I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Atago Yama, (Douyoubi) July 8th

My lazy (aka, sleeping) Buddha position

Last weekend we went on another long journey. Tucked in the mountains about thirty minutes north of Kyoto is a small town called Kiyotaki (clear/blue waterfall). We took a 4.8-or-so kilometer hike up to the top of Mt. Atago, which looks down from a one thousand meter perch over Kyoto. The trail was marked in our LP guidebook as an easy track, but I beg to differ. The beginning was impressively steep, though near the top it leveled off a bit. Legs of monolithic cedar trees surrounded us on all sides, and I was humbled by the thought that this trail had been traveled and carved out by silent monks for over two millennia. And by the fact that if these trees could lift their legs they could stomp me out of existence like an ant (ari).

But we certainly didn't forget to have fun. Yes, I even hugged a few trees. The friend in the pictures with us is Tim. Timmy! Timmy is very cool and enjoys playing and babbling about nonsense with me. At other moments our group can be pretty sober and silent in reverence of the nature around us. An inexplicable aura of equilateral triangularity (triangle=sankakkei) hovers over the adventures shared between Timmy, Katie, and me. We stopped and wrote a haiku on the way up the mountain together, each person taking a different line, but without anyone knowing what the others were writing. Here is what resulted, no lie, by the chance and energy mingling in all three of us:

A zen moment to accompany our haiku.

green folds of mountains
clear a path with used flowers
leaves beckon follow

We also created bear names for each other. I forget how this one started, but it was pretty fun: Tim is "Bear This"; Katie is "Bare Naked"; I am "Bear Huggily".

This gives tapping the keg a whole new meaning

As for other stories, we came across an expansive cedar forest that stretched along the path we were walking for about 300 meters or so. It was one of those clusters where the trees were randomly (stochastically is the word I'm looking for) scattered at semi-regular intervals to give each other space, however, the collective view hypnotically transfixed the onlookers view so that they appears to march along with us while we walked. Kind of like looking at the hubcaps of a speeding car––after staring for a few seconds, the rims appear to change direction and spin backward. That's the effects I'm looking for, though in a completely natural context of course. Anyway, we came up with a game where we made wishes and threw them directly into the orchard of one-legged giants. If the rock found the ground safely, then the wish would come true. Some of our wishes were the following, and I will indicate whether the wish will come true by a HIT TREE, meaning it will not come true vs. a SAFE WISH, meaning it should if the is a fair god dictating this world (which I doubt).

I wished for a pizza––SAFE WISH
Tim wished I would not get my pizza––HIT TREE (in his face!)
I wished to sterilize all world politicians––HIT TREE (DAMN!)
Tim wished to get rid of all politicians––I can't remember the result but don't hold your breath
Tim wished for a forest of trees––SAFE WISH
Tim wished for a forest of buildings––SAFE WISH (why?)
I wished to live in the forest where we were at the time––SAFE WISH (YEAH!)

I spy something wet

The most memorable experience of the day was hiking up to this small waterfall wedged in the valley underneath the Atago Temple and Shrine. I haven't quite deciphered the kanji yet, but I think the name is Kuuchitaki (translation=water falls out of the sky onto the earth). The walls of mountain press closer and closer together as you ascend to where the falls are located. Moist, dewy ferns and moss cake the rocks like icing the entire way. A small gathering of three or four houses where the monks stay reside just below the falls––seriously, this is the place Katie and I want to live. Another 100 meters above the gardens and homes is a stone staircase that leads up to the view in this photo. The streams drop down from above sixty or so feet overhead, and a small shrine sits more or less directly beneath the landing zone, perhaps only two feet out of reach. Katie and Tim didn't join me in it, but I stripped down for a personal spiritual moment before the shrine, standing under the icy falls, holding my breath. The atmosphere was so exhilarating and invigorating, like baptismal waters were being poured over me. I feel spiritually connected to this nature and to the waters that make it up––after all, I have an ocean inside of me as well as outside.

It tastes like burning!

Our night concluded back in the city of Kyoto, where warm-ups for this weekend’s Gion Festival were taking place. A fire-performer marveled us as we recoiled against the Kamogawa (duck river), our second tributary of the day. I think this was by far my favorite day/adventure yet, and seeing water's opposite wielded so freely. Now that I think about it, we encountered every vital life element that corresponds symbolically with the day of the week in ancient China and Japan. Getsuyoubi=moon day=Monday, Kayoubi=fire day=Tuesday, Suiyoubi=water day=Wednesday, Mokuyoubi=tree day=Thursday, Kinyoubi=metal=Friday (I question whether this one is necessary), Douyoubi=earth day=Saturday, Nichiyoubi=Sunday. Maybe that's why today felt so fulfilling––it literally contained a piece of everything. The trees, water, earth, and fire I have explained. We also used gold and silver metal to pay for our bus tickets, and our trip lasted the entire day as witnessed by the sun and moon.
I hope for many more days, years, and lifetimes in the presence of this rapidly diminishing Nature.


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