Day 2, December 26th, 2012
A day with Fudo Myo-o
It's still dark as I take the first train out of Hakata Station, but when I get off in Sue the sky is lightening and it appears to be cloudless. I head north and then turn west into the valley, that the villages that make up the town of Sasaguri are scattered along. As I leave the main road and start to head towards the mountains the sun rises and I stop at a shrine and sit under an ancient camphor tree and have some breakfast in the golden light of the low winter sun.
I'm so happy to be in the mountains on a sunny day. I have no great love for walking uphill with a pack on my back, but to get from A to B there is no way to avoid it, so I slowly amble up the narrow mountain roads. I reach the first temple quickly and am surprised that its not at a higher altitude. I get really excited when I find behind the temple a waterfall surrounded by dozens of statues of Fudo Myo-o!!
With his grimacing, fanged visage, sword in hand, surrounded by flames, Fudo Myo-o is known as a wrathful deity but I find him strangely reassuring. Though he has many attributes, I associate him with sites like this, ascetic sites, places where aspirants will stand under freezing water and undergo purification for spiritual training. I have a massive collection of photos of Fudo statues, and here I am happy to add more than a dozen new ones to my collection.
An hour later I reach the next temple, and it too has many Fudo statues. The waterfall is not as impressive, but seems clear that this mountain has a history as a site of spiritual training, and according to legend Kobo Daishi himself spent time here for that reason.
It gets steeper and then I come to a new Buddhist hall of some kind with a car park and a small cafe. I'm confused because its not on my map and so I ask for directions in the cafe. The old lady points me up a trail and so I head off. After about ten minutes of steep climbing I realize I am on the wrong path. By now I should have reached a pass and be heading downhill. I am heading to the summit of the mountain, not where I want to go. When I asked for directions I pointed to a temple and shrine on my map, so I guess the old lady didn't look properly and just presumed I wanted to go where everyone else goes. What the hell, I figure as I am on the way up I may as well go to the top.
Its much further and steeper than I imagined and I'm puffing and sweating when I reach the shrine on the summit of Mount Wakasugi. There's lots of ice up here at 600 meters and I wish I had left my pack at the bottom. The view is great, and way off in the distance I can see Fukuoka. A very steep trail leads down a few hundred meters to the Okunoin, the cave where Kobo Daishi undertook austerities.
The climb up has taken over an hour and now I have to descend back to where the trail I want heads down and along the mountains. The short winter day is on the wane and I need to hurry.......
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