#018 – JUBU-SAN
Out to the East of here, around where the boundaries of Kyoto, Shiga and Nara Prefectures converge, stands Jubu-san. Rising out of the famous tea fields of Uji, pushing a mere 700 metres, her green cloak of summer foliage masks a thrilling little crag clad loop, off the main trail, specifically designed for ascetics to endure their austerities upon.
We sent The Kid to school. The rock faces were no place for him. In fact, when checking out Jubu on the net we saw some Japanese had gone the whole hog and roped and helmeted up for the loop down into the forested ravine and back up again. The Missus was a little leery.
“Let’s just go check it out,” I said in an attempt to soothe her anxiety. “We’ll hit the summit and we’ll check out the monk course as an added bonus.”
The June rainy season was in full swing but we took advantage of a fair weather window to hit Jubu. The browns and smatterings of greens of winter and spring had been engulfed in deep summer greens. Late spring’s dry heat all but swallowed by the new season’s intensifying humidity.
The bus out of Uji dropped us at the last stop and after crossing a busy two lane strip of blacktop we were soon strolling the country roads bordered by rice paddies, where pure white herons hunted frogs and bugs. On the hillsides deep green rows of tea bordered the higher woodland. It was good to be back out in the bush. Well, the Japanese bush anyway.
Soon the road turned to dirt, then to a rough, stony track up steepening ground. We dodged snakes and sopped sweat. The Missus left me for dead. I’m a sad case these days, fitness wise. Eventually the rough road smoothed out and met the Tokai Nature Trail just before the summit. This longer course could be walked all the way to Tokyo (from Osaka) and we sat on a bench at the rest point where the trails met and dreamed about undertaking the Tokai someday.
Summit bound at last, we ignored the side trail to the top and strolled into the precinct where one commences the training course. A rough map on one of the outbuildings informed us that it dropped off the backside of Jubu-san, down past a couple of waterfalls before climbing back up to the point where we stood.
“Let’s give this monk course a go. See how far we can get,” I said. “We’ll do the summit when we get back. It’s just up there.” A measly hundred or so yards away. Within our grasp. And we descended into the valley…
…took a wrong turn, ended up on a forest road and popped out into the verdant tea fields of Harayama miles from anywhere, let alone the top of the mountain.
The clock was ticking. We had to be back in Kyoto to pick up The Kid. We’d stood within mere metres of the summit and turned our backs on it. We’d failed as monks and we’d failed as mountaineers. Jubu would have to wait for another day.
The stroll into Harayama more than made up for the faux pas and we rejoined the Tokai Trail running through the village. Wandering down through glorious tea plantations we asked one of the local crones for directions and made for a bus stop at the bottom of the hill.
Summer, as always in the Kansai, was picking up steam by July. Nearly a month after our dubious day out on Jubu-san we were languishing in a post rainy season funk. Far from enthused about a return. But, having dispatched The Kid to school once more on a hot, bright mid summer day, we bit the bullet, grabbed a rental car this time and headed for the hills. Ready to make amends.
On a winding road out of Uji, bound for Harayama, it dawned on me that there was probably a road right up to the temple on Jubu somewhere in the area we were passing through.
“Hell, we’ve done the hike up,” I reasoned. “Let’s just get up to the temple, knock off the summit and complete the monk course. There must be a road to the top somewhere around here. You know love, you’re always on about monks not walking anywhere anymore.”
“What is he doing getting in that taxi?” she mutters on the street to me sometimes when she spots a holy man doing such unholy things.
“Where did he get that scooter from?”
“Walk! What kind of a monk are you anyway?”
And please don’t mention the one we spotted on a Harley careening down Karasuma Street. Or the one we met once who showed off his collection of U.S. Army jeeps.
And then there was the one who wanted a five thousand yen donation and a taxi ride to boot to attend the local festival here in our little corner of Kyoto. And he only lived five hundred yards down the street!
They live the tax free life. The devout drop bottles of sake off at their temples by the gallon. Another one we know rakes in enough dough to send his three kids all the way to Australia to boarding school, accompanied by his Missus. No wonder he looks so bloody contented.
I tell you, we’re all in the wrong line of work.
The temple, Kontai-ji, blinked up on the GPS, a narrow little mountain road squiggled towards it like a shriveled up noodle. We drove through highland tea fields and into a deep forest before parking on a shoulder right where we’d walked weeks before. Jubu’s summit was ours in a matter of minutes.
Next on the agenda: completing that confounded Monk Training Loop. We couldn’t depart Jubu without putting in a bit of an effort.
Down we went again…
…and back up we went, this time safely on course. This time the Gods were on our side…or maybe it was simply down to the fact we’d left a rental car up top and couldn’t afford to bugger things up second time round.