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.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Kyoto Trail - Kiyotaki to Route-61.


   I arrived at the J.R.Hozukyo Station (map location), that overlooks the Hozukyo Gorge, on a cloudy, crisp morning. With the recent rain the Katsuragawa River was flowing high and strong. I had about a kilometers walk before arriving at my planned start of the 'Kyoto Trail' so, after getting my camera ready, I set-off.
   After a short detour to check-out the confluence of the Katsura and Kiyotaki Rivers, I arrive at my first junction. In my introduction to the 'Kyoto Trail', I mentioned how well signposted the trail is plus, in some places, accompanied by noticeboards detailing sights in the vicinity, like in this image on the left. At this point I leave the sealed road and descend down to the Kiyotaki River, which I follow for the next 6km at Takao.

   About 200m along I make my first river-crossing. Like the Katsura, the Kiyotaki River is high and the path very wet & slippery. Extreme care is needed. I also notice how much debris is lying over the path and in the river. As I make my way upstream I discover a pool, crystal-clear with a touch of green, with fresh-water trout waiting for their next morsel.
   Then, before I know it, I have arrived at the settlement of Kiyotaki (map location). This is another start/finish point, with regular bus-services two-and-from Kyoto Station. The area is very popular with hikers and devotees of the Shinto Religion, as the settlement lies at the base of Mt Atago (924m) with the Atago-jinja Shrine at the summit.
   Once across the bridge, the path meanders through the settlement before arriving at this junction. This vermilion-colored Torii is the gateway to the shrine, albeit 4km up the mountain. But my path leads to the right and I soon rejoin the Kiyotaki River. It is here I encounter my first hikers of the day, but only briefly as they take another track to another destination (maybe to the Waterfall of Kuuya).
   Midway between Kiyotaki and Takao I arrive at this pleasant picnic spot. Some years ago, on my first excursion into this area, there were dozens of people picnicking under the Sakura trees. They were celebrating Hanami. Try to imagine, as you look at this image, the trees full of vivid-white blossoms. it is a sight to behold. It is one of my favorite times of the year.
Map Location.


  As I am doing good time, I spend a few minutes checking-out the surroundings, and take a few photos. The colors, in the image on the right, remind me of another good time to be in this area (and Japan for that matter) - Autumn. The colors of the foliage during October/November are easily etched into ones mind and are a joy to behold.
   Takao (map location),and the end of my first section. Takao is a day-trip of it's own. A 1-hour bus-ride from Kyoto, the area is worth the time to visit and experience at any time of the year and is home to three historic temples - 'Kozan-ji', 'Jingo-ji' and 'Saimyo-ji'. Although the area was very quiet, as I passed through it, during the Autumn it can be very busy. 
   A short walk along route-162 - the main Kyoto-to-Fukui road - I arrive at my next junction, and a return to the peace-and-quiet of the forest. I bid farewell to the roaring sound of the Kiyotaki River back at Takao and was about to experience my first serious hill-climb. 
    The first kilometer-or-so was on a sealed track, when I arrived at my next junction. This segment, which was to take me to the Sawano Pond (map location), zigzagged it's way up a hill before reaching the plateau and a descent to the pond and, hopefully, a warm-dry spot to break for lunch. Unfortunately I had to delay my lunch-break for another location.
                                                                                                                                                                On a warm and calm day, the pond is an ideal location for a picnic and, judging by the remnants of ash, also a popular destination.





Map Location.
   The track exits the pond and heads back-into the forest and, not far away, leaves the sealed lane and returns to the muddy path. It's not long before I encounter this isolated Jizo and stop to admire it's location - upon the side of a hill.
  
   A few meters from the Jizo I get my first view overlooking the northern suberbs of Kyoto City. To the left, partly obscured by a group of trees, is Mt Hiei (Hieizan).
   The next junction, a short distance from my Kyoto view, requires some serious study. There is four tracks converging here and, one wrong turn, god-knows where you will end up. The map, behind the signpost,is a great help and, before long I am on my way. 
Thinking all my troubles were over, the next junction was just as confusing. This is signpost-70, the junction of three tracks. Signpost-69, as you can see in the image, heads straight-ahead and I am not sure as to where it emerges.


 At the junction is this log cabin (the track I have just emerged from, is to the left in the image) and, opposite the signpost, is another sign giving directions to a toilet and restaurant. Seeing this I now know where I am and I head downhill. . . .
. . . . to my next junction, and this restaurant (map location). 








   A month ago, I hiked through this area checking-out the temples and shrines that lay hidden amongst the small hamlets that dotted this part of Kyoto. I took note of this establishment, and it's location, for this return trip. This confirmed my location and I was able to move on to my next junction, which was just a kilometer down the road.
   By now my stomach was screaming-out for nourishment and I needed to find a sheltered spot (although it was fine, there was a brisk/chilly wind blowing) to take-a-break. And, what better spot, than this dry concrete foundation overlooking several rice fields. As I sat there, consuming my flask of stew with bread-sticks, washed-down with a hot cafe au-lait, I thought back to a month ago, when I passed-through here, and the foot of snow that covered my surroundings. Now all was green and not a sign of any snow.
Map Location.
   Lunch over it was time to move-on to my next stop - Himura-jinja Shrine (you will need to scroll down to view this post). This complex is steeped in history and, along with it's serene & isolated location, makes the site more impressive.
   Nishigamo was the next, and last, hamlet I was to pass through today. A typical rural settlement - old farmhouses & out-buildngs, rice-fields yet to be flooded and and prepared for the coming season, narrow lanes - Nishigamo is one of those places someone could easily escape to for the sheer peace & quiet.
  
   As I left the sealed lane, and entered the forest, I turned and took one last look at the scene I was leaving, and felt a pang of envy for those that resided here. Having lived the rural life, it's a life that is easy to dream of but, in reality, it's not that easy. Miles away from your nearest convenience, sometimes snowed-in during the winter months, are just some of the pitfalls one has to endure when living in such an isolated environment. 
   As I made my way through the forest I began to get the feeling my day was nearing it's end. Arriving at this wooden bridge I paused for a few moments to look back and take in my surroundings and reminisce of the past day. And what a day it has been.
Map Location.
                                                   Then, five-and-a-half hours after alighting the train at Hozukyo Station, I arrived at route-61 and the end of another great days hiking. The day had come to an end too soon. I didn't want it to stop. But, sadly, it had. I will be back here though, in about a month when, on that occasion, I shall be commencing my next segment of the 'Kyoto Trail', which will take me to Ohara.
   As I sit here composing this post, I look back at the Trail and appreciate all the hard work that has gone into maintaining this course by the volunteers from the 'Kyoto Trail Association' and the 'Kyoto Alpine League'. 

                                                               Until next time, 

                                                                             Sayonara.

   Course map details and images - https://ridewithgps.com/trips/13248187

   Video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Jl0b4MbDzg      
  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Kyoto Trail.

   With all the books and maps available for the outdoor enthusiast, and believe me there are many, the series on the 'Kyoto Trail' seemed to have escaped my attention. But, with the help of the 'Kyoto Trail' website, I was to discover that copies were available in a nearby camping/hiking store. The maps have been put together by the 'Kyoto Alpine League' and the 'Kyoto Trail Association', and there are five maps, four of which cover the near 80km partial circumnavigation of the Kyoto Basin, and the fifth in the area around Shuzan in the North-West of Kyoto.     

   The first map covers the area commencing at the Fushimi-Inari Station and finishes at the Mt Hiei Cable Car Station. This course has many of the popular tourist sightseeing spots - Fushima-Inari Shrine, Tofuku-ji Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Mt Diamonjiyama, to name but a few - and is recommended for beginners. You also get to enjoy much of Kyoto's culture and nature along the way.  

   Map two takes the hiker from the Mt Hiei Cable-Car Station over the summit of Mt Hiei, where, on a clear day, the views are nothing short of breathtaking, then onto Enryaku-ji Temple . From here you descend into the settlement of Ohara, and more popular sightseeing spots. Shizuhara is the next settlement you experience then a hill-climb that brings you out at Kurama, and the Kurama-dera Temple. Another hill-climb and you arrive at the settlement of Kibune, and the famous Kibune-jinja Shrine. From here it's a nice stroll down the valley, past the Kibuneguchi Station, and onto Ninose Station, and the train back to Demachinagi Station.


   This next map covers the area from Ninose Station to Kiyotaki, at the base of Mt Atago, and is not recommended for the fainthearted, as it is very hilly in places. But the scenery along the way is nothing short of spectacular. And there is history abound, in the shape of Himura-jinja Shrine (you will need to scroll-down to the bottom of the page) Jingo-ji Temple, at Takao, then, if you have the energy, climb Mt Atago (924m) and check-out Atago-jinja Shrine while there. There is a bus, from the settlement of Kiyotaki, that will take you into Kyoto.


   The final map takes you from the settlement of Kiyotaki through Arashiyama and finishing at the Hankyu Kamikatsura Station. Along the way you will experience such sights as the Gio-ji Temple, the Togetsu-gyo Bridge, Mt Matsuoyama and the famous Moss Gardens of Koke-dera Temple. When you alight your bus, your path takes you to the Kiyotaki River which you follow to the junction of the Katsura River, and whence you ascend along a sealed lane (route-50) that brings you down to the Saga area of Arashiyama. This is an ideal opportunity to purchase those souvenirs for loved-ones back home.


   A fifth course requires you to travel out of the confines of Kyoto City and head West along route-162 (the Kyoto-to-Obama Road) to the settlement of Shuzan. There is very little I can tell you of this course as I have only driven through the area and never stopped to check-out the surrounding countryside. But, from what I have read & seen on 'Google Maps', a certain amount of fitness would be required.



   The above image is of the Kyoto basin, with the hills and mountains that surround the city. The red line is the full 'Kyoto Trail' course (I am sorry if it is not very clear). On the rear of each map are details of particular points-of-interest for where you are at the time, and are also written in English.

   I say this all the time, and this occasion is no different from the others - the public transport system in Japan is second-to-none, and access to-and-from each course is frequent, reliable and on time. Whether it is a bus you require, or a train or subway, you have no need to worry. The map on the right shows you what public transport is available to get you there-and-back. 



   


  

    

















   Throughout the course, at particular junctions along the way, are marker posts showing your present location, and where to proceed to from there, and are numbered in conjunction with the numbers on your map. Also there are many trail-boards highlighting a point of interest in your vicinity, and again also in English.


   
   Over the coming months I plan to complete two of the courses, albeit not exactly to the map details - Kyotaki to Ohara - and do them over two days. I am also looking into checking-out the Shuzan course, and plan to make that a two day outing. When completed, I shall compose a blog with report, photos and video.

























   To tempt your adventurous taste-buds, I shall finish here with a few images from a recent hiking trip into the Himuro-jinja Shrine area (from the Ninose-to-Kiyotaki Map). This is Japanese rural scenery at it's very best.

                                                           So, until next time,

                                                                    Sayonara.

   Further reading - Trail Course and Highlights.

   I would like to acknowledge 'Trans-word+'  for allowing me to use information from their website. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Otaki Waterfalls and Shrine.


     The settlement of Yuyadani (map location) is nestled-amongst the hills of rural Ujitawara and is encompassed within an area known as 'The tea growing capitol of Japan'.


   The settlement was home to Nagatani Soen (1681-1788) who was responsible for developing a method of manufacturing Sencha Green Tea that led to today's mainstream tea. A museum, and former residence of Soen, still stands today and is open to the public.
   
      I have passed-through this area many times over the years, on two feet and on two wheels, and the settlement always reminds me of an era long time passed. But today's trip takes me up another valley in search of the Otaki Waterfalls and Shrine (map location). If it wasn't for the kind soul who posted this facility onto Google Maps, I would never have known of it's existence.


    After a 30km x 90-minute bike-ride, I arrived at a junction that separated the two valleys of Yuyadani and, since my last visit here, I noticed the local council had posted an information sign detailing visiting-sites in the vicinity. After a quick drink and a banana, I was off.



                                                                                                                                                                The open area between the valleys, used for rice-growing . . . .



      . . . . soon became compressed as I made my way up the valley. Driving a motor vehicle through here could prove inconvenient, especially if one encountered a vehicle coming the other way. This small Jizo, always a favorite of mine, caught my attention.









    I was soon to encounter my first sign of what the area is famous for - 



   a tea plantation. Albeit a small one.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                               By now my surroundings were becoming more densely forested and my path more steeper.

  


 
                                                                                                                                     Because of the increased gradient, and another Jizo I needed to photograph, I decided to walk the rest of the way.



   I didn't have far to go though. A couple-of-hundred meters further up was a collection of buildings and the distinct sound of cascading water. I had arrived at . . . .




. . . . the Otaki Waterfalls and Shrine. In Japan, in the Shinto tradition, waterfalls are held as sacred and standing under them is believed to purify. Many of the waterfalls I have visited one can see an area, at the base, where someone would stand or a spout, jutting-out at the top, for the purification ceremony.


   I park my bike and set-out to discover the complex and, after a few short steps, am rewarded with the magnificent sight of a series of waterfalls.




      Crossing a small bridge, I stand between a small building and the Torii. A set of stone steps leads up to the falls and a discovery.



   Located under an overhanging rock, is this small statue of Daimyojin, the God of World Rectification. An imposing sight, especially it's location. I am keen to clamber my way further up, to the the upper waterfall but, with the ground wet from recent rain and wearing only cycling shoes, I don't take the risk.


   I turn to take a look below me and, as I do, I notice this Setsumatsusha, or auxiliary shrine to my left. If I thought my earlier view looking up was magnificent, the view from this point was spectacular. 



   It's cold, being the middle of winter, and I need to move on. I still have a ride home and more to see. So I say farewell to the Otaki Waterfalls and Shrine and head to the hills. I am keen to return, and hike up the hill overlooking the 'falls, but that won't be until it's not so wet underfoot.

                                                   So, until next time, Sayonara.

   Video.