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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.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Atago-san (Mt Atago).

Mt Atago, 924m. On a misty winters morning.

   This is another area that is very popular with members of the hiking community, along with devotees of the Shinto religion. At any day of the year the mountain attracts many outdoor enthusiasts from all parts of the globe. Then, from 9pm of the evening of July 31st, for one night only,the mountain will witness a huge number of pilgrims making their way to the Atago-jinja Shrine, atop the summit, to celebrate Sennichi Mairi .

   There are many different routes accessing the summit - I counted six on my map - with the most popular commencing at the settlement of Kiyotaki. Another route, via the farming settlement of Mizuo, is more scenic and, in my opinion, less boring. For those who want a gut-busting route to the summit, then the track via Kuuya-taki Waterfalls and the Kamakurayama Tsukinowa Temple (Map Location)might satisfy your thirst for adventure.

Bridge over the Kiyotaki River.
   For this trip, I chose the course that took me past the junction to the Kuuya Falls & Kamakurayama Tsukinowa Temple, that I completed three months ago to the day, and around the back of Mt Atago, with the intention of reaching the summit from the north-west, then descending into the settlement of Mizuo, where I would check-out the Mausoleum of Emperor Seiwa, before making my way down the road to the J.R. Hozukyo Station, and home.To get to Kiyotaki by direct bus from Kyoto Station, I needed to be at the bus-stop in time for the 07:25am bus. An hour and ten minutes later, along with a dozen-or-so fellow outdoorholics, we arrived at the settlement of Kiyotaki, with perfect conditions for hiking - clear, calm & not-too-cold.

   I have passed-through Kiyotaki many times over the years, either coming or going and, on each occasion, having taken a different course. It's a lovely spot, and lies on the junction of many tracks. As I had been up since 04:30am, I didn't want to waste too much time checking-out the scenery, and wanted to get on my way without too much delay.

    Each of my fellow bus-passengers were possibly taking a different path, to a different destination. The gentleman in this image, after passing through this wooden Torii, was taking the direct route to the summit and shrine. One-or-two others I would pass as I made my way to my first photo break (One couple I would be reunited with later on. More about them later.)

Track to the Kuuya Waterfalls.
Track to Kamakurayama Tsukinowa Temple, and Mt Atago.

   Thirty minutes in and I arrived at the junctions of the Kuuya Waterfalls . . . .

. . . . the temple & mountain track and the path I intended on taking but, first, I wanted to check-out the waterfalls. Something I didn't do when passing-through the last time.

   Just as I set-off towards the waterfalls, I was confronted with these Racoon-dog statuettes, or Tanuki, nestled amongst the roots of a tree, just above the track. Normally found outside Bars and Restaurants, I couldn't hazard-a-guess as to why they would be located in such a spot.

   A 200m path of concrete-block steps, soon brought me to the first of two Torii, heralding my arrival at Kuuya-Taki. As I approached the site, the sound of the falls was clearly discernible. There were a few dilapidated buildings between to two Torii, with no sign of life that I could notice. 

   Then . . . . 

Map Location.

 . . . . there it was, the Kuuya-Taki Waterfalls (12m). And, like any waterfall, this was a sight-to-behold. This site is known to be the training ground of Kuuya Shonin. The practice of Takigyo - meditation of sitting or standing under a waterfall - is still practiced here.

   The waterfalls wasn't the only object that impressed me. Throughout there were a collection of religious icons. As can be seen in the above collage.

   I was soon back on my planned course, and my ascent of Mt Atago. As I made my way up the valley, evidence of the recent storms that passed over the area, were evident.
Map Location.

    Thirty minutes on, and I reached this rock monument that stood at the junction of two tracks. A quick perusal of my map, along with the map of the area posted on a post nearby, convinced me the track on the left was my track to the summit. It wasn't marked, but I could see evidence of a track of sorts.
   After making my way up the hill, I soon arrived at this well-beaten path. Just as I arrived an elderly couple appeared, the couple I had passed earlier in the morning, just out of Kiyotaki. My first thought was - "How the hell did they get here, and without passing me?" Once we recognized each other, I asked them where I was. So out came the map again and, before long, I realized my mistake -  I was on the Temple path, the one that commenced at the junction with the waterfalls. With Mt Atago not far away, I proceeded on and, while doing so, hatched another plan - I would descend from the summit, via my planned ascent route, and make my way to Mizuo from another direction.

Map Location.

       My time at the summit was brief - a prayer at the altar, a hot coffee & buns - as, having been here five times in the past, and knew what was here. Also I was unsure of my new route and how long it would take. It was just on 12pm and I was doing good time, but was wary of the shortening days.

   From the shrine I needed to backtrack a few hundred meters, passing the junction I had just ascended from, and passing this set of Torii,to my next junction.
                                                                                                                                                                       Which was highlighted by this collection of Jizo. While here, I had a quick perusal my my map and discovered that this was the junction I would have ascended to, if I had taken the correct course earlier. I was also joined by three other hikers, who were going in the same direction as I was. They kindly offered me some advice as to what track to take and wished me well.

   My next junction was highlighted by this interesting statue. The hikers I met earlier described this statue by slicing his finger across his throat and, once here, take the track on the left. I was somewhat confused by his actions but, upon closer look, the statue was headless. 

   My descent was steep, as was to be expected and, before long, I emerged onto route-50, with Mizuo just down the road. But, before I entered the settlement, a detour, to checkout the Mausoleum of Emperor Seiwa.
Map Location.
Emperor Seiwa (850-878) ascended the throne at the age of 9 but, after 18-years, he ceded the throne to his 5-year old son.Two years later he became a Buddhist Priest adopting the name of Soshin. During his time on the throne, in the early Heian Period, Emperor Seiwa decided to live in this town, after falling in love with this land, during his travels around Kinki. But sadly the Emperor passed-away at the Enkaku-ji Temple, in the village, after only living here for 4-years.

Map Location.
Nestled in the hills, overlooking the settlement,is a sacred place where the soul of Emperor Seiwa is enshrined. Seiwa-jinja Shrine was established here after his death. The Torii, the entrance to the shrine, is located almost next to Enkaku-ji, where Seiwa died.

                                                                     The settlement of Mizuo is also known as Yuzu Town, and is famous for it's local produce of Yuzu Citrus. As one wanders through the town, you can't help but notice the trees scattered all about.

   Mizuo is one of those settlements I enjoy experiencing, and is typical of many towns dotted throughout Japan. In many cases, like here in Mizuo, the houses are located very close to the road, as can be seen in the image on the right. That is route-50, a thoroughfare that links Kyoto City with the north-western area of Kyoto prefecture. And, on any given day, can be quite busy. And difficult to negotiate, especially if you are driving a large vehicle.

   My next destination from here is the J.R. Hozukyo Station, and I take a path that follows the river, passing through this avenue of Autumn colored trees. 

   The platform of the station spans the Hozukyo Gorge,where the Katsuragawa River flows under, on it's way through Arashiyama, and eventually ending-up in Osaka Bay.

   As I hadn't managed to stop for a decent lunch-break, I take shelter in this seating area - there is a cold, strong wind blowing across the platform - and pour myself a hot mug of coffee and devour my curry & buns. The shelter is so close to the rails that, when the Express Train passes, one can feel the slipstream. And the noise is quite deafening. 

   Lunch over, I board my train for Kyoto, then another train home. Although I didn't cover my planned course, my alternative was just as good and, over a good cold can-of-beer when I arrived home, I reflected on my day. I was contented.

So, until next time,


   I would like to acknowledge the guys at 'Trans-word+' for granting me access     to their website for information regarding this post.

   Video of the hike -

   Course details -

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The [S]Torii Still Contunies.

   If you read my post - 'Rural Nara Circuit' - you may have been impressed with my discovery of this metal Torii, partly obscured by trees and undergrowth, along route- 186 in the settlement of Nakahatacho, rural Nara.
   A Torii is suppose to signify a gate, or entrance to a Shinto Shrine. So, when I stumbled-across this find, I was keen to see if/where the shrine was. Nothing. This bugged-me and I needed to know more.

     So, 5-days after that visit, I returned on my 'The [S]Torii Continues' trip to see if more lies in the bush surrounding the Torii and, hopefully set my obsession to rest.
   Upon my arrival I forwarded a copy of this image - the tablet hanging from the Gakuzuka, or supporting strut - to a friend, and a reply came back almost immediately. The inscription reads, "Hachidai Ryuou Oogami", and is about the God who shaped the Dragon with Eight Bodies and is said to be the God of Water.

   As I was looking about, I discovered what looked like a track and, as I was only wearing my cycling shoes, decided to end my search there, with the intention of returning and seeing where the track leads.

   Today I arrived at the Torii on two feet, after a 90-minute bus & train ride to get to Yadawaracho, and took my time, as I strolled through the aftermath of the rice-growing season. On my first visit, 10-days prior, this looked so very different.

     Just as I was about to emerge onto route-186, I spotted this track and wondered where it lead to. A quick check of my internet map revealed it joined the track I was about to take. I would keep a lookout for this junction as my day progressed. 

   Once I set my G.P.S. App' into recording mode, I didn't waste any time getting underway. As I made my way down the hill I soon arrived at a stream, that I noticed how it's banks had been lined with rocks. I would experience many situations like this throughout the course of the day.

   I soon arrived at the spot where I ended my walk five days earlier. On a couple of trees in my vicinity, I espied some red tape and what looked like a track. As I was still close to the road, I felt this may return me to where I started and so moved-on. A little further on and, another rock-lined section of the stream, and what looked like the remains of a bridge.

   As I was making my way along the stream, crossing it from time-to-time, I couldn't help but get the feeling I wasn't the only life-form that had recently passed through this way. I encountered many wild deer tracks running alongside the stream so, if I kept my noise-level to a minimum, I might be lucky in seeing one-or-two. 

   At times my track required some risky maneuvering - rock-hopping across the stream, clambering up the bank, bush-bashing - when, suddenly, I arrived at this junction. I decided to leave my planned route for a few minutes and take the other track when I suddenly realized this was the track I saw earlier. This was later confirmed when I checked my internet map.



   Up to this point I had come-across many forms of fungi, most of them on broken branches and tree-stumps. Some of them quite beautiful and in an assortment of colors.

   My next stop was at this bridge. Checking my map, to see where the track lead to, and liking what I saw, I decided on this occasion I would detour from my planned course. But, fifty meters on, I met a wall of overgrown scrub, vines and bamboo and soon u-turned back and continued on my way.

    The track, at this point, was becoming more defined and, as can be seen in this image on the right, just a beautiful. I was beginning to get the feeling I was closing-in on civilization and the conclusion of my days hike. So, while here, make-the-most-of-it and slow the pace a notch, or two. It had been just over an hour since starting-out.

   I was about to encounter my third, and final, rock-lined section of stream and a site that gave me the feeling there had once been a settlement here. The risky-looking bridge led to an area, about the size of a rugby field, that looked like it had been excavated many moons ago and all that remained were a scattering of trees. I took the path down to take a closer look. There was no evidence of any buildings, or pits, or water troughs. Strange.

     Gradually my course had progressed from a dirt track, to a concrete path and then finally a sealed lane. I turned a corner and, there in front of me, was the settlement of Kitatsubaocho. And the end of this section of my days hiking. After arriving at the junction, and switching-off my G.P.S. App', I headed up the road to Shoryaku-ji Temple, and . . . .

. . . . lunch. My feet were killing-me, and I needed to take-a-break, rest-up and take on sustenance. I discovered, when removing my boots, I had forgotten to insert the inner-soles. I thought there was something I had forgotten.

      From here I made my way through another forest, passing this Tumulus Pond, and eventually joined the Yamanobenomichi Path, one of the oldest paths in Japan, that would take me onto . . . . 

. . . . Nara Park. And another mug-of-coffee and sultana buns, before my final stretch to Nara station, and my train home. Although my curiosity over the Torii wasn't satisfied ( I hope that will happen this weekend, when my wife and spend the day at Yadawaracho), it was still a great days hiking.

So, until next time - 


    Course details -