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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, 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 -


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ushiozanhougon Temple and Beyond - Ono Station to Oiwake Station.

(Mt) Takatsukayama.

   I was very impressed with the signage that was posted throughout the area I was about to enter. Every junction along the way had a sign giving directions to wherever I was heading and, as I take you through this post, I shall include images that will verify that. But, sadly, there were no signs giving directions as to where the track begins and ends. The first sign was this one, in the image on the left, located some way into the course. I discovered this track quite by coincidence. I had come on a bike-ride to check-out a road that lead into the hills overlooking Fushimi and Yamashina Wards and, as I was about to commence my ascent, I was stopped at a gate by a security guard who informed me I could not continue. He then went on to tell me about this hiking track, and where it commenced from. I returned a few days later, again on two-wheels, in search of where-and-how I could commence this hike. 

   I arrived in the area at the Ono subway station, on the Tozai Line, and from there a 15-to-20 minute walk to the track. My first photo-opp' was this interesting rock. The sign says 'Neko Iwa', or 'Cat Rock'. Supposedly named because the rock looks like a Cat. Maybe you can see the resemblance. A bit further on was this collection of concrete lanterns. Looking around I found nothing to indicate why they are located here. I did notice though, how well groomed the garden area was. The bridge, in the rear of the image, was the commencement of my ascent.


   The track gradually weaved it's way up the hill when, an hour after setting-out from Ono-eki, I arrived at my first junction of the day. I was a bit taken-aback as to how quickly I had arrived at this point. Although it was a clear and calm morning, I did notice how colder the temperature was, compared to down below. Which was why I didn't hang-around for too long. In the image on the right, are two signs kindly placed here by the 'Yamashina Hiking Club'. They give information as to where I can go from here. In this instance I had three options. But, as Mt Takatsuka was my next destination, that's all I needed to know.

   Another junction, another sign and, before I knew it, I had arrived at Takatsukayama. Again, I was surprised how soon I reached this point and, if I hadn't become suspicious with the way the track began to descend, I would have missed it and ended-up god-knows-where. Apart from the signs detailing the name and height of the summit, there was just a concrete peg in the ground with two rocks either side. There was no view to be had and, as I was now walking through light snow, I decided to u-turn and head for my next destination - Ushiozanhougon Temple.

   As I was backtracking, I came to a junction with a sign giving me an alternative route, allowing me to bypass the first junction (thank-you YHC). When I reached this tunnel I suddenly realized where I was. The road I was about to pass under, is the road I was prevented from cycling up by the very-nice and helpful security guard; I am curious to know what all the secrecy is about, and why no-one is allowed access to the top.

   On the other side of the tunnel was this dilapidated bridge that has definitely seen better days. For once I was more-than-happy to get my boots wet, as an alternative to risking my life by using the bridge.

   From here my path began a slight descent, running parallel to a stream,with, judging by the fallen trees and other limbs, evidence of past storms.


   A few-hundred meters further along, my next junction, and the car-park for Ushiozanhougon. I was now in familiar surroundings - I was here the previous week on a cycling reconnaissance trip to gather information and take photos of the area surrounding the temple. As I emerged from the forest I was struck by a very-cold and strong wind, which squashed any plans of me taking a rest and having a bite-to-eat while here.

   After paying my respects at the shrine, and taking a few photos, I moved-on. My track was over in the corner of the complex, by the statue of the Buddhist Monk Shinran. As I was making my way past the statue, I was reacquainted with an elderly couple that were here on my previous visit. I got the impression this is a daily ritual, where they come to pay their respects. Quite impressive, considering their ages and the long walk up the path to get here.

   The track, as it made it's way up the hill, passed around the back of the temple grounds before turning away and heading deeper into the forest. The cold wind wasn't as strong here, as it was down below, but the ground-covering of snow was deeper and more extensive.

   My next destination was (Mt)Otowayama but, before that, I wanted to check-out a viewpoint I had heard about. Arriving at this junction, in the image on the left, I was now joining the 'Tokaido Road', a 1,700km path that was created to connect Naniwa (modern day Osaka) with Edo (modern day Tokyo) many hundreds of years ago. Today, what parts of this road that hasn't been desecrated, is ideal hiking terrain and, no matter what part of the path you are on, the signs are all identical. Turning right here puts me on to the path that leads to Ishiyama-dera Temple, that I plan to explore at another time but, today, I want to check-out the view.

   And what a view it was. What I was looking at was the southern end of (Lake)Biwako, and the mouth of the Setagawa River (map location). Although it is difficult, in this image, to distinguish the mountains in the distance, let me tell you, they were a magnificent sight.

   (Mt)Otowayama 593m - 

Map Location.
   There is something about standing atop a mountain that offers panoramic views, such as this one does. I must apologize if the above image doesn't portray that feeling adequately, but, I hope the attached video will make up for that. From here I could see all of Kyoto City, stretching from Yawata, to the far left, Fushimi & Yamashina Wards below and Otsu City and Biwako to the right. I couldn't have picked a better day to be here.

   It was about now my stomach was making overtures that it needed a fuel intake or, more precisely, it was lunchtime. But, unfortunately, there was nowhere to sit, thanks to everything being covered in snow, and the cold breeze. So I made my descent in the hope I could find an ideal spot. A sign, a bit further down the track, pointed to a toilet and, what I hoped, a sheltered spot for the break. Sadly I was out-of-luck. But I did use the toilet.
   I rejoined my track, which soon became several flights of steps. For me, hiking on terrain like this is far better ascended than the other way around. Descending along steps like these makes ones leg muscles scream-out in agony.


                                                                                                         At the base of the steps was this ideal spot for my lunch-break, that provided seating and was sheltered from the wind. Also the suns rays were breaking through the trees, adding a warm glow to my body. It was just on midday and I was pleased with my progress, so I saw no reason to rush through with my lunch and used my time here to take-in the serenity of my surroundings, and review my day.

   Within minutes of my leaving this idyllic spot, the serenity would be shattered by the sounds of traffic passing along National Route-1 or, what is known as the 'Tokai-do Road'. The transformation was so dramatic that, within a few meters, I had gone from a dirt track, to concrete steps, then this bridge (map location).

   Across the other side of the bridge I arrived at a junction, with this signpost giving directions to three destinations - where I had just come from, the continuance of the 'Tokaido Road' and a track leading to the Keihan Otani Station. The station is just a few hundred meters away through the settlement, which was my planned goal of today's hike but, as it was still early  afternoon, I decided to proceed further to see what lay in store. I had a picture in my mind that I would emerge onto the 'Biwako Canal' and, if that was the case, I would follow the canal to the Keihan Yamashina Station. To cut a long story short, I finally ended-up at the Keihan Oiwake Station, one stop down the line from Otani, after taking a track that took my over a hill that overlooked where I had just come from. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Before my train arrived, and the 2-hour journey home, I had time for one last mug of coffee and a pack of current buns.

As always, thank-you for reading this and, until the next time,


   Course details and images -