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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.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Ushiozanhougon Temple and Beyond - Oiwake Station to Rokujizo Station.

Chitodake & Nishi-Chitodake
from the summit of Otawayama. 

   Unlike my previous two visits into this area, my course, from Oiwake Station to the start of the track, was well signposted. And, as I made my way up the valley, I could soon see why - more about that later.
   My research gave me the impression that this was going to be a very-long day, so I decided an early start was in order, so as to reach my final destination of the Keihan Rokujizo Station before sunset.

    I decided on this occasion to bypass Ushiozanhougon Temple, and make my way directly to the summit of Mt Otawayama. From there onto Mt Ushiosan, followed by Mt Chitodake and Mt Nishi-Chitodake and, if time permitted, topping the day off with Mt Daigoyama (you can see why I opted for an early start).

   Nestled in the hills, surrounded by trees, and overlooking a small settlement, is the Shiraishi-jinja Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to the husband & wife deities of Izangi and Izanami. The shrine itself is believed to date from circa 806-to-810AD.

Map Location.
    Within the main shrine complex stands a very-large boulder and is considered as the home of the deity come down to Earth, and is the shrine's sacred object. Upon the top of the boulder are three holes which were bored so as to split the stone. This is believed to have been caused when Tokugawa Ieyasu attempted to have the stone cut up in order to rebuild Fushimi Castle

   My next stop, just down from Shiraishi, was this interesting water-wheel. I say interesting, as the water is pumped up so as to turn the wheel that, in turn, causes the piston to hammer onto a stone bowl. Normally the water comes directly from a stream. As impressive as this is I would hate to be living in the immediate vicinity, as the sound of the piston hammering all day long would drive me to madness. 

   My hike proper was about to commence when I arrived at this sign with a map detailing the trails throughout the area. For the next 2km, every bend I came to would reveal another sight that would reveal either a religious icon, a waterfall, or something of sheer beauty. If I was to write about the next 2km, it would require a separate blog. So instead I shall post a few images with explanations.

   The impression a got was that this was a well-beaten path. A pilgrimage of sorts. On each occasion I have been to Ushiozanhougon Temple, five in all, there have always been devotees there performing a religious ritual and, on three occasions, the same couple. In several locations along this path, there are shelters or seating, like in the above image. 

   The path is also famous for the many waterfalls, five in all, that are dotted-along the stream that I crisscross on my journey. One such waterfall has these two plaques set-into the rock.

   One encounter that impressed me, was this statue of a Shinran Priest, standing there, with his back to the rock, looking down the road at those ascending the path.

   I noticed a track that looked like it was circling the rock, so I decided to take a peek to see what, if anything, it revealed. But the track seemed to descend down to the stream and from there. Well, I didn't find-out, and proceeded on up the valley.

    My next stop was this small, and unusual, place of worship, referred to as 'Shizukudani Fudoson'. Embedded amongst the rocks is this small statue of Fudo, who is the God of Waterfalls.


    A few hundred maters along from the Shizukudani Fudosan, the path and I would part company and, after crossing this stream, I would commence my ascent to Mt Otawayama.

   After four-kilometers of a relatively gradual ascent, I was about to commence my first serious climb of the day. The first section of my ascent was aided by these plastic steps, placed here to allow maintenance crews access to the many power-pylons dotted throughout the area. At my next junction, I was greeted by my first direction sign, kindly placed here by the guys from the 'Yamashina Hiking Club'.    

   Forty minutes after commencing my ascent, I arrived at the summit of Mt Otawayama. On a beautiful, clear, fine day, the view below . . . .

. . . . is nothing short of spectacular. But, on a partly-cloudy day, with a strong cold wind blowing, it is decidedly miserable. So, I shall leave you with this impression, taken on a day when the conditions were perfect.

   On the opposite side of the summit, I got a view of my destination from this point. The hill in the foreground, between the two power-pylons, is Mt Ushiosan. In the distance, in the left of the image, is Mt Chitodake and, to the right, is Mt Nishi-Chitodake.

   Midway between Otawayama and Ushiosan, I came-across this bench that offered views overlooking Otsu City. As it was sheltered from the cold wind, it was an ideal location for a bite-to-eat, but I opted to try my luck at Ushiosan. On this occasion my luck wasn't with me, so I continued walking. 

   An hour later I found the perfect spot. There wasn't a breath-of-wind, the sun had emerged in full force, and I had a comfortable bench to sit on. Today's lunch was sandwiches, hot coffee and, for desert, bananas. Looking at my watch, and checking my location, I realized I was doing good time, so I decided on an extended break.

  While I was sitting here I could hear noises of people working and machinery operating. "Way out here and in the middle of nowhere?" I thought. So I made my way into the forest to see if I could find the source of this disturbance and discovered a work gang halfway up a power-pylon doing god-knows-what. A little further on, I would discover another gang performing the same task atop a pylon located on the summit of Mt Nishi-Chitodake. Any thoughts of a career in pylon maintenance were very quickly put-aside as I opted to stick with what I was doing with my life at present.

   Fifteen-Hundred meters along from my lunch spot, was the summit of Mt Chitodake (600m). As can be seen in the images, it was nothing spectacular. There was no view to be had. At this point I had also arrived at another junction. From here a path would take you the long way to Ishiyama-dera Temple. But, for me, I was going in the other direction.    
   A few hundred meters along from Chitodake, was her cousin and neighbour, Nishi-Chitodake. Of all the summits I have conquered, this one takes-the-cake. Perched atop the summit was another power-pylon, with another maintenance crew hard at work. 

   My route from here would descend down a rutted track gouged-out by years of rain and emerge onto a sealed lane where several maintenance vehicles were parked. My question, "How the hell did they get here, and with all their gear?" was now answered.

   Emerging from the bush, I was greeted with this sight of hectares and hectares of solar panels. Not so long ago this was an 18-hole golf course and, like many such courses throughout Japan,was located in a very isolated place. To give you an accurate idea of how isolated and huge this site is . . . .

. . . . I have taken a 'screen-shot' of 'Google Maps'. At the top right are the two Chitodakes.

  As I weaved my way through the golf-course (for want of a better description) I arrived at a sealed lane, that once provided access to the area, and realized I had been here before. It was about 10-years ago that I cycled up here in search of a hiking track. Unable to find the track, I turned-around and headed for home. Partway along I discovered a gap in the trees that allowed me a view of Fushima Ward, of Kyoto City. From here I was able to see my intended course, all the way to Rokujizo Station. I love views like this where I try to spot landmarks.

   Then, before I knew it, I had arrived at this junction. The path directly in front of me lead to Mt Daigoyama and Kami-Daigo, or Upper Daigo-ji Temple, the track to the right would emerge at Shimo-Daigo, or Lower Daigo-ji temple. It was decision time. I opted for the track on the right as I plan to return to Mt Daigoyama at a later time; I had recently discovered a network of hiking tracks on the other side that may, I hope, connect with Daigoyama.

   My descent from the top was uneventful, unlike the time, 10-years ago, when I tried my luck at cycling down. I'm not an adrenaline-junkie, at the best of times but, even if I was, this track scared the shit out of me. So I knew what was in store for me. In parts it was sweet, like in the image on the left, in others it required 100% concentration.

   I emerged, unscathed, at the entrance to the Upper-Daigo-ji path. With my days hike almost over, I proceeded from here through the streets that led to the Yamashinagawa River. From there I followed the river through to the Rokujizo Station, arriving there at 2:30pm, not 5pm as I anticipated. As I still had enough hot-water in my flask for one more coffee, and a pack of sultana buns in my pack, I found a nice spot in the sun, and rewarded myself by relaxing and reminiscing of the days hike. I was buzzing. Looking back it was a great days hiking and I was more-than-satisfied.

   So, as I usually say, it's been great sharing my experience with you, and thank-you for taking the time to read my post and, until next time - 


   A few weeks ago I discovered this area, known as Hino-no Satoyama. It stretches from the southern border of Fushimi Ward, through to the area around Mt Daigoyama. 

   As mentioned earlier in this post, I hope to hike this area and, all going well, connect up with Daigoyama and the Upper Daigo-ji Temple.

   My plan, at this stage, is to do a 'No Plan, Getting-Lost' hike and just see what I uncover. When I do, I will be sure to share my experience with all.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Ushiozanhougon Temple and Beyond - Nagitsuji Station to Ishiyamadera Station.

                                                                                                                                                                          Like my previous excursion into this area, I had to navigate my way through the streets of Yamashina Ward, before reaching what I came-into this area for - the hills & valleys that border the Prefectures of Kyoto & Shiga. As I made my way along these streets, I was greeted with my first view of (Mt)Gyojagamori, just sitting atop this vermilion-colored Torii.

   Fifteen minutes after leaving Nagitsuji Station, I arrived at the settlement of Oyakeiwayaden (map location). Within this small area were a collection of Shrines & Temples - six to be exact. Always a favorite site of mine to explore, on this occasion I bypassed them in favor of a small Inari-jinja nestled-amongst the hills and forest to the rear.

   I took a side street that lead me past this small vermilion-colored Torii, then up this narrow avenue lined with a collection of religious icons. At the top was a bridge that was decorated with wooden Ema plaques. If I had taken the course through the shrine grounds, I would have missed these.

    A rocky & weatherbeaten track led me to a path that took me through this avenue of Torii and, as I zigzagged my way uphill, I arrived at this lone Torii & Setsumatsusha. I had arrived at Iwaya-jinja. I think this auxiliary shrine was connected to the much larger shrine, that bore the same, down below. Judging by the amount of people entering the  lower Iwaya-jinja, I would say it has some importance significance so, to arrive at this site, and have it all to myself, made it more appealing to me. 


    After descending from Iwaya-jinja, I was now to make my first serious ascent of the day and, hopefully, my first viewpoint - (Mt)Gyojagamori. I assumed the track, at some stage, had provided vehicular access into the forest but, as I made my ascent, it soon petered-out to become a hiking path. Just over an hour after leaving the station, I arrived at my first junction.

Map Location.
    From here I took a detour to Gyojagamori and, during the following 10-minutes, I was to discover other tracks in the area, which surprised me, as my map showed this as a no-exit. A pile of rocks, and a small sign, informed me I had arrived at the summit, but sadly there was only a limited view.I was hoping, if the summit wasn't shrouded with trees, I would have taken a break and had a drink & banana. With their being no sun, it was chilly, so I decided to return and move-onto my next mountain summit - (Mt)Ooyakeokuyama.

   My next junction was just a hundred-meters or so further on and, according to the sign, the summit was just a stones-throw away. Along the way I encountered this collection of fungi, impressive. After about 15-minutes I became concerned that I hadn't reached the summit and wondered if I had taken the wrong track. Then the track, and the markings, suddenly ceased to exist. I spent 5-minutes checking-out some possibilities but, to err on the side of caution, I cut my losses and u-turned and headed back to my planned route.
   A kilometer further on I arrived at this junction. It was almost a month ago I passed-through here on my first excursion into the area (blog post). I was now in familiar territory. From here I would descent through the forest and emerge at the Ushiozanhougon Temple and, what I hoped, a well deserved lunch break.But, before that . . . .

. . . . I needed to navigate my way down a very slippery and treacherous track. Unlike the last time I was here, where there were patches of snow lying about, today the ground was bare but, in it's place, was ice that was nearly impossible to walk on. I would encounter more of this further on.

   Ushiozanhougon Temple, like the last time I was here, was again bathed in sunshine with a strong cold wind blowing. It was so cold the water in the basin at the Chozuya was frozen solid. As it was still early, I decided to forgo having a lunch-break here and moved on to my next destination - (Mt)Ushiosan. 

   This was as far as I came on my last visit so, from this point, I was back in unfamiliar terrain. In the coming weeks I am planning on passing-through here again as I make my way to the Upper Daigo-ji Temple. The cold wind was still preventing me from that well deserved lunch-break. But my fingers were crossed that I may find the ideal location soon.
   A little further along I arrived at this junction. The sign in the background of this image, directs the hiker to their next destination, which includes Ishiyamadera Temple, the two (Mt)Chitodake mountains and eventually Upper Daigo-ji Temple. The sign in the foreground points the hiker to Ushiosan (where I have just come from) and downhill to the Ishiyamadera Station (where I am headed). My descent from this point was extremely hazardous, more so from what I experienced earlier. The path was a flight of steps where the treads were covered in a layer of ice. Although there was a wooden rail to hold on to, the posts were rotten and unable to sustain my weight, so I took an alternative course that ran parallel to the steps, where I was able to rely on small trees to prevent me from slipping and falling.

   After safely navigating my way down I arrived at this clearing, where it was shaded from the wind with the sun streaking-through the trees. With a wooden bench to sit on, I had finally found my ideal spot for a lunch-break. It was just on midday, and I had been walking for four hours. As I was doing good time, and I had an idea where I was in relation to my goal, I was in no hurry.

   Within my immediate vicinity there were two points-of-interest that captured my attention. Immediately behind where I was sitting, was this waterfall where the water was frozen. It was the first time I had seen such a phenomenon like this before and I was very impressed by it. Just nearby was this collection of, what I assume, religious icons. Again I was impressed, not just at the articles, but their location.

   Just after passing this toilet block and picnic area, my track emerged at a gate and sealed road. It was here I said farewell to forest and hills, and hello to civilization. From here I would make a beeline to the Ishiyamadera Station and home but, before that, there was a shrine I was interested in checking-out.



Map Location.

   As I made my way through the concrete Torii, and up the steps that lead to the Chikatsuo-jinja Shrine, the odor of freshly roasted coffee permeated through surrounding area, that came from a small cafe opposite the entrance. After checking-out the shrine, I would return here for a hot brew.

   The shrine was made famous because, back in 1690, the Haiku Poet 'Matsuo Basho' resided here, albeit for only four-months.

   Throughout the grounds are several rocks with some of his works inscribed on them.

Add caption
   In a corner of the shrines complex, is a path leading up a short flight of steps to the 'Genjuan Hut', the lodge where Basho resided during his stay here. The hut was rebuilt in 1991 to what, I assume, was it's original condition when Basho resided here. It is small inside but, a quiet wander through one gets the feeling that there isn't a more suitable location to sit and compose poetry.

   After a quiet stroll through the surrounding garden, I moved onto a temple that was located atop a hill that overlooked parts of Otsu City. It wasn't much of a view, thanks in part to the light snow that was falling, which reminded me that I needed to find somewhere to shelter. And, what better place -

Add caption
    The 'Beans' coffee shop (an appropriate name) is a quaint establishment that serves only fresh roasted coffee & tea, it's main business being coffee to take home and brew. By the time I finished my cup, the snow had stopped and the sun reappeared.


   From the 'Beans Cafe' my next destination would be the Keihan Ishiyamadera Station. The station is the terminus of the Ishiyamadera Sakamoto Line and services those wishing to visit the Ishiyamadera Temple, one-kilometer along the road - if looking for a temple to check-out, and are partial to gardens, then I recommend this complex. 
   My brightly-decorated train would take would take me to Hamaotsu and from there, another train to Sanjo Station in Kyoto. And eventually home. 

   This track, like the previous track I hiked in this area, is very well signposted, especially through the suburban streets where it is very easy to get lost. Some, like in the image on the left, give distances to your destination and arrows pointing you there and, others, like in the image on the right, include other points-of-interest in the immediate vicinity.

   So, on behalf of myself, and my friend here, I would like to thank you for reading this and, until next time - 


   Course details & images -