didn't show any tracks on this side of the hills, so I needed to be sure, that way I wouldn't be wandering up-and-down the lane looking for something that was quite possibly not there.

   If this track was the one I thought it was, I would arrive at the junction of the Yuurei-touge Pass, and from there to my next destination. Wherever that was. 

   From where I was standing the track looked steep, so I braced myself for a tough climb, and the day was beginning to heat-up. A few minutes in and I would (literally) stumble-across this collection of small religious icons. Always on the lookout for these, I was impressed with their location plus, on closer inspection, one of them resembled  'Fudo, the God of Waterfalls' (bottom left corner, image on the right).
   I was pleasantly surprised when my track began to level-out but, also at this stage, the track & markings petered-out and I was left scratching my head, again.

    I proceeded on up when, like my earlier ascent, I arrived at the plateau. A couple-of-hundred meters along I arrived at this junction, and the Yuurie-touge Pass. It was during the war, when the American bombers were bombing-the-hell out of Osaka & Kobe, the Japanese Defense Forces  erected a searchlight at this location.

   To the left I would return to (Mt)Hinoyama, to my right, Kami-Daigo Temple. I went straight ahead. If my map information was correct, I would return to where I commenced my hike. Which it did but, much to my consternation, it connected with the track I hiked-up at the beginning of the day. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. It was now time to take the third track, and to see where it led me to. Little did I know, at that point, that this track would merge with the first track and  back into familiar terrain. 

   I knew up ahead was this building, with many Sekibutsu located nearby. It would also make an ideal site for a lunch-break, and a rest. With all the bush-bashing and climbing & descending, I was beginning to tire. Or, more precisely, I was showing my age.

   On my first visit here, I was overwhelmed by what I was confronted with and, to this day, I still haven't been able to gather any information as to the name and reason of the location.

   During the course of my rest here, I decided to take a more thorough look around and, in a secluded corner of the site, obscured behind a Setsumatsusha (small shrine), was this collection of Fudo Statues. In a gap in the rock was a small stream of water flowing-into a concrete bowl. Someone had kindly placed a mug there which was my cue to refresh my thirst and, let me tell you, it was refreshing & pure. 

   During my lunch-break I perused my map for my next destination - do I go on ahead into familiar territory, or do I look for another track, one that I hadn't used before? On my way to this point I remember espying, what I thought was, another track (actually I noticed a couple). So I decided to u-turn and head back down towards where I had just come from. Five minutes along I reached the junction and proceeded in my new direction. A little further along was this fallen tree, with a large fungi attached, that lay over the track. Just around the corner from this tree was another junction, and a familiar site . . . .

   Nine days ago, while hiking in the area with my hosts, we passed this site from the other direction. The rock was enormous, and I was informed that locals worshiped here, as the rock was considered to have had some connection with  a God. The building was constructed as a shrine, which has become dilapidated over the years. But, judging by the many empty shochu bottles lying-about, I got the impression the site was still frequented.


                       From this point my hosts followed the stream that meandered through the valley and, eventually, leading us back into civilization. Although it was still quite early - it was only 12:30pm - I was beginning to tire, and so I decided to call-it-a-day.


   I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my hosts, Toshiyuki & Noriko Sawai, for giving me a guided tour through these hills and enlightening me on the history and beauty that lies within Hino-no Satoyama.
   Toshiyuki & Noriko have lived here all their lives and know the area like the back of their hands, and have frequented the area many times, guiding others like myself. Domoarigatoogozaimasu.

   In 1592 construction began on, what was to become, Momoyama-jo. The castle was being build for Toyotomi Hideyoshi who, just the previous year, had retired from the Regency. Some 20,000-to-30,000 workers were provided, from twenty provinces, to construct the castle. The rocks required for the foundation were gathered in this area and, to this day, evidence of their labors can still be seen. What amazed me, and to put this into perspective, is that back then, they didn't have the convenience of heavy machinery to assist them. 

   As always, thank-you for reading this post, and I look forward to sharing my next experience with you. So, until then,


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ushiozanhougon Temple and Beyond - Rokujozo Loop.

   When I was planning my previous excursion in this series (Oiwake Station to Rokujizo Station), my intention was to hike through to (Mt)Daigoyama, and descend via the Upper Daigoji Temple. But, when I reached the junction of route-782 and the Daigoyama track, I decided to forgo the summit & temple and make a beeline for Rokujizo Station, with the hope I could return and continue my hike through at a later date.

   So, when on a cycling excursion into the area, I discovered this noticeboard with a map of hiking trails in the area. The map wasn't very descriptive, but it was extensive. But it still didn't give me the confidence that I could link-up with Daigoyama and route-782. The only way I could know for sure, was to attempt the link from the other end of the mountain range and, in early April, I did just that. With success.

   An hour after setting-off from Rokujizo Station, I arrived at the completion point of my last hike in this series, and grateful it wasn't hot; the hill-climb was steep and very rugged in places. This small shed, with a Setsumatsusha on the inside, and religious icons on the outside, heralded my arrival.

   After a brief break, while I caught my breath, I was keen to be on my way. After a short climb, the track leveled out and, before I knew it, I had arrived at Kami-Daigo, or the upper part of the Daigo-ji complex. This is an enormous complex and requires the best part of a day to explore the many temples, shrines and monuments that adorn the area.

    As I had already spent the best part of a day exploring the site - about 10-years ago, if my memory serves me well - I took a few images and continued on. As it was just over a week ago when I passed-through here, I needed to remind myself that any interesting sights I experienced then, were now in reverse order, and I also needed to be aware of the many junctions I would encounter.

   About 15-minutes on from Kami-Daigo I encountered this set of steps, as I was doing good time, and my curiosity got the better of me, I decided to check-it-out.

   With the many tombstones that were scattered-about, I would hazard-a-guess I had arrived at a cemetery. As I have respect for privacy, I didn't encroach by taking any photos, but I couldn't help but admire this monument, especially with the colorful Spring foliage that was abound.

   Back to the track, and on my way, I was soon to arrive at something that has left me scratching-my-head. At the next junction I observed this tunnel, presumably to allow the stream water to flow through. The bank looked man-made. What was the purpose for this construction? It beats me. Maybe someone with knowledge of this area can shed some light on it. 

   Although it was still quite early, it was just after 9:30am, it had been more than four hours since I had had breakfast, so I was looking for a spot to take-a-break and have a bite-to-eat. And I knew the ideal location - 

    There is nothing like a good view when relaxing over lunch. And this has to be one of the best locations for just that. My lunch-spot was a crag of rocks that just seemed to pop-out of nowhere. In the center of my view, sitting atop a hill, was Fushimi-Momoyama Castle, with the sprawling suburbs of Kyoto City.

    Lunch over and done with, I headed-off to my next destination - (Mt)Hinoyama 373m. A junction offered me the alternative to bypass the summit, or a direct route. Needless-to-say what option I took. There was no view to be had, but I was impressed with the pyramid of rocks and the many signs detailing the mountains name and height, five in all.
   Leaving the summit I was now on the look-out for a junction that I didn't want to miss. As I mentioned earlier, I was doing this hike in reverse order from last week. The reasons will soon become obvious.

   From the junction I would leave the main track and descend, then re-ascend via another track and return to this point. 300m on from Hinoyama, I arrived and commenced my detour.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       A few minutes into my descent I came-across this site. Although the building looked unobtrusive, it was the sight of all the religious icons, hundreds of them, that surrounded the complex, that was of interest to me. This discovery confirms my suspicions that the area is part of a pilgrimage.
   My next junction was unexpected so, being left-handed, I took the left track. A few hundred meters further on, and another site that has left me scratching my head. Just down a bank, sheltered by an enormous rock, was this derelict building. Upon closer inspection this, at one stage, may have been a shrine, and the rock had something to do with it. Inside there was evidence of Shinto decorations, along with other discarded rubbish, although a quick tour around the rock unearthed nothing out-of-the-ordinary. One day I may be in the right place at the right time, and meet that someone with local knowledge. 

   My next encounter was this Buddhist statue, and again another episode of interest. Why here, in the middle of nowhere? There was nothing else about. By this time I was really hoping I would meet that someone.
   In the coming minutes, the answer to that question might be found, when I emerged onto a sealed lane, with a few houses camouflaged by the overhanging forest. Maybe there was a cemetery close by. The sealed lane only lasted a few meters before I re-entered the forest and onto my next point-of-interest.     
                                                                                                                      In the early 13th century, a Japanese author, poet & essayist, by the name of Kamo no Chomei, lived a life of a recluse on the site where these monuments now stand. He lived in a small hut, sometimes composing poetry, for the best part of five years, before his death in 1216. Kamo no Chomei was raised in the courts of Kyoto but, when passed over for promotion within the Shinto shrine associated with his family, he turned his back on society, took Buddhist vows, and became a hermit. I can't help wondering if he too roamed these hills.

   Leaving Kamo no Chomei, I moved-on and, before long, I had reconnected with my earlier track, passing the religious icons before arriving back at the junction. And,I have to say, I was quite pleased with myself.
   From here, it was off to my next destination, (Mt)Tenkaho. As I made my way I passed another junction. This was the descent back down to civilization and, from memory, I was in for a rough time. The previous week, when I ascended to this point, the track & track markings were almost non-existent. But, first-things-first.

    (Mt) Tenkaho 348m was interesting. Interesting in that it looks like it has been made-into a picnic site. The area, immediately surrounding the summit, has been cleared, and a table, of sorts, has been constructed. It must be a popular destination. On this day, I had the summit all to myself - actually, the only other souls I encountered all day, was at Kami-Daigo. So, with the sun streaming-through the trees, I used the serenity to take another meal break, and review my day. The conclusion I came to, was that the track was well maintained but, unlike the area surrounding Ushiozanhougon Temple, there was very little signage. With a large network of tracks, it would have been helpful to know where other tracks led to. Which is why I plan to return and check them out. Another mug of cafe au lait, and another Onigiri (rice ball), I was now psyched-out for my descent.

   The trees in the area around the junction, and the first few meters of the descent, have been painted with red & yellow bands. Then it's guesswork from there on. On my ascent I followed a stream, so I decided to do the same now. In parts the ground was very loose rocks, and steep, so care was needed. I zig-zagged for some of the way, relying on young trees to hold onto and, in others, I had the luxury to stop and admire my surroundings -    
With sights like this, I feel grateful I still have one good eye to admire & appreciate the beauty that surrounds me.
   In the coming meters I would hear the familiar sound of running water, albeit a trickle. But that trickle would soon turn into a stream. The only problem was, that over the years this stream has gouged-out the ground, which required more care than my earlier experience. I lost count how many times I hopped from one side to the other, and how many near-misses I had, as I scrambling-up the opposite bank.

   But then, there in the distance, I saw it. A footbridge. The first of four I would cross before emerging back into civilization. These bridges are constructed of steel piping and, anyone over 150kg, would have to find an alternative crossing - thank god I wasn't Ichinojo, he weighs-in at 215kg. From this point the track was more defined and, once emerging from the forest, I arrived at my goal, the Yamashina Driving School. Where I discretely made my way to the entrance, in case I was apprehended for trespassing.


   I couldn't resist the urge to include these two images. They were taken on my first venture into this area, a week or so before this trip. The evening before it had rained, and the valley was very misty. I remember having to remove my glasses several times, as they kept on fogging-up. Makes one appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.

   As always, it has been a pleasure sharing this with you, and thank-you for reading this post.


   Course details and images -