14.09.2011 33 °C
We were lucky enough to have 4 days off work in Tokyo this week, which was pretty darn awesome, but actually burnt quite a Harajuku sized hole into my wallet. So, today, we decided to set out and go for a hike up Mount Takao. This would, we agreed, improve on our recent lack of healthy activities, and also improve the health of our bank balances.
Mount Takao is 1,965 feet tall, and close to the top of the mountain stands a Buddhist temple, Yakuōin Yūkiji.
So off we went! It was a short drive to the foot of the mountain, and when we arrived, we were greeted with many different options for our hike---do we take the red route, the yellow route, the blue route or...the cable car.
PAH! I laugh in the face of a cable car! Lets walk! Better yet, lets walk the longest route we can find.
At this point, it was still relatively early in the day. The sun was merely squinting through the clouds and it was warm, but not stifling. The moment we began to walk, that cheeky sun leapt from behind the clouds and blazed so strong and so hot, we were all absolutely drenched in sweat and panting for water. Just 3.6km to go....
'Of all the forms of wisdom, hindsight is by general consent the least merciful, the most unforgiving' - John Fletcher
Shit. It. Is. Hot.
When we reached a half way point we stopped for some water and paper towels, to mop up our faces and backs. This was really quite pointless, as in a 33 degree heat, with no wind, you're covered in sweat just standing still, let alone hiking up a mountain!!! We battled through and continued to walk, and finally we reached the entranceway to the Buddhist temple --- a staircase so long it seemed to lead up to the clouds. Some sort of sick joke I think. At this point I could barely feel the soles of my feet any more, but managed to gather the breath to shout “last one to the top is a rotten egg!” this caused quite a flurry of excitement and we used our last dregs of energy to run up the stairs and race each other, and I was pretty pleased that I was in fact not a rotten egg. It was pretty funny because after we did it, some Japanese students started racing each other up the stairs too. It was pretty embarrassing because they didn’t even look tired, we were almost on all 4s by the time we reached the top!
The temple was beautiful and spanned quite a large area, all of which seemed to delight in using more and more staircases. There was also a Shinto Shrine amongst all of this, which again highligted for me the attitude of the Japanese, and their unwavering tolerance toward all religions and beliefs.
Mount Takao is closely associated with tengu, from Japanese folklore. The Tengu, or "heavenly dogs" are a class of supernatural creatures found in Japanese folklore, art, theater, and literature. They are one of the best known monster-spirits and are sometimes worshipped as revered spirits or gods. The tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics. We found several statues like this, including one with a dragon fly sitting quietly on his sword, see picture below.
The earliest tengu were pictured with beaks, but this feature has often been humanized as an unnaturally long nose, which today is practically the tengu's defining characteristic. The long nose relates to the Tengu’s hatred of arrogance and prejudice. Priests with no true knowledge, or those who were prideful or attached to fame, are turned into the long-nosed Yamabushi Tengu (or sent to Tengudo, the realm of the Tengu) after their deaths. Corrupt Buddhist monks and corrupt Buddhist monasteries were a major concern throughout Japan’s middle ages, and Tengu were seen as protectors of the Dharma (Buddhist law), and would punish those who mislead the people.
After looking around the temple we continued to walk towards the summit, the top of the mountain, grateful for the trees for providing us with shade for the final part of our journey.
The view was breathtaking. We could see, in the distance, Mount Fuji (or Fuji San as they call it – meaning Mr Fuji) peeping through the clouds, and rows and rows of mountains which seemed to go on forever.
We stopped to speak with a lovely Japanese man for a while, which I eventually moved away from, as the conversation went a little like this;
'So you are English teachers?'
'No we are actors'
'Ah, English teachers!'
'No, we are actors with an English theatre company'
'Aaaah, I see, teachers eh?'
and so on and so forth. Needless to say, I have not made much progress in my linguistic abilities.
We took the cable car back to the foot of the mountain and then found a nice restaurant with a foot bath we could soak our screaming feet in. Then we ate what can only be described as a FEAST in an Italian restaurant, and headed home for bed, feeling like we'd really achieved something that day