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.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mikuni-goe Rindo (Mikuni Forest Road).

   Over the past year I have spent many days discovering the many aspects of the Soraku District of Kyoto Prefecture; towns, like Dosenbo, Nodono, Kasagi. Attractions, like the Fudo no Taki Waterfalls. And of course the  shrines and temples, like Kurumadani and Rokusho-jinja. Recently, as I was assessing my outings, I discovered there was a common denominator with all these trips, and, that was, at some stage of each trip I had either travelled-along or crossed-over the "Mikuni-goe Rindo" or "Mikuni Forest Road". 
Map Location.
   There is nothing special about the Mikuni-goe Rindo. As seen in the image on the left, this could be any road, passing-through any forest, in any part of Japan. But, in saying that, at certain times of the year the road can take on a very different look -  
Map Location.
as seen in this image, taken when I was on one of my "risky" rides in winter (This is that trip).
Map Location.

   But this post isn't just about the Mikuni-goe Rindo. It's what lies just off the road. Like, in the image above, this shelter/picnic spot, which is just a 5-minute walk off the road and offers an incredible 180-degree panorama as far as the eye can see. 
   My research, courtesy of the guys at Diddlefinger, informs me the road begins at the junction of Route-62 (the Kasagi-to-Ujitawara Road) and finishes, of all places, at the border of the Kyoto and Mie Prefectures.
Map Location.
   So my plan is this. Commence my adventure here (in image on the left), at the junction of route-62 and finish at a junction just outside the village of Shimagahara.
   To get to this point you can either travel via route-163. But, as the road is narrow, windy and steep, you may experience problems if you encounter another vehicle descending. The best way is via the town of Wazuka. The road isn't as difficult as if coming the other way. 
Map Location.
   About 900-meters in, and gasping for breath (the weather by now was quite hot and I had to contend with a climb), I found an opportunity to view a very popular local farming industry - tea plantations. The area surrounding Wazuka Town is famous for it's tea plantations and they can be found in some very isolated of places (as can be seen in this video). Some are so isolated that no vehicle is able to access the site. Instead the grower installs a single track carriage to get to-and-from the site.
Map Location.
   My first junction of the day - Kiriyama Road. From here you can descend, down a steep and windy road, through the settlement of Kiriyama and the Hachimangu-jinja Shrine, and emerge at Kasagi Town. The first time I traveled this road I was so impressed I returned a few years later and wrote a blog, appropriately called - Kiriyama Road. From the shrine, as you descend a path and pass-through a concrete Torii, you will be greeted with some fine views of the Kasagi area.
Map Location.
   A few kilometers further on, and the second junction. It is at this point the Mikuni-goe Rindo is joined by the Tokai Nature Trail. From behind where I am standing, the track descends down into the settlement of Harayama before ascending up to Juubu-san (Mt Juubu) and Kontai-ji Temple. It is at times very steep, windy and, if there has been heave rain, gutted. As seen in this video (not for the faint-hearted) I took using my Inou camera. These roads stay amalgamated until they separate at the village of Nodono (more about that later).
Map Location.

   The first village of the day. Dosenbo (video) is quite typical of the small, rural settlements of Japan, with the house frontages bordering the road and the quite & serene atmosphere that permeates through the area (although I wouldn't be saying that at midday when the residents return home for lunch). There is a small Torii in the center of town that leads, via a steep track, to a quaint wee shrine. Next door is an accommodation facility (of sorts) that offers it's guests the opportunity to test their karaoke skills. The building is easily distinguished by the Sugidama Ball hanging above the front entrance. Just outside the town is a small temple and sheltered rest spot and an ideal location to have a break. 
Map Location.

   Just up the road from Dosenbo, and another junction. What made this one grab my attention was the vending machine, and it's isolated location (click on the map link, under the image, for an idea how isolated this is). I am curious to know how well patronized this machine is. There are four roads emerge at this junction that take you through a variety of scenery. 
Map Location.
   The village of Nodono (video), and my next stop. The rural scenery in this area is so beautiful that each time I pass-through here, I discover something new. From here you can visit the Fudo-no Taki waterfalls, about 3-kilometers up the road but, set in amongst a forest, at the back of Nodono, is the Rokusho-jinja Shrine
The concrete Torii may be difficult to spot as it is camouflaged by tall cedar. But, if you look close enough, you will spot it. Wander through the avenue of tall cedar to the complex and take-in the serenity and calmness as you arrive at this picturesque complex. Unfortunately I can't provide any information regarding Rokusho-jinja, but I would say that it would have been frequented by the many travellers who passed-through this settlement as they migrated along the Tokaido Road.
Map Location.
   Back on the road and another junction. At this point we say farewell to the Tokai Nature Trail as it descends the steep and windy road to the town of Tsukigaseguchi, and head for our next point-of-interest..... 

.....which is just a few hundred meters down the road.
I am sorry the image isn't very clear, but see if you can guess what it is. Letterbox? No. Milkbox? No. Power/Gas Meter? No. Give up? It's a Beehive. Now I realize there is nothing spectacular about one of these, but what a location to place one; on the edge of the road. Aware of the harm an annoyed bee can do, I wasn't prepared to get any closer. 
Map Location.

   I have arrived and parked my bike in an area that has six points-of-interest, as can be seen in this video (although they are some distance apart, I have included them all on the one clip). Two items are hiking tracks that lead through the forest and descend into the village of Tsukigaseguchi. Where I am standing, where I took this photo from, is the border of Kyoto and Mie Prefectures and, according to my research, the end of the Mikuni-goe Rindo. 
Map Location.
   Where my bike is lying, in the above image, is a track that took me to two great points-of-interest. In the image on the left I am standing on a mound that is the border of three prefectures - KyotoMie and Shiga. Now that has to be unique.
   Backtracking a hundred meters or so, and another track takes you to a shelter/picnic spot with breathtaking views of the Mie countryside (the image at the beginning of this post). Back on the road, and another shelter/picnic spot offering much the same views as from atop the hill.
   From here the road begins it's descent to Shimagahara and one needs to be paying attention, especially if on a bike or motorized vehicle.
Map Location.
     If you are not paying attention, or travelling too fast,  you may easily miss this little sign directing you to an interesting outcrop of rocks.
   A steep, and well marked climb, takes you to an outcrop of rocks called "Tengu-Iwa", as they resemble the legendary creature, Tengu. If you are planning on taking this side-trip, be careful when viewing the rocks and when you descend. One wrong step and god-knows where you will end-up, as seen in this video.
   During my research for this blog, I discovered this image posted on the mapping website - Panaramio. As I am a keen fan of carvings of the like as this, I was keen to check it out. But, unfortunately, thanks to the elements, or mother nature, the carving has eroded and all that is left is a hollowed-out dent. Sad.
Map Location.
   Throughout this post you may have noticed that I haven't included any images of Jizo. The answer is simple - this is the only one(s) I saw on the entire journey (the attached video of this trip shows a better view). Surprising. As I have said in other posts, you will come-across these icons almost everywhere and in some very isolated places. 

   One more bend, and, after 28-kilometers, the final junction of the Mikuni-goe Rindo. As you approach the intersection, you will see a brown signpost, as in the image on the above left, that gives you directions to the village of Shimagahara (video). Turn right here and, if you have time, and are interested in seeing more of this village, check-out the many sites and attractions on this website - Shimagahara.
   During the day, as I was exploring and recording images for this post, I discovered more points-of-interest that I intend to return and check-out. Maybe another post. Who knows. 

                                 Happy Travelling.

   Links to this post;

      Full video of the trip.

      Full map from my INOU (click on the "Graph" icon for terrain).