A walk in the woods

AFT can be a big problem on tours.  “We`re not doing AFT this afternoon, are we?”, one of my tour group asked me a couple of years ago.  I was confused and concerned as to what he might mean.  Then he kindly explained that the AFT ailment is not a body problem, but Another Forking Temple fatigue.

Jizo-lined trail up Mount Ikoma. This photo was kindly lent to me without their permission by somebody I don`t know who lives in a computer.

The Hosanji temple on Mount Ikoma will clear anybody of AFT.  The sights and smells are startling, from both the animate and inanimate creatures lurking in the grounds. 
Everyday a bucket of free sake is put in the courtyard.  This is not an eggcupful of watered-down wine on a Sunday.  I saw one gentleman ladling his flask full with it.  I should have come prepared. 
The same man then walked around taking handfuls of 5 yens from the various collection boxes.  Crowds of people were about, but nobody seemed to mind. If Buddhism can offer free booze and free money, it`s no wonder Christianity hasn`t had much success in Japan.  
I walked up the steps behind the temple into the woods.   Stone Jizo statues dressed in  red bibs marked the tree-lined route. 
Despite only having had a saucer of sake, my head began to feel fuzzy.
“Are you lost?”, a friendly voice shouted out to me.  I didn`t know what to say.  I knew where I was –  halfway up Mount Ikoma,  I just didn`t know where I wanted to be.
“Erm…”, I answered with customary authority.
My shirt and shorts were soaked in sweat.  My ear-drums were ringing from the incessant chatter of cicadas.  I didn`t really want to go up or down, I wanted to lie in a cave.  For a week.
“Keep going up and you`ll get some great views”, my new tengu friend assured me.
He was the only foreigner I met all day, I felt compelled to follow his advice.  To trust him though, I had to break my long-standing rule of never accepting advice from white American hermits wearing a turban.
The views at the top were spectacular.  Thomas the Tank Engine, Anpanman and Hello Kitty have never shone so brightly.  The summit had been turned into an amusement park…….in 1929.  Not for the first time today, I wanted to kick something/someone.
Paying 800yen for pizza-toast and orange juice, I took some photos from the restaurant window of the clouds over Osaka.   The shades of grey in the photos are quite something.  I will upload them for you when I return to Tokyo.    
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