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.
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.
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.
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 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 - https://ridewithgps.com/trips/13248187
Video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Jl0b4MbDzg