The last couple of days have involved a lot of walking, hiking, and cold weather but yesterday is a day I'll never forget. I took the train from Kyoto to Kurama. It's a small, rural town about an hour north of Kyoto. The town is known for it's onsen and the hiking trail between itself and Kibune. The path winds up to the top of Mount Kurama and is peppered with numerous shrines and temples that have existed in one form or another since the year 700.
My journey started from Kurama. Mainly because I missed the train stop at Kibune. The hike started by making your way past a small shrine at the base of the mountain. The gate itself is breath-taking. From there the path winds up and around the mountain. Snow had fallen earlier in the morning so there was a fresh blanket of fluffy, fresh snow across the mountains and trees. When I first started ascending the mountain path it started to lightly snow.
I noticed a few elderly couples doing the walk in the morning. The hike was no casual stroll either. It actually took me out of breath a couple of times so I'm fairly impressed that they can finish it.
The sights from the mountain as you scaled up towards the peak were amazing. I had to stop every 20 metres or so to take a photo so my climb took a lot longer than it probably should have. Along with the shrines up the trail, there were temizu basins with hot spring water flowing from them that, I'm assuming, had been sourced from the mountain itself.
When I reached the temple near the peak of the mountain it was much bigger than I had expected. The main temple in the centre was surrounding by a large open area. There were buildings on either side of it. Inside the temple, there were monks praying in long, drawn-out humming sounds. It was nice and warm inside the temple and you could see the monks kneeling in front of the altar.
The whole thing seemed surreal at that point. I found it hard to believe that I was standing on top of a mountain in Japan at a buddhist temple that has existed for 1300 years. The building itself isn't the original. The temples have been burnt down and rebuilt a number of times. The path up the mountain and the location of the temple itself is still the same as it was though.
At the very top of the mountain there was only a small shrine. The ground was covered by the roots of the surrounding trees creating an obstacle course that managed to trip me up a few times. The tree is supposedly sacred to buddhists;
Mikao Usui meditated near the top of the mountain at a site called Osugi Gongen, at the site of a great sacred tree (kami) said to be an incarnation of the god Maoson.
More than six million years ago, Mao-son (the great king of the conquerors of evil and the spirit of the earth) descended upon Mt. Kurama from Venus, with the great mission of salvation of mankind. Since then, Mao-son's powerful spirit governing the development and the evolution not only of mankind but of all living things on Earth has been emanating from Mt. Kurama
Sounds like something from scientology. Interesting story at least. It made my whole journey up the mountain feel more exciting. Because of the large trees there wasn't much of a view unfortunately. But I decided to get a little souvenir while I was there. I took out a bottle and filled it with snow from the top of Mount Kurama and picked a leaf from a plant that was growing in the centre. I have no idea what I can possibly do with these souvenirs but it seems somewhat magical that I climbed a mountain in Japan and brought back some snow from the peak.
The path at the start of the trail was made from stone but after the main temple this quickly degraded into no path at all. All I had for a little while was the footprints of people who had walked before me. It was slightly unnerving but at the same time it felt great being lost in the mountain for a while and becoming completely disconnected from society for while.
The 3km trail over the mountain was the most beautiful walk I've ever been on. It was also incredibly relaxing as I was alone on the mountain for most of the time and completely isolated from towns and cities for a few hours. It was just me, the mountain, the snow and the trees. If only there was an onsen at the peak I could have stayed there for the rest of the day.