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.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Temples and Shrines of Kumogahata, Mayumi and Sugisaka.

   I need to warn you, before you commence reading this, if you have an aversion to snow, then don't read any further. If it wasn't the snow I was trudging through, then it was ice I was doing my best to avoid slipping on. And it was everywhere, and, in places, up to my knees. As you will see in the attached images.
   As this was my first hike for 2017, and my first for over a month, and taking into account I was out-of-condition and carrying an injury, today's plan was classed as a walk than a hike. I thought I would return to an area to the West of Kyoto City and check-out some of the temples and shrines that adorn the hamlets of Kumogahata, Mayumi and Sugisaki. As I walked along the Kamogawa River, on my way to catch my bus, I could see a light dusting of snow on the hills to the west. This, I thought at the time, was a good sign.
But, in a short while, the conditions were to change dramatically. No sooner had we left the outer suburbs of the city, and entered the valley, our journey became very hazardous. At one point the bus lost traction and us two passengers were requested  to give the bus a push to help it on it's way. All part of the excitement.
Map Location.

I alit the bus at the Deaibashi Bridge, which is located over the confluence of the Nakatsugawa and Kamogawa Rivers. From here the Kamogawa flows through the center of Kyoto City and on through Osaka City before finishing-up in the Pacific Ocean.
 After five minutes spent taking photos and video, I set-off in search of my first shrine. As I looked about me, at the perfect conditions - fine, calm & mild - and the snow-covered houses, I was congratulating myself on packing extra socks and waterproof leggings. The sight of all the snow reminded me how beautiful mother nature is, but also how hazardous it can be.

Torii, entrance to Itsukushima-jinja.
   My first stop was at the Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. A shrine was established here at the same time as the settlement of Kumogahata, during the Heian Period (794-to-1184), and soon became famous for supplying lumber for the construction of the new capitol. It's not an imposing site - a medium-size shrine, a storage building housing  four miniature shrines and a stone monument.

   One kilometer from Itsukushima-jinja, I reach my first junction and bid farewell to Kumogahata. Here I leave route-61 and  join route-107 and make my first ascent of the day. Having cycled through this area a couple of times in the past, I know what is in store for me; a short, curvy & steep climb.
    Reaching the plateau heralded my arrival at the Mochikoshi-toga (pass)  and I am greeted with this awesome view overlooking the hamlet of Kumogahata (that's the white area in the center-left of the above image). It was quite a struggle getting to this point, as I had to walk in the snow. Walking anywhere else risked me slipping-over - thanks to the ice - and, upon arrival, I had a little chuckle as my original plan for today, was to complete this course on bike.

                                        If my ascent through the snow was a struggle, my descent was a downright nightmare, as can be seen in the above images. But, believe-it-or-not, as I was struggling through the snow, a parcel delivery van passed me. As they say - " The mail must get through".
Map Location.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Not far away was my next junction, and my first detour for the day, to the settlement of . . . .

                                                                          . . . . Mayumi.

   If I thought the snow that blanketed Kumogahata was bad, this area was totally engulfed. On my itinerary was the Seisui-ji Temple and Mayumihachimangu Shrine.

   Seisui-ji isn't one of those complexes you will find on the tourist trail. Judging by the headstones at the rear of the temple, it's main purpose was to serve the needs of the local inhabitants. So there isn't anything spectacular of note to report, just this interesting set of seven Jizo Statues.  With the snow about half-a-meter deep I wasn't keen to stick-around while my feet got wet & cold. 
Map Location.
   Immediately behind Seisui-ji was the Mayumihachimangu Shrine. This complex couldn't be more isolated or set in a more serene location if it tried. My plan, when reaching this point, was to take a break and have a hot coffee and a bite-to-eat, but. . . . 
Main Shrine.
Noh Stage.

. . . . as you can see in the above images, there was nowhere to sit - on my next visit, when there isn't any snow about, I will stay longer.

      From Mayumi it was back to route-107 and on to the junction with route-31 and the settlement of Sugisaka (Map Location). Although I had descended somewhat, the snow was still very evident. By now the sun was peaking and it was still fine. But my stomach was beginning to make noises and, 1.5km down the road, the opportunity arose to take-a-break and satisfy my need for sustenance.
Map Location.
   And, what better location, than the Tofu-jinja Shrine. Established in 920AD, the ancient Japanese calligrapher Ono-no Tofu (894-to-966) is enshrined here as it's deity. In ancient times the water from this shrine were used by the Imperial Family for their rituals and studies.

Main Shrine.

  After finding a square-meter of dry concrete to sit on, I was able to finally rest and take-on some fuel - chocolate bread-sticks dipped in curry, washed-down with cafe au lait and, for dessert, a banana - and take in my surroundings. There was a lot to see here and explore but, with the blanket of snow covering everything, a lot would have been hidden. So, in saying that, Tofu-jinja has been placed on my 'must return' list.

   What particularly appealed to me was the Chozuya. Unlike most purification fountains, where worshipers ladle water from a trough, this one you ladled the water from a well at the base of the pavilion.
Map Location.
   My next stop was the 'Funamizu of Sugisaka', or water of Kyomi Toge. This is a place where you can fill your receptacles with sacred water from Funamizuyama (Mt Funamizu). The water couldn't be more purer and it is not uncommon to see people gathering here, and other such places like this, to replenish their drinking water.

                                                                                                                    My next junction, and second detour of the day, was to take me to Himuro-jinja Shrine. It was at this junction I discovered this post (the one on the right). These are part of the 'Kyoto Trail ', a 70km hiking course that partly circumnavigates Kyoto City. The trail is very well signposted and is ideal for all forms of hikers, ranging from the experienced to the novice. 
    Just over a kilometer up-the-road from the junction, was Himuro-jinja Shrine. 'Himuro' literally means Ice-House. The exact year the shrine was founded here is unknown, but it is believed to have been in the early 17th century when it was moved here from the garden that belonged to Emperor Gosuio. In winter, when ice formed, it was gathered and, after being wrapped in straw, was stored here during the summer months. The ice was to be used exclusively in the Imperial Palace.

   The main structure, which I assume is the ice house, is of a design known as Tsuridono and was officially designated as an 'Important Cultural Heritage Site' in 1994. Like Mayumihachimangu and Tofu-jinja Shrines, I was not able to fully appreciate this site, again because of the snow, and, in the coming weeks, I plan to return here while hiking the 'Kyoto Trail'.

   Back to route-31 and, a few hundred meters along, I emerge from the forest and am presented with a great view overlooking Kyoto City but, the best view of all, was of Hieizan (My Hiei). After five hours of solitary-confinement, here was civilization a few hundred meters below me - oh well, it was good while it lasted.
Map Location.
   A hundred meters from my view-point, I was about to enter Kyomi Toge (Kyomi Pass) located 466m above the city and offers some of the best scenic views of Kyoto. But the area also has some historical significant. In 1366, the army of Emperor Go-Daigo, who was forced to flee Kyoto, clashed with Ashikaga Takauji  and, before they entered the city, they set-up camp on this spot.

   From Kyomi Toge, to the next junction, is a boring 3km x 300m descent and, by now I am looking forward to a break and another cafe au lait, and my feet are beginning to hurt. 100-meters away is a bus-stop that would take me to the Kitaoji Bus Station, where I could catch the subway and, eventually, home. As I am not far from the Keihan Demachyanagi Station, I decide to forgo the bus-ride, and the cost, and walk the few kilometers to the station. Along the way stopping beside the Kamogawa River for a fuel top-up.

                                                                   So, until next time -


   I would like to acknowledge the guys at 'Trans-world+' for allowing me access 
   to their website for information used in the post.

   Video -

   Course details and images -

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