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.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Kyoto Trail - Route-61 to Ohara.

Map Location.

   It's about 6-weeks ago that I emerged from the bush onto route-61, after completing the 'Kiyotaki to Route-61' segment of the 'Kyoto Trail'. My original plan had been to return much sooner but, thanks to the elements, in this instance the unseasonal weather, I had to delay this segment. The weather today though was perfect - partly cloudy skies, a light breeze and warm - and, after two hours of travelling to get here, I was keen to get on my way.

   Today's course would take me over Mt Mukou to the Yanaki-toge Pass, where I would descend into the settlement of Ninose. From here I follow route-38 to the town of Kurama before heading-into the hills again, and the Yakko-zaka Pass. My descent would bring me to the settlement of Shizuhara, before re-entering the forest for the last time. At the end I would emerge at Ohara and a bus trip to Demachiyanage Station.

   My departure point was close to the confluence of the Kurama and Kamo Rivers. I was wary of the heavy rain the day before and, crossing the river, evidence of how heavy it had been was obvious. I was also conscience that the terrain might be just as hazardous.

   Soon the sounds of the roaring river were behind me then, after crossing a couple of streams, I was about to encounter my first hill-climb of the day. It was quite steep but very-well maintained, as can be seen in this image. As I was in no hurry, I didn't push myself but, with the thick outdoor jacket I was wearing, I was beginning to sweat and huff-and-puff.

   After 10-minutes I arrived at this bench and the opportunity to shed the jacket and take in the views below, before continuing. As I made my way up towards Mt Mukou I encountered more rest sites, offering more vistas of the north-western suburbs of Kyoto City. Arriving at the summit I immediately realized that I had been here before - a couple of years ago, while hiking from Kumogahata to Ninose, I took a side track to Mt Mukou and, upon arrival, placed it on my 'must return' list, to see where it emerged. So, unbeknown to me, here I was.

Map Location.

   Ten minutes later I arrived at the Yonaki-toge Pass, where I would join the Tokaido Road, and we would stay together until we reached Ohara. The descent into the settlement of Ninose would be steep and zigzaggy and care would be needed. 

Map Location.

   At the base of the hill is the Moriya-jinja Shrine, and an opportunity to take a break before moving on. Recent storms had left it's mark on the complex and the two trees that were responsible for causing the damage were still evident. I have a huge respect for the elements, but it's at times like this I wish it wouldn't cause so much damage. Leaving the shrine, I crossed the Eizan Rail-Line that would run parallel with me until I reached Kurama, and passed through the settlement of Ninose.

Crossing a bridge, I saw many  Sakura in the final stages of shedding their bloom before the green leaves took over. Being in Japan at this time of year is a delight, especially when celebrating Hanami. 

   Just up the road from Ninose, at the junction of routes 38 & 361, is this giant vermilion-colored Torii signifying the entrance to the area known as Kibune and the Kifune-jinja Shrine. This is a popular area for tourists and there is a track that takes you over a hill, linking Kubune to Kurama. But that is a day-trip on it's own. Unless you have the time & energy, then check the area out.

Map Location.
    Next stop is Kurama but, before passing-through, I call into the Kurama Station area and pay my respects to this giant Tengu. It's quite a greeting to those that have just alighted the train and is a very popular photo opportunity.
   A hundred meters up from the entrance to the Kurama-dera Temple is my next turn-off and a return to the hills and forest I so enjoy hiking in.

   Immediately after crossing a bridge is this noticeboard, with course map and a warning of the possibility of one encountering bears. The map is the course the 'Tokaodo Road' takes but, as the 'Kyoto Trail' is encompassed within the 'road, it serves a dual purpose. As the area is a popular hiking destination, there are many tracks within the area, and one has to pay attention to staying on the right path. Like I didn't. A track, running parallel to mine - or so I thought - took me in another direction and, through sheer luck, I managed to rejoin my course.


   All wasn't lost though. I did manage to encounter a couple of photo opportunities during my short detour, along with providing the impetus to return and check-out other tracks in the area.

Map Location.
   My short & steep climb to the plateau, was followed by an equally short & steep descent where I emerged overlooking the settlement of Shizuhara, and a well deserved lunch-break. Having passed-through the area on bike, I knew where I was in relation to where I was going and I was doing good time. So I was in no hurry to move-on.

   Sitting on the Kagura-den, at the Shizuhara-jinja Shrine, was the perfect location to have my break. The location provided ideal vistas overlooking the settlement and surrounding countryside. While sitting here I was soon joined by a fellow outdoorholic, who had just hiked from the Demachyanagi area of Kyoto, over the mountain in front of us, and decided to take-a-break at the shrine. From here he was heading to Kurama, where he would catch the train and eventually home. For a seventy-year-old, he had accomplished a lot during his hiking career and, after 20-years, had just completed the 'Kansai Hyakumeizan' (100-mountains in the Kansai Region). Quite a feat.

   Regretfully it was time to move on. My new-found friend was a very interesting fellow hiker and I could have talked and compared hikes longer. As I made my way out of Shizuhara I passed this interesting garden display. The things one encounters on their journeys.

   Soon my path left the sealed road and
I was back into familiar territory - dirt track, ambling stream, trees & more trees.


    15-minutes after leaving the sealed road of route-40, I was to rejoin it at this secluded shrine, and a Sakura still in full bloom. From this point my track follows the road for a hundred meters, but a track passing-through the concrete Torii, takes one to the summit of Mt Konpira and down into Ohara. I am now convinced that a return trip here is on the cards - watch this space.

   The final off-road segment was a gradual descent through a forest that followed this meandering stream, before emerging on the outskirts of Ohara. In front of me was the mountain range that borders Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures and is famous for such mountains as Mt Hiei, Mt Mizui and Mt Obi, to name a few. Passing through some farming plots - mainly vegetables - I arrived at this collection of signposts. It was at this point the 'Tokaido 
Map Location.
Road' and the 'Kyoto Trail' parted company, both heading in opposite directions. The signage was a bit confusing and required some serious thought and, after one failed attempt, I soon resumed my planned course. 

Map Location.

   By now I began to sense the days hike was nearing it's end. A bridge took me across the Takano River then up a narrow lane and, there in front of me, was post number-24, at the junction with route-367. Five-and-a-quarter hours, and eleven-point-five kilometers after leaving route-61, I had reached my goal. The bus-timetable across the road told me I had 10-minutes before the next bus, enough time to reflect on my day. 

    Looking through the images of my trip, like this one on the right, I realize how privileged I was to have experienced such beautiful scenery and of the lone hiker I met at the Shizuhara Shrine.

   As I compose this post my mind is working on a plan to return to the area and, hopefully, that trip won't be too far away. And that will be another post. So, until then . . . .


   Video -

   Course details and images - 

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, 


   Course map details and images -

   Video -