In the mountains of far north Kyoto, a small village lies at the end of a narrow road that snakes its way up from the Kamo River: Kumogahata.
Hard as it is to believe, you are still within the city limits of Kyoto.
For a tourist, there is little to see. It is however a step back in time, and the area is popular with hikers, cyclists, and campers.
The road follows a narrow, fast-flowing river that feeds into the larger Kamo River. In spite of recent road work, in many places only one car can pass at a time.
The buildings in the village have tiled roofs, white plaster walls, and an engawa porch.
Our purpose was to clean my wife's family's ancestral grave. My father-in-law brought flowers, incense, and matches. We cleaned the sticks and leaves that had fallen on the plot. Then he placed flowers on either side of the headstone. Finally, each of us put a lit stick of incense into the altar on the headstone.
We placed our hands together briefly and prayed.
The area was in the past the main hunting grounds for the Japanese royal family. Though only a few miles up from densely inhabited Kyoto neighborhoods, even today deer, boar, fox, rabbit, and even bear thrive.
According to family legend, ancestors of my wife's grandmother took care of the royal family's horses here at the beginning of the 19th century.
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