For the second time this year I slept out at a mountain top shrine. This time I was on Mt. Konpira, near Ohara to the north east of Kyoto City. Ohara is easily reached by bus from Kyoto. The trail to the top of the mountain is part of the Kitayama Trail that runs across the mountains north of Kyoto. Its a steep trail, but the views over Ohara and Kyoto from the summit are worth the hike.
I reached the top at dusk and watched the lights of Kyoto come on and sparkle through the haze of the pollution.
Dawn was damp and misty as I headed down the mountain. Just below the summit is a Kotohira shrine, a Meiji period creation that attempted to supplant the Indian roots of Konpira with a suitably imperial Japanese kami.
Behind the shrine is a small spring that is reputed to have water with healing qualities, so I filled a small bottle with some to take to my wife who was in hospital in Kyoto.
As I sat having a ciggy I heard the tinkling of a bell... a sure sign someone was coming up the mountain. A few minutes later a little old lady came huffing and puffing into the shrine. She had been lighting candles and incense at all the little altars on the trail up the mountain. We chatted for a while mostly about the shrines and their histories, and I mentioned that I was from Shimane but I was visiting Kyoto as my wife was in hospital there.
We said goodbye, I to carry on down the trail, she to sweep and tidy around the shrine. A few minutes later I heard her calling me. Uh oh! I thought, I must have left something behind. She caught up to me and pressed a tatty envelope into my hand. "This is for your wife" she said. As she scooted back up the trail I looked in the envelope and found 3,000 yen!!!
I have been the beneficiary of the kindness of strangers many times in my life. Here in Japan it has usually been in the mountains. Away from the towns and cities, I have always found the people kinder and friendlier. I wish more people took the opportunity to get away from the tourist sites to wander the hinterland of Japan.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
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