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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.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ushiozanhougon Temple and Beyond - Rokujozo Loop.

   When I was planning my previous excursion in this series (Oiwake Station to Rokujizo Station), my intention was to hike through to (Mt)Daigoyama, and descend via the Upper Daigoji Temple. But, when I reached the junction of route-782 and the Daigoyama track, I decided to forgo the summit & temple and make a beeline for Rokujizo Station, with the hope I could return and continue my hike through at a later date.

   So, when on a cycling excursion into the area, I discovered this noticeboard with a map of hiking trails in the area. The map wasn't very descriptive, but it was extensive. But it still didn't give me the confidence that I could link-up with Daigoyama and route-782. The only way I could know for sure, was to attempt the link from the other end of the mountain range and, in early April, I did just that. With success.

   An hour after setting-off from Rokujizo Station, I arrived at the completion point of my last hike in this series, and grateful it wasn't hot; the hill-climb was steep and very rugged in places. This small shed, with a Setsumatsusha on the inside, and religious icons on the outside, heralded my arrival.

   After a brief break, while I caught my breath, I was keen to be on my way. After a short climb, the track leveled out and, before I knew it, I had arrived at Kami-Daigo, or the upper part of the Daigo-ji complex. This is an enormous complex and requires the best part of a day to explore the many temples, shrines and monuments that adorn the area.

    As I had already spent the best part of a day exploring the site - about 10-years ago, if my memory serves me well - I took a few images and continued on. As it was just over a week ago when I passed-through here, I needed to remind myself that any interesting sights I experienced then, were now in reverse order, and I also needed to be aware of the many junctions I would encounter.

   About 15-minutes on from Kami-Daigo I encountered this set of steps, as I was doing good time, and my curiosity got the better of me, I decided to check-it-out.

   With the many tombstones that were scattered-about, I would hazard-a-guess I had arrived at a cemetery. As I have respect for privacy, I didn't encroach by taking any photos, but I couldn't help but admire this monument, especially with the colorful Spring foliage that was abound.

   Back to the track, and on my way, I was soon to arrive at something that has left me scratching-my-head. At the next junction I observed this tunnel, presumably to allow the stream water to flow through. The bank looked man-made. What was the purpose for this construction? It beats me. Maybe someone with knowledge of this area can shed some light on it. 

   Although it was still quite early, it was just after 9:30am, it had been more than four hours since I had had breakfast, so I was looking for a spot to take-a-break and have a bite-to-eat. And I knew the ideal location - 

    There is nothing like a good view when relaxing over lunch. And this has to be one of the best locations for just that. My lunch-spot was a crag of rocks that just seemed to pop-out of nowhere. In the center of my view, sitting atop a hill, was Fushimi-Momoyama Castle, with the sprawling suburbs of Kyoto City.

    Lunch over and done with, I headed-off to my next destination - (Mt)Hinoyama 373m. A junction offered me the alternative to bypass the summit, or a direct route. Needless-to-say what option I took. There was no view to be had, but I was impressed with the pyramid of rocks and the many signs detailing the mountains name and height, five in all.
   Leaving the summit I was now on the look-out for a junction that I didn't want to miss. As I mentioned earlier, I was doing this hike in reverse order from last week. The reasons will soon become obvious.

   From the junction I would leave the main track and descend, then re-ascend via another track and return to this point. 300m on from Hinoyama, I arrived and commenced my detour.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       A few minutes into my descent I came-across this site. Although the building looked unobtrusive, it was the sight of all the religious icons, hundreds of them, that surrounded the complex, that was of interest to me. This discovery confirms my suspicions that the area is part of a pilgrimage.
   My next junction was unexpected so, being left-handed, I took the left track. A few hundred meters further on, and another site that has left me scratching my head. Just down a bank, sheltered by an enormous rock, was this derelict building. Upon closer inspection this, at one stage, may have been a shrine, and the rock had something to do with it. Inside there was evidence of Shinto decorations, along with other discarded rubbish, although a quick tour around the rock unearthed nothing out-of-the-ordinary. One day I may be in the right place at the right time, and meet that someone with local knowledge. 

   My next encounter was this Buddhist statue, and again another episode of interest. Why here, in the middle of nowhere? There was nothing else about. By this time I was really hoping I would meet that someone.
   In the coming minutes, the answer to that question might be found, when I emerged onto a sealed lane, with a few houses camouflaged by the overhanging forest. Maybe there was a cemetery close by. The sealed lane only lasted a few meters before I re-entered the forest and onto my next point-of-interest.     
                                                                                                                      In the early 13th century, a Japanese author, poet & essayist, by the name of Kamo no Chomei, lived a life of a recluse on the site where these monuments now stand. He lived in a small hut, sometimes composing poetry, for the best part of five years, before his death in 1216. Kamo no Chomei was raised in the courts of Kyoto but, when passed over for promotion within the Shinto shrine associated with his family, he turned his back on society, took Buddhist vows, and became a hermit. I can't help wondering if he too roamed these hills.

   Leaving Kamo no Chomei, I moved-on and, before long, I had reconnected with my earlier track, passing the religious icons before arriving back at the junction. And,I have to say, I was quite pleased with myself.
   From here, it was off to my next destination, (Mt)Tenkaho. As I made my way I passed another junction. This was the descent back down to civilization and, from memory, I was in for a rough time. The previous week, when I ascended to this point, the track & track markings were almost non-existent. But, first-things-first.

    (Mt) Tenkaho 348m was interesting. Interesting in that it looks like it has been made-into a picnic site. The area, immediately surrounding the summit, has been cleared, and a table, of sorts, has been constructed. It must be a popular destination. On this day, I had the summit all to myself - actually, the only other souls I encountered all day, was at Kami-Daigo. So, with the sun streaming-through the trees, I used the serenity to take another meal break, and review my day. The conclusion I came to, was that the track was well maintained but, unlike the area surrounding Ushiozanhougon Temple, there was very little signage. With a large network of tracks, it would have been helpful to know where other tracks led to. Which is why I plan to return and check them out. Another mug of cafe au lait, and another Onigiri (rice ball), I was now psyched-out for my descent.

   The trees in the area around the junction, and the first few meters of the descent, have been painted with red & yellow bands. Then it's guesswork from there on. On my ascent I followed a stream, so I decided to do the same now. In parts the ground was very loose rocks, and steep, so care was needed. I zig-zagged for some of the way, relying on young trees to hold onto and, in others, I had the luxury to stop and admire my surroundings -    
With sights like this, I feel grateful I still have one good eye to admire & appreciate the beauty that surrounds me.
   In the coming meters I would hear the familiar sound of running water, albeit a trickle. But that trickle would soon turn into a stream. The only problem was, that over the years this stream has gouged-out the ground, which required more care than my earlier experience. I lost count how many times I hopped from one side to the other, and how many near-misses I had, as I scrambling-up the opposite bank.

   But then, there in the distance, I saw it. A footbridge. The first of four I would cross before emerging back into civilization. These bridges are constructed of steel piping and, anyone over 150kg, would have to find an alternative crossing - thank god I wasn't Ichinojo, he weighs-in at 215kg. From this point the track was more defined and, once emerging from the forest, I arrived at my goal, the Yamashina Driving School. Where I discretely made my way to the entrance, in case I was apprehended for trespassing.


   I couldn't resist the urge to include these two images. They were taken on my first venture into this area, a week or so before this trip. The evening before it had rained, and the valley was very misty. I remember having to remove my glasses several times, as they kept on fogging-up. Makes one appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.

   As always, it has been a pleasure sharing this with you, and thank-you for reading this post.


   Course details and images -

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