#010 – TANAKAMI-YAMA
In Shiga Prefecture, out past Otsu City at the southern end of Lake Biwa, a range of granite hills rise out of the urban sprawl. Though their height is far from dizzying they have been slapped with the monicker of the Konan Alps.
Their supposed alpine appearance is due to erosion suffered during the Asuka and Nara eras way back when in Japanese history. At that time the temple building craze was in full swing, timber was required, the hills were raped and pillaged, tree huggers hadn’t been thought of. Subsequent typhoons and rainy seasons wore down the denuded peaks, exposing their rocky spines before the greenery could fully recover.
The Kid took a day off school. Nothing he needed much cajoling into. Grade One hadn’t lived up to expectations. A three year veteran of pre school he’d been dismayed at the lack of playtime on offer at the new institution. All that playground and barely any time spared to play in it.
“What do you do at school?” The Old Man had asked The Kid over the summer break.
“Mostly just sit and suffer,” he matter of factly replied.
Suddenly days in the mountains, once viewed as hard graft by the youngster, were chances to escape.
The Weatherman promised cloudy but fair conditions. The drizzle and rain showers strafing Southern Kyoto and Shiga had other ideas. We hiked beneath leaden skies. We three and a troupe of Septuagenarians, out for their hiking club’s last hurrah of the year, weren’t succumbing to the notion of surrender.
The old fogies were fast. The lure of a karaoke session at the end of the day carried them onwards up Tanakami. As we hiked higher in their wake, cloud drifted in through the woods lending an eerie air to the silent, holy mountain. The forest canopy swallowed most of the drizzle before it hit the ground. We remained warm, if only a little damp.
A pair of douji uncommonly cast in female form stood as silent sentinels at the entrance to the mountain sanctuary. Below the temple gracing the top of the mountain we found refuge from the strengthening showers in the vicinity of the lodgings we assumed were reserved for the mountain’s holy men and pilgrims. All lay still. The oldies had made their way on up to the temple. Mists swept in through the open courtyard. Nothing stirred. The world was swallowed in silence. Reverently we sat down and ate our lunches. The oldies returned and we took our turn on the summit.
Up some hundred and fifty steps we came across a deserted temple sitting out off the mountainside on high wooden pillars, in the same vein as Kiyomizudera in Kyoto’s Higashiyama, albeit on a considerably smaller scale. The sun tried its best to break through the cloud and we took it as an opportunity to head off back down in order to eschew the prospects of a drenching.