Escaping the crowds - Yamanobe no michiMay 18 in Japan ⋅ 🌬 22 °C
To be honest, the sheer number of temples in Kyoto can be quite overwhelming. As can be the crowds. And it's a Saturday, to make matters worse.
We decide to take a break. Instead of walking through Kyoto's narrow alleys with thousands of others, we take the train and head South to Nara. Originally we had planned to go on a temple run there, however, I had read about one of Japan's oldest roads, the Yamanobe no michi, in particular a well-known part of it which runs parallel to the JR Sakurai line. The prospect of exploring a bit of Japan's countryside is tempting. So we skip Nara and get off at Miwa instead. The old pilgrimage trail (it dates back to 700 AD) leads us past and through shrines and temples, forests, small farms, a cemetery and small villages. We see a source of sacred water, a traditional swordmaker (we meet the teacher and two of his students), flowers, orchards, rice fields, two snakes (don't worry, only tiny ones) and only a few other hikers. After roughly 11km we arrive in Tenri, marvelling at Isonokami temple almost by ourselves. Little did we know that we are in for another treat: on the way to the train station we pass a HUGE temple called Tenrikyo. We hadn't seen any other foreigners for the whole day and judging by the way people look and smile at us, we are a rare sight. We probably owe this rarity for being approached by Masui Jirou. He works at the temple and when he learns that it is our first time visiting, he is eager to show us around. We have a private tour guide, how lucky! Masui Jirou teaches us how to pray and tries to explain who we are worshipping, but unfortunately the language barrier doesn't allow a deeper religious conversation. Still, we understand each other well enough to exchange some small talk and become friends on facebook. What a nice guy! And what a wonderful coincidence to discover this place. On the way home we read that Tenrikyo is a newly established religion, but their rules and aims are a bit hard to understand, even in English. As always, mankind's salvation seems to be the ultimate goal. Filled with deep gratitude for such a lovely and calm day, we head home. Let's see what tomorrow will bring.
For those who want to follow in our footsteps: we can highly recommend this walk for anyone who would like to get out of the city and the crowds. We started at Miwa and went to Tenri,both connected to the Sakurai JR line. It is roughly 11km, with lots of sights along the way. The whole trail is much longer, leading all the way to Nara. The part we walked seemed to be quite popular, as it's easily accessible and can be cut short at various intersections. It's well signed in English and offers a bit of an insight to Japanese country living.Read more