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.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Checking-out the hills overlooking Yamashina.

                                                                                                                                                                          I have spent many hours cycling through this area over the years, but it was another post on my 'Strava' page that alerted me to the possibility of some off-road cycling/hiking tracks. Checking this map, and other maps of the area, I came to the conclusion that there was quite a network of tracks, entering & exiting at different locations within this part of Kyoto City.

   Access to the area known as Yamanaka, is via the Yamanaka-goe Road, or route-30. This road, that connects the cities of Kyoto and Otsu, is narrow and quite windy, and care is needed when traversing. At the plateau is the entrance of the 'Hieizan Driveway'. 
   There are also several distractions, especially on the Kyoto side, like the . . . .

Nitten-ji Temple & Shrine (map location). As car-parking is non-existent, being on a bike/foot is an advantage.

   Other distractions include religious icons.

   My plan was to do a reconnaissance ride into the area, and connect with the track my Strava connection had taken but, unlike his trip, I would descend. My research revealed that some of the tracks lead to (Mt)Daimonjiyama, a mountain overlooking Kyoto City and made famous for the 'Gozan-no Okuribi' Festival.

   Arriving at the plateau of the Yamanaka-goe, I then branched off and made my way through the settlement to where my off-road adventure would, I hope, commence. The settlement is constructed in a Grid Plan  layout (map location) and one wrong turn, and god-knows where you can end-up. Like I did on my first venture into the area. Exiting the settlement, my road entered a forest then, after passing a small temple, it became a rocky forest road. A couple of kilometers in, and I arrived at this small shrine (map location). This isn't the first time I have been here and, on each occasion, and others like this, I am continually intrigued as to such a place to establish a religious site.

   After a banana and a few mouthfuls of water to wash it down with, I turned and began to head in the direction of the track I needed to take. And this is what greeted me, remnants of 'Typhoon Jebi' that wreaked havoc throughout the region in early September 2018: wherever one goes they will see scenes like this. I leaned my bike against a tree-stump and headed up to the track. The devastation surrounding me was horrific. It didn't take much to convince me that proceeding was not only impossible, but dangerous. So I decided a u-turn was my best, and only, option. It was just as I was about to return to my bike, when a lone hiker appeared. He had just come from (Mt)Nyoigadake - where I was planning to head to - and was heading to Daimonjiyama. He told me, once I reached the summit, I wouldn't be able proceed further, due to the storm damage, and my best option was another track, which would emerge at Bishamon-do Temple, at Yamashina (map location).

    Shaking hands and expressing my gratitude, I returned to my bike and made my way down. At first I was a bit nervous - dragging my bike over, under or around fallen trees, isn't my idea of a bike-ride - but, as I proceeded, evidence of a clean-up was all around and, at times, I was able to mount my saddle, and ride. Albeit for a few meters.

    Partway down I came to a clearing with a large rock in the middle. This was my cue to take-a-break, have a bite-to-eat, and take a photo.While here I had to re-plan my course, and my best route home. I decided to get onto the Biwako Canal path and, from there, another path that would take me through to Rokujizo and home. I missed my turn-off and ended up cycling through Kyoto City. No sooner had I arrive home, that I was planning my return. And, eleven days later, I did just that.
   Course details & map - 

                                                                                                                                                                          The morning of Wednesday 27th dawned cold, miserable and overcast; the previous day we experienced spring/summer like conditions. I made a beeline for the shrine - no sightseeing this trip - and, 40km x 2-hours later, I arrived with the overhead conditions improving. I decided to lock my bike up behind the shrine and explore the track to (Mt) Nyoigadake on foot, and also look for the track that lead down the valley.

   That way, if my reconnaissance wasn't successful, I wouldn't have had to lug my bike the sixteen-hundred meters there & back for nothing. But I was in luck. Like my previous excursion eleven days prior, the track had been cleared. Arriving at the summit, I then went in search of the junction that would eventually take me out and down the valley. And again I was in luck.
  Excited at the prospect of a successful conclusion to this outing, I returned, retrieved my bike, and made my way back to (Mt)Nyoigadake.
   By now it was about 10:30am and the temperature was beginning to heat-up.

Summit of (Mt)Nyoigadake.
Map Location.
   The summit was somewhat of an anticlimax. Where someone would expect a marker denoting the summit, with possibly a view of the surrounding hills as a bonus, an aircraft communication/navigation facility was located there instead.

   Leaving the sealed access road, I now commenced my descent down a well maintained forestry road to emerge at, I hope, at Fujio-jinja Shrine. I visited this facility a couple-of-years ago, when I was in the area checking-out other off-road tracks, and would give me an idea where I was in relation to my journey home. The first three kilometers were made-up of several hairpins and, it was about now I was congratulating myself for taking the descent option. Unlike my friend who took the ascent. But, when I arrived at this site, my smile soon disappeared. It was at this point my well-maintained forestry road suddenly became a rough-and-rocky track. In some places it was too hazardous to cycle and I needed to dismount and walk and, on top of that . . . .

   . . . . I had to navigate my way through, or over, or around several fallen trees. At this point, in the above image, I began to get the feeling I was nearly at my goal.

Fujio-jinja Shrine.
(map location).
   And my hunch was right. As I broke through the barrier, there, just a few hundred meters down the track, was Fujio-jinja. It was a sight-to-behold; at one stage of my descent I began to worry if & where I would emerge. Parking my bike, I grabbed my drink-bottle, took a banana out of my bag and went and sat on the Kagura-den. By now the sun was unobstructed and glaring in my face - a far cry from the conditions when I left home. I didn't want to get too comfortable, I still had the best part of 40km to ride.
   While sitting here a plan was beginning to form in my mind of a hike, commencing here, that would zig-zag through the hills, ending at the summit of (Mt)Daimonjiyama. But that is another post. 
   Course details & map -

   As always, thank-you for viewing and, until next time - 


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hisashiburidesu - Fushimi, Higashiyama & Yamashina Wards, Kyoto City.

                                                                                                             In September I signed-up with 'Strava' so as to take advantage of their G.P.S. tracking and the opportunity to share my rides with other like-minded cyclists and outdoorholics and, if possible, discover new routes that may be of interest to me.

Torii, entrance to Atago-jinja Shrine.
   One such post alerted me to the 'Daigo-Michi' Road. This thoroughfare connects the area around Tofuku-ji Temple , in Higashiyama, with the residential area of Yamashina. It's a narrow windy lane, with many hairpin turns on the Yamashina side but, if you have enough gears on your bike, it's quiet easy to navigate, whatever direction you cycle it.
   Towards the base of the hill, on the Yamashina side, is this unobtrusive concrete Torii. After my third-or-fourth trip over the hill, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided that this site needed checking-out. And I am very pleased I did take the time to do just that, as this was to become the beginning of something big.

   Locking my bike to a fence, I proceeded on foot and, about a hundred meters up an incline, was a derelict collection of buildings and religious icons that added an eerie feeling to the site. This was Atago-jinja Shrine. Map location -

     The path continued further up the hill and, as my curiosity was getting the better of me, I proceeded. Several hundred meters on and I arrived at this junction of four tracks. I decided to leave it at this point with the intention to return once I had done some research on the area, and check-out what lay beyond. And my research revealed that I was in the vicinity of Fushimi-Inari Taisha. By now a plan was beginning to build in my mind but, before I set it in motion, I needed to go for a reconnaissance bike-ride; any excuse to get-out for a ride. 

   On a cold and miserable morning, with remnants of the previous evenings snow falling from the overhead canopy, I headed to the Higashiyama side to check if-and-where the track emerged. Upon arrival at the track-head I discovered the 'Kyoto Trail' - an 80km track that circumnavigates the city - passed through the area. This was getting better-and-better, and I was beginning to envisage a great ride in the making. Course map & details - 

   The big day arrived. I had done all my research and, barring any mistakes and other unforced errors, set-out from home in ideal conditions - clear, calm & warm. I made a beeline for Atago-jinja, taking another couple of photos, and headed for the track junction. Upon arrival I was greeted by a young American who, as it turned-out, was a local tour guide out with a client. As he knew the area like the back of his hand, he gave me some very invaluable advice. Which I was most grateful for. As they were heading in the same direction, I tagged-along behind and, in doing so, missed my turn-off, and ended up at the precincts of Fushimi-Inari.


   After a quick u-turn, I headed back to the missed junction and from there out into familiar terrain. The first 'Kyoto Trail' sign I encountered, I followed, which was to take me in the direction of Sennyu-ji Temple (map location), and on.

    Exiting the Sennyu-ji complex, I soon found myself crossing the Daigo-Michi Road and into a forest where remnants of last August storm were still being cleared; the 'Kyoto Trail' is maintained by volunteers and, as it is a popular course, work gangs would have been out at the first opportunity to clear any fallen trees, as can be seen in the images on the left.
   Like the previous section, there was very little opportunity to ride my bike plus, not knowing where & when I would encounter a hiker, the risk of hitting someone was high. This being a weekend day. 
   The track made a sudden descent and emerged onto the Higashiyama Driveway. A bridge took me over route-1, a main arterial road in-and-out of Kyoto City, and on up to the Higashiyama Mount Peak Park and Observatory (map location). The 90-degree view from the observatory allowed one to see as far as Yamazaki & Yawata to my left, south-west, and Kurama to my right, north, with great views of the city front & below.
   Backtracking a short distance, onto the Driveway, I soon arrived at Sanjo Dori, another busy arterial road.
From here I cycled to Kawabata-dori, where I soon joined the Kamogawa River cycleway and on home. Course map & details -  Upon arrival home I was buzzing with joy, but I felt I needed to return as there something - another track, religious site - that I needed to explore. And a week later, I did just that. 

    On this occasion I returned to Higashiyama and made my way up to the junction, where I had met the young tour guide the week before, and too one  of the other tracks that lead into the forest.

   As I commenced, I noticed how well the track was clearly marked, some of which were in the form red tape, with a black arrow pointing in the direction I was heading. This indicated that this was a course that, I surmised, returned to the junction I had just left. Before long I reached another junction, with a track branching-off to my left. Curious, I took it. It came to a sudden end when I arrived at a monument - above image - before returning to my original course. A little further on, another junction. Thankfully a lone hiker was here who translated where each track led. Apart from the one I had arrived on, one of the other tracks let to the summit of ((Mt)Inariyama, the other down to Yamashina. As I didn't want to repeat my encounter with Fushimi-Inari the week before, I decided on Yamashina.

   The track was steep in places, and well maintained. Partway down I came-across this small shrine partly camouflaged by trees. I could hear the many sounds of civilization rising to greet me, but I was unsure exactly where I would emerge. In the following minutes that question would be answered, when I emerged onto the Daigo-Michi Road. 

   As I had no plan from this point, I decided to head back up the road, and link-up with the 'Kyoto Trail'. And from there through to the junction of the Higashiyama Driveway. This bench, at the plateau of this section, provided an ideal location for a break and a bite-to-eat.

Map Location.

    I had heard about this tunnel, and was interested in checking it out for myself. It turned out to be a pedestrian/cycling tunnel that ran parallel to route-1.
   As I now knew where I was, it was time to call it a day, and head for home. I took route-1 towards Yamashina, where I connected with a cycleway alongside a stream. From there to Rokujizo, Yawata and home. 
   Course map & details -

Monday, February 25, 2019

Hisashiburidesu - continued.

   My cycling wasn't just limited to exploring new areas and paths. Inbetween these marathon rides, I would incorporate a shorter outing as part of my rehabilitation, for example - 

                                                                                                                                                                                                        'Tiki-Tour around Kyoto', where the first snowfall of the season appeared on (Mt)Atago-san and other hills surrounding the western suburbs of the city.

   This trip - 'Ride through Yamashiro, Wazuka, Kamo & Kizu Towns' - took me to the eastern reaches of Kyoto Prefecture, and tea-growing country. This is one of my most favorite areas as there is always a new track to check-out and a surprise around every corner.

End of the road.
   Now this ride - 'Off-road cycling through Ujitawara Town' - didn't go as planned. It had been some time since I last did a butt-gusting, mountain-biking, getting dirty bike-ride, and I was keen to rectify that. And this area is the ideal location for just that. But, what I didn't take into account, was the residue left behind from the massive storm of the previous August. So, when I reached this wall of fallen trees blocking my path, I realized I was pushing the proverbial uphill and a u-turn was the result. 

   Then there are those relaxing outings with my wife, where we would make our way to a chosen eating establishment, and chill-out over a nice lunch. And, if we had the energy, finish-up at our local Starbucks.

   With the arrival of the New-Year, I set myself a goal for 2019. That was to complete 150-outings over the following 52-weeks. That is based on three rides per week. With us already 8-weeks into 2019, I have already logged-up 31-rides. During 2018 I discovered this interesting website - 'Love to Ride' - that is designed to encourage people to ride bikes; with this site my 'Strava' rides are automatically logged onto my L.t.R. page. It's important that I don't turn this into an obsession, and stick to my purpose for riding a bike - health, enjoyment, appreciation.

   A few weeks ago I discovered an area to the east of Kyoto City - Fushimi-ku, Higashiyama-ku and Yamashina-ku. I have spent many hours cycling through these wards, but never payed much attention to what actually lies hidden amid the forested hills that overlook this part of the city. But that was about to change.

To be continued . . . .

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Hisashiburidesu - long time no see.

   It's amazing how fast six months can pass. That's about how long it has been since my last post. I had almost forgotten I had a blog. It was just after my last posts on the Shrines & Temples and Tombs & Kofun of Kyotanabe that I began to experience a discomfort in my left knee. A visit to the doctor revealed that I had damaged the cartilage; I had dreaded this moment for many years, where I reached a point where I could no longer enjoy the great outdoors. But the news wasn't all bad. I needed to take-a-break from hiking while the tissue healed, but cycling was okay. Phew.

   So I decided to use my down-time to explore new areas and sights. To start-off with, I honed my sights on the rural areas of Takatsuki & Ibaraki Cities. As these would be 'Tiki Tour' rides, I would be in tourist mode, so anything that attracted my attention, I would stop and check-out. The area I was about to explore had recently been devastated by one of the worst typhoons in history and, to this day, five months on, evidence is still to been seen. As I made my way up route-6 to the settlement of Tano, what was once dense forest, was now littered with fallen trees.
   My first stop was at Koumei-ji Temple & Shrine (map location),  where I briefly visited some years ago. On this time around I decided to take a more thorough look. And I am so glad I did. I was overwhelmed by what I was to discover.

   The surrounding dense forest and moss-covered ground added an atmosphere of beauty to the complex, especially with the sun trying it's best to break through the canopy. The site covered quite a large area and consisted of a temple, main shrine, small sub-shrines and waterfall.


   From Koumei-ji I made my way to Ibaraki, passing-through rural scenery I enjoy so much. In some places the rice fields were reaching their peak before being harvested, in other places the harvest was already underway. 

Takakura-jinja (map location).
My next stop was at Takakura-jinja, where I was afforded a fine view down a valley which would take me back through Takatsuki City and on home. But, before I proceeded, I needed to find a place where I could take a lunch-break, preferably somewhere in the sun.
   88km and 5.5-hours after leaving home, I returned in high spirits. Not only had I experienced some great scenery, my knee didn't give me any problems. 
   Course map & details - 

                                                                                                                                                                   Two weeks later I returned to the area in search of Emma and M's Cafes. Emma Coffee, in the settlement of Toyono (map location), is a popular destination by members of the Osaka cycling community.

   But on this day, of all days, I was greeted by this sign, and locked door telling me it was closed on Thursdays. Just my luck. Anyway, I couldn't complain, I did manage to experience some more great scenery on my way here. And I still had M's Cafe on my list.
   Not wanting to backtrack to the settlement of Sendaiji (map location) via the same route, I took a more circular course that bordered Kameoka & Takatsuki Cities. 

Tenmangu-jinja (map location)
   I arrived at the settlement in glorious sunshine and, as it had been some hours since I had had anything to eat, I searched for a spot where I could take-in the views and devour my lunch. And the steps to Tenmangu-jinja was that ideal location.

   And this was my view - 

   A week earlier and these fields would have been full of the new seasons rice which, believe-me, is a sight to behold. On a more sadder note, to the right of this image is the recently opened 'Shin-Meishin Expressway', that was carved through, what would have been, a very picturesque settlement. The price we pay for progress.

   Lunch over, and it was time to move-on. 'M's Cafe' was just around the corner - less than a minute to be exact - and the possibility of enjoying a nice coffee, while sitting on a deckchair. But this just wasn't my day - the cafe is only open on weekends. After checking-out the facilities, I headed home with my tail between my legs with the determination to re-visit these establishments. That's when they were open. Course map & details - 

Map Location
     Nine days later I would return to the area again, this time via route-208 past Nishiyama Yoshiminedera Temple, at the base of (Mt)Ponponyama, and onto route-733, at the summit of the Osaka-toge Pass.

   Again it was another brilliant fine day, with a November chill in the air, perfect for what I had in mind. My plan was to return to 'M's Cafe', (hopefully) have a coffee, and move-onto the Ai River cycle/walkway through Takatsuki and onto the Yodo River. Trying my best to charter new territory. 

Map Location.
   Route-208 to Yoshiminedera Temple is a gradual climb requiring the use of all twenty-seven gears on my bike, but the track to the base of Ponponyama required me to walk. From the plateau through to the Osaka-toge pass, and through to the settlement of Tano, is rural Japanese scenery at it's very best. Passing through Tano, and onto route-733, I encountered this collection of used rail carriages, and what looked like an art/nick-nack center. Before long I was crossing the border of Takatsuki and entering rural Ibaraki City with the thought of a nice hot coffee firmly in my mind.

   But again it wasn't to be. It could have been, if I was prepared to wait an hour for the cafe to open but, as I was eager to press on, I did just that. Another track, passing the cafe entrance, looked promising, so I took it and, to my annoyance, it ended at a rice field. Dejected, I u-turned and discovered this bench, and time for a bite-to-eat.

   From here I made a beeline for the Ai River. I like these cycleways as they avoid the very many and annoying traffic lights; the stop/start action burns more energy that the uninterrupted course along the river. 
   Fifteen kilometers on and the Ai River merges with the Kanzaki River, which merges with the Yodo River 2km away. From here it is a nice one-hour ride home, and a nice hot shower. But I wasn't finished with this area yet. 
   Course map & details -  

    Out of the previous three ventures into this area, this trip would be the longest, albeit by about 1-km. 'Four rivers and an Airport', the title of this outing, would take me along four rivers - the Yodo, the Kanzaki, the Ina and Mo rivers - and would also include checking-out the runway at Itami Airport and a small train park. 
   As with trips like this, I like to take many photos, which I did but, for some reason, all but one have been deleted from my computer. So, to avoid boring you with all my usual chit-chat, instead I shall just have to attach a link to my 'Strava' page, and the course map & details - 

To be continued . . . .