#030 – HYAKURI-GA-TAKE
Just off the famous Saba Kaido, the ‘Mackerel Road’, where runners used to lug loads of salted fish from the Japan Sea through the mountain passes to Kyoto, rises Hyakuri-ga-take, 900 odd metres of mountain, straddling the border of Shiga and Fukui Prefectures. Since our last foray into the hills, the Japanese spring had woven her magic and the wooods were cloaked in resplendent shades of fresh, new season green.
My time out of the hills had been spent entertaining an old mate from Oz. Two weeks of gluttony didn’t augur well for a return to the mountains of Kansai. Early season momentum had to be regained, or neither I, nor the Missus were going to get anywhere on our quest to conquer the KINKAN Hyakumeizan. We needed a kick start. We needed to regain our focus and get a few more mountain scalps under our belts, before the brutality of another Kansai summer hit. And speaking of belts, I needed to dump a few kilos out from under mine as well.
What better man to invite into the fray then than Wes the Hyakumeizan master himself? Having knocked off the Nihon Hyakumeizan a few years before I, he was well on his way to wrapping up his next two projects, namely, climbing each of Japan’s prefectures’ highest peaks and scaling all 100 of the Kansai Hyakumeizan. Where Hyakuri remained prominently on his dwindling hit list, it was almost lost on our ragged four paged mountain agenda.
So, on an early May Sunday befitting of its name, the Missus pointed the rental car north on Kyoto’s riverside Kawabata Street and, along with the Kid warming the back seat, we kept our eyes peeled for a glimpse of Wes’s trademark golden mop supposedly situated somewhere along the roadside up by Demachiyanagi Station. Not easy to miss, the Missus came to a halt amidst the morning traffic and Wes jumped aboard. Tales of his recent winter bout with TB and latest mountain adventures ensued and before we knew it we were out in the boonies beyond Ohara and Kutsuki towns. The Missus followed a narrow strip of blacktop that wended its way through lost tracts of Kyoto countryside, dotted with deserted farmhouses and half empty sleepy hamlets, basking in the morning sunshine. At the end of the road, she pulled up in a deserted carpark alongside a babbling stream and we climbed out of the tiny hatch and unbent our frames.
The hike up and over Hyakuri joined the Takashima Trail a more recently devised long distant route than the old Saba Kaido and one put together simply for recreation rather than commerce. We ogled at the fresh greens of the virgin forests upon Hyakuri’s ridges and stared south as the vistas opened up. Where was Buna-ga-take? Was that Horai, then? Jyatani should be somewhere over there, right? We mulled over the distant peaks while tracing our fingers along grooves clawed out of the beech trees by the local bear population.
On the open summit we lazed like lizards in the warm sun. The Kid had us up for an improvised baseball game with a stick and a pine cone, and then, before we knew it, it was time to hit the trail again.
We joined the Saba Kaido at Negorizaka Pass. It cut the Takashima Trail – that continued along the forested ridgeline westwards – north to south. We turned south on our loop and soon joined a mountain road, before plunging into the forests again further down. The Kid started to feel the strain on the descent, but gutted the hike out to the end. Golden afternoon light shone through the fronds, illuminating mountain azalea. And, after a short stroll through a stand of plantation timber we were back at the car, lonesome in a deserted gravel pit, at the end of a country road. On a cloudless mid spring Sunday we’d had the mountain to ourselves.