I noticed on my “trekking” map that there was an image of a gorge to the west of Kyoto that looked pretty good, so I decided that I wanted to go see it. At first K squared were not interested, especially when I mentioned the bus to the beginning of the hike would take 50 minutes. Then I noticed there was a different, less rigorous route that we could possible reach by train, and they decided they wanted to join me.

We took the train to Hozukyo, and to our delight, the train station is actually on a bridge over the gorge. It just dumps you out right there, in the middle of this beautiful natural scenery. It was pretty amazing, especially since it was just one stop past Arashiyama.

We exited the station and the first thing K noticed was that there were these incredibly GIANT BEES. K has a phobia of bees, which I understand, since I have a phobia of spiders. These bees were by far the largest I’d ever seen. They were about the length of a thumb, from the tip down to the first knuckle, and just as fat. They also seemed to like to hover right in front of your face, as if they’re having a staring contest with you. So even if you weren’t afraid of bees, they were a little freaky.

We started headed towards the trail and the bees were still around us. K decided he couldn’t go on the hike. I thought the bees would diminish as we got away from the station and into the woods, but he was having none of it. I can’t blame him; if I tried to go on a hike and there were many tarantulas, I’d have to give up too.

W and I continued on. It was uphill for a long time. The river was incredibly clean. You could see right down to the bottom, even from where we were, a good 100 feet up. At some point we were more like 40 feet up, and I could see that the river had flooded considerably sometime in the not-to-distant past, as there was debris in the the lower parts of the trees up to about 20 feet above the current surface of the water. Kyoto has a bit of a monsoon season in June so I wonder if that debris was from last June.

We passed a group of hikers, all retirees. It was, after all, a weekday. The hill was steep but they were undeterred.

The entire “Kyoto Trail” in this section ias a road. The area was very pristine, but it was strange to be hiking on a narrow, one lane road with occasional traffic. Fortunately, the vehicles in Japan – even the trucks – are small and they were able to breeze by with no trouble.

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm spring day. The weather was incredibly like the Bay Area, the first day that felt like that. Even the color of the sky almost resembled the color of the sky in Oakland but… not quite as vibrant.

Before too long we came to the top of the hill and headed down through a cedar forest, which was a good change of pace as we were getting pretty warm.

The terrain eventually flattened out and then the nature became interspersed with an occasional restaurant or shrine, and then more and more until we were in an historic neighborhood. Then there were many temples, which I wasn’t too interested in, but W wanted to go to Gioji so we looked for that one. On the way we came across yet another fox (inari) shrine, this one looking spooky and abandoned. There was even a tiny door behind the shrine to the right that was propped open and let to some sort of cellar. It was pitch black in there, and neither W or I wanted to go in. I just figured I wasn’t supposed to.

The Gioji Temple was very small, but interesting. The garden, instead of a cultivating flowers, cultivated moss. They had a display showing the 14 kinds of moss in the garden, and the entire grounds were covered with this lovely carpet shaded by maple trees. Apparently in the fall when the leaves are red it’s quite a sight, but it was striking when we saw it as well. This temple was at one point a women’s convent, so were were some small statues of women inside.

After that we made our way back to the train station, and home — at least our for just another day or so.


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