Asuka and Yoshino

Today I have a double header: Asuka (Hasedera and Tanzan shirne outside the city) and Yoshino. I start early (for me). At 8:45am I arrive at the Kintetsu Station „Osakaabenobashi“. But I am wrong. I have to go to Tsuruhashi and from there to Asuka.

With a lot of routine I am moving forward, not impressed by all these Japanese. I am used to this chaos. I am stopped by the exit gate. Wrong ticket? No, just the wrong exit. The Loop Line is JR. But I tried to use the exit that is also the entrance to Kintetsu (Kintetsu is also running the subway in Oosaka). I show my Kansai Thru pass and everthing is fine. The next train is a  Sub-Semi-Express.

Hasedera 1

Half way I nearly got undocked. Only the first 6 cars go further. A nice conducter warns me before this happens. At Hasedera Eki is a small stairway downhill. The street and the old houses look cozy. The weather is sunny. A right turn, passing the city and uphill to the temple Hasedera, founded in 686.

I am walking thru the Mon and climb up the corridor with its more than 300 steps. This is the first time I see somthing like this. It is like walking into ancient times. At the top there is a big hall with a nice view into the valley. A patio is errected on several feet high piles. This is how the Kiyomizudera may look like. In three days I know the answer.

The big hall contains the second greatest Kannon in Japan. 12m high. Impressive. The legend says that the tree trunk was big enough to carve two statues. The second one was thrown into the see and was washed up in Kamakura. This is the Kannon at the Hasedera temple there. Now I have seen both and a picture of neither. I respect the ban of taking pictures. Monks are praying and I record a 20min audio track. [It is silent and overlayed by wind noise.]

Hasedera 2

On tThe way back I pass a pagoda and then I need to hurry. I only have 20min. left. The stairway up to the station is harder to take than it looks. We are talking about a heigth difference of about 100m. I am finished but I get the train.

From Sakurai it is a 7km walk and there are only 4 busses a day. I jump into taxi to get stuck in traffic. Arghh. Then it goes uphill. Switchback. The drivers tells me that in winter the street is sometimes closed if snow and ice cover the road. To steep for driving. I believe that. We are going up and the taximeter too. This will be an expensive ride.

The shrine is old and not in a good shape. The dark red colour is weatherd. The honden and the 13-level (!) pagoda are still worth a visit. The were errected in 1532. Here the kami of Fujiware Kamatari, founder of the Fujiwara Clan (Heian period) is enshrined. In the honden some exhibits from this area can be visited. During autumn color the view from the patio into the forest must be amazing. But now, without the leaves, everything is grey. All the iron lantern are a nice motif for a picture.

The taxi driver is waiting. He drives me to Asuka Station. Expensive ride. $100. But without the taxi is wasn’t possible to catch a train to Yoshino in time. The driver stops at Ishibutai, a megalithic tomb from the Asuka period (and the reason for the name).

Tanzan Shrine

The Local to Yoshino passes buildings, forests and bamboo groves. The houses are very close to the tracks. 5m or less. A bridge, narrower that the train cars. Just even wide enough for the tracks. For the last meter up to Yoshino I have to use a cable car. Made in Germany! It looks old, very old.

Yoshino: The Kuromon above the street builts the entrance. Behing  small road with old houses; shops and restos, but all closed. Zombieland feeling. During Sakura this place must be awesome and crowded. At the moment I prefer the Zombieland. It is peaceful and quiet.

Next Stop: Kinpusei-ji. The temple is a construction site. Mon and Main hall are big. Here the second biggest Buddha statue can be found. It is to dark for pictures. I walk to the Yoshimuzu shrine. It is small and compact but worth a visit. It has a small courtyard with honden, stone garden and a pond.

At Chikurin I forgot to visit the temple garden. Damned. If I can walk to the Mikurimari shrine before dawn? The last cable car leaves at 5:40pm. The way goes uphill. A junction. I walk back. Am I wrong? No. This is the way. Uphill. The town ends. A small sign (“Less than 1 mile”) is directing into a forest. A tiny trail. Uphill. Exhausting.


Dawn is beginning. The latest time for my return is 4:40pm. 20 minutes until then. I see some houses. The incline is unbelieveable. Close to 50%. Every single step is hard work. Again a trail; with stairs. 650m. I am finished and at the finish. It really is getting dark. I am back on tarmac. A car passes. The smell of hot brakes is in the air. No surprise if I remember the incline. The shrine is closed. Arghhh. Winter Time. 4pm was closing time.

And now: Downhill. In the dark. It starts to rain. The trail is slippery. 40 minutes until the last cable car. A mixture of hurry and caution. I am back in time and I am exhausted. On the train ride back I fall asleep. I get up a few minutes before I arrive at Abenobashi. It is raining. Dinner is an intersting combination for 890yen: salad with japense dressing, miso, rice, chicken nuggets, sausages and meatballs. Unusual but tasty.

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