Thursday, 23 June 2016

Kyoto Research Trip - Mt. Kurama and the Kamo River

My plans were foiled....

... by a bear.

So that happened.  I still got to go up to the main part of the temple, but the paths up from Kibune and Kurama were both closed off and I had to take the cable car.  My hips don't currently know it (mountain stairs are murder!), but they got off easy today.  I was completely ready to hike the whole thing.

Mt. Kurama is famous as the home of the tengu, these guys:

who allegedly trained Ushiwakamaru (aka Minamoto Yoshitsune), who defeated the unbeatable monk Benkei on the Gojō Bridge in the Tale of the Heike, like this:

Except Benkei probably had underwear on...  Here's a recent rendition of the story (Benkei thinks Ushiwaka is a woman until about 1:10, then things get interesting): 

The Heike is not the only reason I went up to Kurama.  Actually I went for three reasons.  1) I went in 2007 and had no idea the history of the place or what anything meant, so I wanted to see it again.  2) The Kamo River starts up in the mountains near there, which is a fairly lame excuse for just wanting to hike the mountain.  3) You can see Mt. Hiei and part of Kyoto from the top.

When I went in 2007, 90% of why I wanted to go was to see wild monkeys.  Yeah, didn't see any this time either, but my dad bought me a pair of binoculars after the first time and it was super cool to look through them at the other mountain.  I have to go to confirm, but I think you can see one of the buildings of Enryakuji from the Kuramadera Honden.  At least I could make out something that looks like a pagoda roof.  It was clearer through the binoculars.

So since my hiking plans were foiled, I spent some time at the temple museum, which was pretty neat!  I recommend it (as long as you have some Japanese, cause nothing's translated).  The first floor was all about the mountain: the bugs, the plants, the rocks, and a really cool section on tengu and things that have been named after tengu, like a fungus called "Tengu's Beard".  The second floor had a room devoted to the woman who first translated the Tale of Genji into modern Japanese, which is probably less random than it seems if I'd actually spent the time to read of the signs, and a room full of scrolls and documents.  Guess which one I got excited about.  I need to learn more about what things in temples are called, because there was a really cool bronze stupa looking thing, but it wasn't quite a stupa, but it was commissioned by the Fujiwara family in the 12th century and they had it in the museum.  I think the image on it is Bishamonten, but I'm not 100% on that.  It was cool - I couldn't take pictures though.  Then on the third floor they had room of Bishamonten icons.  I didn't explore this too much, because there were people in there praying, but the couple that I saw were from the Kamakura period.

That was the end of the road, literally.  I took some readings with my GPS unit, but it wasn't getting a very good signal.  The elevation on the map I got also looks weird to me, but the point readings I think are accurate.  I used waypoint averaging for them.  I think I may have been disoriented by the cable car.

So, since I had hours more than I expected in my day when I got off the special train that goes to the mountains, I decided to walk along the river again and connect my line.  I started where the Kamo meets the Takano River and walked along the east bank, for the most part.  I had to switch to the west bank at Gojō because the trail died off on the west.  This time I remembered extra sunscreen, though I think I still burned more.  This is the second worst burn I've had in my life... not a fan.

Anyway, this was fun:

Turtle hopping!  Yup, I took my shoes off and did it.  It was kind of terrifying since the river's a bit high from all of the rain.  It's actually not that deep there, but you still wouldn't want to fall.

Here is today's bird collection:
These little guys really liked the ground.  I can't find exactly what it is, but I'm calling it a sparrow for now... cause it looks like a sparrow...

Surprise! Kites!! (鳶) I didn't know what these were before.  Now I know!  They sound like an eagle... actually I thought it was an eagle until I looked it up to post here.  Apparently they're related.

This guy is called a night heron (五位鷺).  

This is a cormorant (鵜), a juvenile cormorant to be precise (according to the older gentleman explaining the markings to someone I was eavesdropping on).

Two pretty "cranes" in one shot!  I tried to get a picture of them fishing, but they were way too fast.  The one on the left, with the black bill is a little egret (小鷺).  The one on the right with the yellow bill is a great egret (大鷺).

This beautiful guy is a gray heron (青鷺, because everything has to be blue in Japan...).  I'm in love.

I actually managed a picture of one of these!!!  I'm so not patient enough for bird watching.  This is a Japanese wagtail, apparently (ハクセキレイ).

I also take back my statement from the other day about there not being that many ducks on the Kamo River.  There are so many ducks on the upper part of the Kamo River!  There are several different kinds, actually.  This is a European wigeon (緋鳥鴨).  The duck on the left looks like an ordinary duck to me, and the internet is failing my current search, so I will cross check when I get home to my book.

The river is definitely healthier in the upper part of the city, above about Shijō.  There were so many more birds, and obviously fish even though I couldn't see them.  There were turtles too, but I didn't get any pictures.  Those little buggers are jumpy on the river!  I was probably fifty feet away from one and all I did was stop walking for a second and it pushed itself off its rock and tumbled, rather gracelessly, backward.  I guess they have a lot of hunters around there.

Here's a parting picture of the skyline around Kujō:

1 comment:

David Sweet said...

So, really been enjoying reading the blog, making me wish I could see all of what your seeing, the photos are amazing. Really glad to see that you are still passionately following your dream. Also the duck on the left looks like either a juvenile Mallard or Mexican female.