難波の南蛮、戎橋の夷。

Holy Days 2- Snowbound

The next day, I headed to Kyoto, which had experienced decent snowfall on the night of the new year.  On my way in, I could see vestiges of snow in the shade- a rarity in this area of Japan.  I was back in my old neighborhood to visit a shrine.

Not any ordinary shrine. My goal was at the top of that mountain.

I had climbed Atago before, early in my student days, but found the shrine was undergoing repairs.  Something of an anticlimax.  I would be seeing it now for the first time, then.  Atago Shrine dates back to the 8th century, and various ancient gods are enshrined there.  Among them is Izanami, arch-mother of all the Japanese gods, often overlooked in worship the same way Uranus was the progenitor of all Greek gods but was often forgotten.  Before the Meiji government started controlling religion in Japan, the shrine was also a Buddhist temple.  So a rather syncretic site.

I had to take a bus north, through a mountain pass, to the village of Kiyotaki. Technically still the city of Kyoto, oddly enough.

I was not alone in climbing.  The path up to Atago Shrine was full of visitors for the new year- youth, elderly, families with infants.  At some point in the 20th century, there was a cable car that ran up the mountain.  The foundations and clearings of little shops and teahouses that used to serve its passengers could be seen along the path here and there.

Lower on the mountainside, the trail was muddy and full of the dripping sounds of snowmelt, but three quarters of the way up, the shift in temperature was palpable.

The shrine atop Atago. There was a powerful and stark simplicity to the site, built from faintly fragrant raw wood, silent in the pale light of winter.

The long road home awaits me...

Heart of the old capital, where a warm supper awaited.

 

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3 responses

  1. antares

    Wow, these photos are gorgeous! Love the atmosphere of the shrine in the snow. You don’t get places like that around here.

    I’ve got my heart set on making my way to Kansai in the spring sometime. By the way, have you started work yet? Let me know how it goes.

    January 9, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    • Really? I thought there’d be a lot of that in Gunma…

      January 10, 2011 at 11:49 PM

  2. lord kelvin

    This place has been calling you back and I understand why. The photographs are magnificent.

    January 10, 2011 at 11:39 AM

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