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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.


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Sunday, March 25, 2018

In search of Kisenyama Dam & Reservoir.

   I have spent many hours mountain-biking and hiking in the hills at the back of Uji City, and never really payed much attention to what was really there. I was aware of the small settlements nestled within the many valleys, like Ikenoo and Kasatori. 

   But it wasn't until I was standing on the summit of (Mt)Jubusan, about 10km away, as the crow flies, that I caught a glimpse of what looked like a lake or reservoir in the distance.

   So I did some research, and discovered that the body of water I had been looking at, was the Kisenyama Reservoir. Always on the look-out for new sites to explore, I decided that this would be my next project; to gain access to, and check-out the area.

Kisenyama Dam.
                                                                                                                                                                          Before I commence my trip, let me shed some light on the Kisenyama Reservoir, Dam and Power Station. The reservoir & dam were constructed to supply water for the hydro-electric power station, situated on the other side of the dam. 

                                                                   The generator operates as a 'Pumped Storage' system, that relies on the gravitational energy of the water to turn the turbines. Once the water has performed it's task . . . . 

. . . . it is then discharged into the Setagawa River where, a few kilometers downstream, it reaches the Amagase Dam, where it is used again to generate more electricity. Because of the limited capacity of the reservoir, the plant only generates electricity when the demand arises.

Canal Weir.
Open Canal.


   Now, this is where the story gets very interesting. The only natural water-supply into the reservoir, is via a small stream at the head, not enough to keep the water-level high. So, what the powers-that-be did, was to construct a canal, diverting water from the Setagawa River, at Nango, a suburb of Otsu City (map location) and, about 10km later, emerges at Lake Hoo, in Uji City, 
Ujigawa River.

Lake Hoo.


where it is discharged into the Ujigawa River (map location). Using Lake Hoo as the lower reservoir, water is then pumped up to the upper reservoir using two pump generators. Here endeth the lesson. 

   My research led me to the conclusion that there were two direct access routes to the reservoir, and a possible third, albeit indirect.

   After a hearty breakfast, I set-off, making a beeline for the Yoimachi Bridge, arriving an hour later. The bridge lies at the confluence of the Tahara and Uji Rivers.

   While I was waiting for my GPS device to connect, I espied a set of concrete steps leading up to an overhanging rock. As I was in 'touring mode' I decided to check-out what lay above. I was surprised when I discovered this small religious icon nestled beneath a large rock. Of all places to site a place of worship, and dangerous as well. With vibrations from passing traffic, I was amazed that the rocks hadn't collapsed. Which was my cue to move-on.

   Route-3 connects Otsu City, at the base of Lake Biwa, with Uji City, and runs parallel to the Uji/Seta River. It is flat and smooth, which it is why many road cyclists use this road to train on.

   So, for the following four kilometers, I took advantage of the conditions, and powered my way to my first access-way to the dam (map location).


    Last week, when I passed this bridge, the gate was locked, so it came as no surprise to see it in the same state. The area surrounding the entrance to the bridge is so securely fenced-off, with security cameras etc, one couldn't help but compare it to a high-security prison. My hopes were raised when a maintenance truck pulled-up and, if they were about to enter, I might be able to follow. But, alas, they just parked there. So I moved on.

   I left route-3 about 3km along the road, where I commenced my first hill-climb of the day. Route-242 is a narrow & windy mountain lane that took me through the settlement of Nio and onto my next junction. 

   This lane was more narrower than the previous and, when I emerged from the forest, I was greeted by this sight. 

   As I was doing good time - it was only 9:30am - and the view was a sight-to-behold, I took a break and had a banana. I could distinguish some familiar sights in the distance - the settlement of Oishisotsuka in the foreground, and Otsu City in the distance. But it was the serenity that captivated me.


   Leaving my comfortable perch and re-mounting my bike, the lane re-entered the forest and I began my descent to the settlement of Ikenoo and, with fingers crossed, my second attempt at gaining entry to the reservoir & dam. Settlements like Ikenoo have a certain appeal to me.

                                                                 As I emerged from the forest, and entered Ikenoo, my attention was drawn to these two concrete lanterns, and concrete steps leading to a wooden Torii, heralding the entrance to Daishogun-jinja Shrine. 

   Shrines like Daishogun-jinja don't come more isolated than this, which is another attraction settlements like Ikenoo have to me - you never know what is hidden amongst the hills & forests in places like this.

   Once I passed through Ikenoo, I once again entered the forest and, about a kilometer later,

I arrived at my next access point. And another locked gate. Unlike my first entrance, this wasn't as fenced-off, and I pondered the idea of squeezing-around the gate and continuing on. Although I couldn't read what the sign said, one didn't need to be an Einstein to know what it said. 

   As I was pondering my options, I could hear a faint humming, the sort of humming you hear when in the vicinity of an Electrical Grid Site. Peeking through the trees I espied such a site and, putting two-and-two together, what I was looking at, was the generation plant of the Kisenyamayosui Power Station.

                                                                                                         Debating whether I should park my bike, and clamber my way up the hill, I discovered these steps. Generally placed to allow access to power-pylons by maintenance crew, I decided to take-the-plunge and head on up. But alas, there was a power-pylon, and that's where the steps ended. With my tail between my legs, I descended back to my bike and made my way back through Ikenoo, and up the hill to where I stopped earlier. 

   Just behind where I had been sitting earlier, was another junction that descended and emerged at this bridge. I had arrived at the head of the Kisenyama Reservoir.

The last time I passed-through here, I arrived just as this gentleman had landed a large trout. He was very proud of his catch, and was more-than-willing to pose for the camera. I was aware of a track, at the far end of the bridge, that lead to the only stream to enter the reservoir. All going well I would take the detour and check-it-out. But alas, it too was all fenced-off. This was not my day.

   A few hundred meters on from the bridge I managed to catch a glimpse, and take this photo, of the dam and power plant, albeit through a wire mesh fence. This was as close I was going to get to my goal.

   Feeling dejected I moved-on. At this point my lane would turn-away from the reservoir and descend towards Uji City, and my next access point. As I was about to move off, I noticed this flight-of-steps and guide-rope which made it's way up the hill and into the forest. This looked promising, so I parked my bike and decided to check it out.
   The track was well marked and well beaten, giving me the impression that this was part of a popular hiking course.

   About ten minutes in, I arrived at this site overlooking the reservoir and, through the trees, my closest view of the dam. My impression was that this was an ideal location for a picnic.

    Moving deeper into the forest, I soon arrived at the summit of Mt Kisenyama, 415m (map location). As I could still catch glimpses of the reservoir, I continued on but, a little further on, the track veered-away in the opposite direction, so I decided to u-turn and return to my bike (upon arrival home, I checked the topography map and discovered there were no tracks marked on the map. With my interest in this area stirred, I have placed this on my 'must return' list). 

   Arriving back at my bike, I was no-sooner back on the road, and my next attempt. Passing-through the settlement of Shizukawa, my next junction, and hill-climb, was just a kilometer away - this was familiar terrain as, just over a month ago, my Wife & I came here for a walk through the Amagase Forest Park.

   After a steep ascent, I turned a bend and there it was - whala, an open gate. Maybe this was going to be my day after all. As the saying goes - 'third time lucky'.
   Although the lane ascended, it wasn't too steep and I was able to cruise my way deeper into the valley and forest. A couple of trucks passed me as I made my way, no-one stopping to tell me I wasn't suppose to be here. 

Part-way up the valley I stopped at a bridge to take-in my surroundings. Looking into the forest, partly camouflaged by trees, I noticed a small shed-like construction. Upon closer inspection was this small religious icon. I have discovered these in many places during my travels, some of them in the most isolated of places, but this one takes-the-cake. Judging by the state the construction was in, this is a very-new addition to the forest.

   After 24km of cycling on a sealed surface, for the first time today my track would now become rocky and rutted, as I arrived at this collection of buildings (map location). Judging by the many heavy vehicles parked nearby, I got the impression there was a construction site in the vicinity. My GPS device showed I was closing-in on my goal, that was until the track turned in the opposite direction.

   After a while the track became too hazardous to continue, as there were many obstacles in the form of large rocks, tree limbs and slips and, if that wasn't bad-enough, quite steep. I persevered for as long as I could, then decided to call it a day. I had given it my best shot, and was more than satisfied with my effort.

   Maybe one day the Electricity Company will have an 'open-day', where I can check-out the facilities. And then I can say - 'I did it'.

Until next time,


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