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.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Back on my feet again.

      May 2018, and I was out hiking the hills on the Eastern border of Kyoto Prefecture, in an area known as Hino-no Satoyama. It was a clear, calm & fine day, perfect conditions for hiking. I remember arriving home feeling elated, although, in saying that, I experience that emotion most times I return home from a days hiking.
   Over the coming weeks my joy would be shattered when I began to feel some discomfort with my left knee. After applying a salve and strapping to the area, all to no avail, I headed-off to the doctor. The diagnosis was the cartilage over the said knee was the cause of my problem and I needed to rest-up until it healed. I thought my life had come to an end. But the news wasn't all bad. Cycling was okay, and beneficial to the healing process. Now, almost a year after that near-fateful day, I feel I can get my gear out of storage, and go hiking again. 

Map location.
     I have a couple of big hikes I want to do but, to be on the safe side, I want to do a warm-up hike before I attempt either. So I have chosen an area around the periphery of Fushimi Inari-taisha, in Kyoto City. It was the chance discovery of this concrete Torii on the Daigo-michi Road - a hilly road that connects the wards of Higashiyama & Yamashina - that alerted me to a network of tracks around the base of (Mt)Inariyama. I did a couple of exploratory bike-rides into the area and bookmarked the area for when the problem with my knee was sorted-out. Well, the time has come. Will my knee be up to it? My plan is to enter the area from the Higashiyama side, after arriving at the Keihan Tobakaido Station.

Map location.
     I arrived at the station just on 9am and was eager to be on my way but, in the back of my mind, I was feeling some apprehension as to how my knee would respond. The conditions couldn't be more perfect - clear, calm, fine & warm. My first stop was at the southern entrance to Tokufu-ji Temple - this is an enormous complex and is a day-tour in itself. As seen in this satellite image.

     The street I have been walking along for the past ten-or-so minutes, suddenly ends and I descend down a flight of steps to a junction where three tracks converge. A post, placed there by the guardians of the 'Kyoto Trail', points me, in one direction, to Fushimi Inari-taisha,in another, to Sennyu-ji Temple, and the third to (Mt)Inariyama. My course is via the third route but, before I proceed, I take a short detour to Fushikura-Daijin Shrine (map location). This complex has seen better days and, as one reviewer said - "This site has been returned to nature". My sentiments exactly. The shrine emits an eerie atmosphere, bordering on spooky.

      Moving on from Fushikura-Daijin, I leave the sounds of the city behind and head-into a territory I enjoy so much, and my next junction. It's just on 9:30am and the sun is streaming in through the trees, illuminating the canopy of overhanging leaves.

     I reach my next junction, where four tracks converge. Two of those tracks, in the left of the image, are part of a circuit that takes the hiker through to (Mt)Inariyama and ends-up back at this point. I take this track, but I don't plan to return here. Instead I hope to descend down to another shrine and make my way in the other direction. 

   It's not quite 10am, and already I am beginning to work-up a sweat. I reach a clearing and decide to take-a-break. Some of this section has required some steep climbing and, although my knee seems to be bearing-up, I don't want to risk aggravating the cartilage. A little further on and another junction. Here I can descend into Yamashina or proceed. Needless-to-say what option I take.

     Next stop is at this interesting collection monuments, small shrines and religious icons.

     The 'Google Map' app' on my smartphone informs me I have arrived at Oiwa-Inari Shrine. Although this complex was on my itinerary, I didn't realize it extended this far up the hill. But there was more to come.

   About now I wasn't quite sure exactly where I was, then this tree with attached sign relieved any anxieties I was beginning to have. I was still on course and proceeded.


     From the junction my track proceeded along a plateau for a couple-of-hundred meters, before suddenly descending and emerging at a collection of Torii. 

      At this site was a large platform constructed over a deep ravine, with a small shrine erected on top. Behind the shrine was a large rock-face with a collection of Torii of various shapes & sizes.

From the platform my path descended down more steps to emerge . . . .

. . . . at another collection of Torii and religious icons. One would be forgiven for thinking they were actually at Fushimi-Inari. This, according to my map app', is Oiwa-Inari Shrine and is a very large complex. As seen on this satellite map.

   Emerging from Oiwa-Inari, I arrive at this junction. I have now joined the 'Kyoto Trail' - a 80km trail that partly circumnavigates Kyoto City - and, whereas the trail heads straight-ahead to my next destination, I turn left here, and take a shortcut through an industrial area, being careful not to be run-over by the many trucks carrying aggregate.

   My course takes me under the Meishin Expressway then across a busy road, before re-entering another forest and onto my next stop.


     Oiwa-jinja Shrine (map location) is located on the highest peak of Mt Fukakusa, Mt Oiwa. The name means 'Honorable Grass', as it provided feed for Tokugawa Ieyasu's horse when he rested here on his way to Kyoto. The shrine is famous for it's male & female deities, which are believed to reside in the two Iwa (boulders) near the peak.

      I emerge from the forest onto a gravel road and arrive at the (Mt)Oiwayama observation platform, and my first break for the day. Although I have only been on the trail for two-hours, it's been quite a strenuous journey so far. Sitting here, in front and below me is an awesome view.

     And this is the view. To my far left I can see the skyscrapers of Osaka City. Just in front of me is Fushi Momoyama Castle (on the treeline on the left), my next destination. And Kyoto City makes-up the remainder of my panorama. What a view, and what a glorious day to appreciate it while having lunch.

   Lunch over, I make a beeline for Fushimi Kitabori Park and onto my next stop . . . .

. . . . Fushimi Momoyama Castle.

Map location.

     The current structure is a 1964 replica of the one built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the original built in 1594. The castle is rarely open to the public, which is a pity, as the view from the upper Tenshu would be awesome. I have visited this site many times over the years and never tire of coming here. The grounds are abound with many Sakura and is a popular destination for those wanting a quiet location to celebrate Hanami, as I did on one occasion. The grounds, that the castle is sited, is very large, as can be seen in this satellite map, and is rich in history. Many Japanese come here to pay to homage to Emperors who are entombed here. In one area is the Tomb of Emperor Kanmu and, in another area, is the Tomb of Emperor Meiji.

      From the castle I make my way to the Keihan Fushimi Momoyama Station and home. But, before I catch my train, I treat myself to a celebratory can-of-beer and reflect on the past three-and-a-half hours. Because of the joy to be out hiking again, plus the great scenery I have experienced, I had forgotten all about my knee. But I'm not going allow myself to become too complacent. If any harm has been done, it won't be until the following day before any symptoms emerge. I wake the next morning, my legs feel a bit stiff, which is normal after a hike, and I test my luck by heading-out for a short bike-ride. I return feeling elated that my knee has passed the test. So now I can go-ahead and plan a more substantial hike. And that, I hope, will be another story.

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


   Course details & map -


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Nishigamo, Kyoto City - revisited.

   The purpose of this revisit to Nishigamo was to check-out the track I missed on my previous excursion - 'Nishigamo, Kyoto City - the return'. If successful, then all going well I would decide where to go from there - I had a few ideas in my head, but all depended on where/if this track emerged.
   This is a good time of year to be in Japan - actually, any time of year is a good time to be in Japan - as many of the Sakura would still be in bloom. And I wasn't to be disappointed, as I was to witness as I made my way along the Kamogawa River through Kyoto City. As this is a busy thoroughfare, both with cyclists & walkers, care is needed if one wants to admire the surroundings, and the best course-of-action, is to stop. 

Map location.
     From Demachiyanagi, where the Takanogawa & Kamogawa Rivers converge, there are thirteen bridges that cross the river. I needed to exit the path at bridge seven; take the wrong exit, and god-knows where I would end up. Thankfully my counting skills were still in working order. From here I made a bee-line for Akiba-jinja. This is where I emerged on my previous trip into the area.

     A few hundred meters before Akiba-jinja, partly camouflaged by trees, was Shoryu Benzaiten-sha Shrine. As I was in touring mode, and in no particular hurry, I stopped to check-out the site.

     By the time I reached Akiba-jinja the day was beginning to heat-up. To this point I had already cycled 36km, and it had been three hours since breakfast. So a banana was the order of the moment, along with posing for the obligatory photo, before proceeding.
     The track from this point changed dramatically, to become rocky and, at times dangerous. I needed to weave my way between large rocks, making sure I didn't slip & fall, or end-up in the stream below, all the while taking-in the awesome scenery one would come to expect in this type of terrain. The fact that the track wasn't a steep ascent went in my favour. I did notice, as I made my way, a couple of other tracks branching-off the one I was on. As there were no signposts indicating where they led to, I stayed on my course.
     The euphoria I was feeling at this point was about to be sorely tested - 

   - when I arrived at this junction.There was another track branching-off at this point but, as it didn't look anything, I proceeded ahead (also the sign that was nailed to the tree said 'Kyomi-toge' straight ahead).

   To describe the next section of track, the words 'very steep' would be an understatement, to say the least. For the next 1km I would climb nearly one-hundred meters, up a narrow path pushing my bike in front of me (as in the image on the right) using my brakes as anchors. As I had no idea where I was, in relation to where I hoped to emerge, I can't express enough how I felt when I heard the sound of a motorbike passing nearby.

     I was so relieved when I emerged onto route-31, just opposite the junction with the Kodo Nagasaka-michi Road (map location). In a way I was pleased I missed this track on my previous visit, because descending this section would have been tempting fate. Experiencing the same exhilaration as I did on my first two ventures into the area, I made the decision to proceed through the Kyomi-toge to the Himura-michi road, and check-out another track.

     My next stop, and respite from my recent struggle, was at Himura-jinja (map location). Himura, translated into English, means 'Ice House'. It is believed a shrine was established here in the 17th Century, when Kyoto was the Imperial Capitol. Ice was collected from nearby ponds, and stored here exclusively for the Imperial Palace. 

     A few hundred meters down the road from the shrine, and through some rice fields, is this monument. I had noticed this site on Google Maps when I was doing my research for this trip, and I was keen to check it out. Located here are the remains of the Hiuro's Ice Pits. A track, leading up behind the monument, took me to three small dents in the ground. 

     A mountain stream fed water into the dents and, when became frozen, were then carried to the nearby shrine, and eventually to the Imperial Capitol. In 1994 this site, and Himuro-jinja, were designated an 'Important Cultural Heritage Site of Kyoto'.

     From this point my track led past more rice fields and on into a forest. If my research was accurate, I should emerge back onto route-31. The track was well formed and soft. Shortly after entering the forest I happened-across this cemetery. What a serene location to spend eternity. Shortly after leaving the cemetery I arrived at a junction. My track now became a sealed lane and my first impression was that I had arrived at my intended destination. A quick check of my smartphone map told me I was still some distance from route-31. So I proceeded on, passing several derelict outbuildings and, as I turned a bend, there in front of me was my intended junction.

    From here I headed back in the direction of the Kyomi-toge Pass but, before that, was another stop.
   There is nothing more refreshing than to drink pure & clear spring mountain water and, at Funamizu-no Sugisaka (water of Kyomi-toge), one can do just that. I come-across these springs a lot during my travels and always take the opportunity to fill my bottles before moving-on. Some of these sites are very popular and, at times, one has to stand in line. I leave the spring well sated and proceed towards Kyoto, not knowing what course I will take. I arrive back at the junction of the Kodo Nagasaka-michi Road and made the decision to take this route and return home via Arashiyama. Having cycled this road once before, I was aware of it's steepness and extreme caution was the order-of-the-day; the 1km distance, from top-to-the-bottom, the road drops 200m.

   At the bottom I take another narrow mountain lane that will take me up-and-over the hill, thereby avoiding the crowds of tourists converging on Kinkaku-ji Temple - this is one of the top tourist sites in Kyoto and, trying to weave ones way through the throngs of people and vehicles, can be very frustrating.
   The solitude and serenity of the past few hours is about to be broken, in a big way. At the plateau of this hill lies the 'Haradanien Gardens' (map location) and, with the Sakura in full bloom, thousands of people have converged here to take part in the annual Hanami ritual. Here's me thinking I was being clever. 

Map location.

    I soon emerged onto route-29 and make my way to Arshiyama, passing the Hirosawa Pond. Many of the Sakura overlooking the pond are still in bloom, and I stop to appreciate the very beautiful scenery.

     If I thought the area around the Haradanien Gardens was congested, then the main street through Arashiyama was chaotic. The footpaths on both sides of the street were totally redundant and traffic was restricted to a crawl. The 'Togetsu-kyo bridge' was no better. I did manage to find a bench overlooking the Katsuragawa River, where I could sit and take on some sustenance, before commencing on the last 32km trip home. It was good to be back on my own again and, with a good tail-wind to help me, I cruised home.
   Ninety-one kilometers and six hours later, I arrived home. I was buzzing with joy at such a great day I had had.

     This brings to an end my exploration of Nishigamo, but I do plan to return to the area surrounding the settlement of Himuro. My 'Strava' connection has posted another route in the area I am keen to check-out. But that's another story.

     As always, thank-you for reading my blog and, until next time - 


   Course details & map -      

Friday, April 12, 2019

Nishigamo, Kyoto City - the return.

Map location.
     In my previous post in this series - 'Nishigamo, Kyoto City' - I mentioned a second track I planned to explore but, because of the exhilaration I felt at the end of the first track,and the detour I took, I never got to carry-out my plan. So, this is that said track. On this occasion, all going well, I would emerge again at the Himuro-michi Road, then head for the Kyomi-toge pass and then take another track and emerge at the Funayama Golf Course. The inspiration for this track, again, came from one of my 'Strava' connections.
   The start of this track was just a few-hundred meters along the road from the previous one. Upon commencing my course, I had an uneasy feeling I was on the wrong path. Across the stream from where I stopped, I could see another track. So I u-turned and went in search of the intended path. No problem, it was just a few meters away. This path was very narrow, unlike the first, which looked like a vehicular track, so I needed to take extreme care as there was a steep drop into a stream a couple-of-meters below. As can be seen in the image on the left.

   Now, I don't know about you, but I am a firm believer in 'Murphy's Law'. A hundred meters in, or thereabouts, I came to this stream crossing that emerged onto, yes, the original track. Now, if I stayed on that earlier track, I would have got lost. The track from this point became a matter of life-and-death and, when I look back at the terrain, I was quite foolish to have attempted this on my own. On two occasions I had to lug my bike down a steep bank, cross a stream, then lug it back up the other side. With my foothold very insecure.

                                                                                                                              The above two images give you an idea of the terrain I had to endure. I appreciate the fact I have to, at times, push myself to achieve my goal, but I feel this was the limit I would go. If I was to have an accident and become incapacitated, trying to explain to the emergency services where exactly I was, would be near to impossible.

    As I turned to resume my journey, I was greeted by this sight. Views like this confirm my love & appreciation for the outdoors, and I stood here for a minute-or-two to take-in my surroundings. Just along from where this photo was taken was a collection of buildings inside a fenced-off area that resembled a lumber yard. The previous time I was in this area I remember seeing these buildings, but from a height, and I knew I was nearing the junction. And, a few-hundred meters further on, I was back in familiar territory. As I knew the terrain I was to expect, I slowed-down my pace a notch and quietly proceeded.

     I soon arrived at another junction, when I discovered this tree, with a sign nailed to it giving directions. Referring to my map I wasn't able to determine exactly where the other track led to. Not to worry, this was one course I wasn't going to deviate from. And so I moved-on.
   The Himura-michi Road wasn't far away, and I am soon back onto a sealed surface, albeit not for long. This section of the road, through to route-31, is in two parts. First there is a steep ascent, followed by a steep descent. At the junction I meet-up with a road cyclists; this area is very popular with cyclists, due to it's proximity to the city and the terrain is ideal for training.

Map location.

     Before I knew it I have arrived at the plateau of the Kyomi-toge Pass. It is at this location I take another track and descend to the Funayama Golf Course. Searching around I discover this track but,before heading-off, I look around some more, in case this is a different track from the one I am suppose to take. I find nothing, so I decide to move on. The first hundred meters were quite steep and I soon begun to worry; was I going to have to abort? Thankfully my track leveled-out and became quite ride-able. I was still in dense forest, which was a pity, as the views would have been magnificent. By now it was getting hot.

Map location.

    I soon arrive at a junction where three tracks converge. As there was no signpost giving directions, I take the logical step and proceed ahead. Not far away from this junction is this collection of Jizo. There are six located here which, some may refer to as 'Rokujizo' (Roku = six). It always amazes me when I discover these is such an isolated place. But it's not uncommon.

   Just down from the statues, another junction. Four tracks converge here and, on this occasion, there is a signpost. Consulting my map, I discover I am quite some distance away from my intended track. So, what do I do? I discard the two tracks behind me. The one in front takes me to (Mt)Funayama, which is where I don't want to go. So I turn to my right and head-off, I hope, to connect with my planned track. What I was about to encounter was hell. There had been very little clearing done since the storm of August and, the best way to describe it, was that it resembled an obstacle course designed to train Marines.

Map location.
   But I persevered, more out of pigheadedness; the idea of ascending back through that obstacle course would be too much to cope with. Just as I was questioning myself, regarding my sanity, or insanity, I arrived here - Akiba-jinja Shrine. I now knew exactly where I was, and I yelled a whoop-of-relief. The site has seen better days, but I didn't care.

      I leaned my bike up against the Torii and headed-up the concrete steps for a look around. The complex was well-and-truly overgrown with vines and fallen branches, but, looking closely, judging by the vase of flowers, someone had recently been here. What impressed me the most was the serenity, considering we were only a stones-throw from the hustle-and-bustle of Kyoto City.
   Remounting my bike I proceeded. From here my path took me through the golf course - ducking my head - where I emerged into familiar surroundings; only recently I had been in this area cycling a section of the 'Tokaido Road'. From here I make a beeline to the Kamogawa River, and on home.
    With all the research I did, I can't believe that I missed my turn-off , and it has annoyed me. So needless-to-say I am planning a return, this time heading to Akiba-jinja, and taking the track from there. While in the area, if I have time, I will check-out a couple of Shrines & Temples. But that's another post.

Course details & map -

So, until next time -