73 million foreign tourists were loafing around outside Kiyomizu temple this morning. The trinket and tat lined lane leading up to the main pagoda was like an international airport terminal. I had to escape, so this afternoon, I left the city for the sticks, and visited the remote town of Kurama.
The first fun was the train journey. The Eizan Railway line to Kurama is single-track, snaking through the wooded valleys after plodding out of Demachiyanagi station in north-east Kyoto. A handful of Japanese hikers and locals going home were sat quietly on the two carriage train.
Unmanned stations along the way were inconspicuous enough to be confused for sidings. You could easily miss your stop, only the front door by the driver opens.
It was a peaceful 30 minute trundle up through the green countryside. For a moment, I was taken back to my short but glorious career as a maverick tram driver along the Axe Valley in Devon.
“Look, there`s a kingfisher”, I used to point out to my punters.
“Actually, I think you`ll find that is a pigeon”, they corrected.
Back in the real world, I woke up at Kurama, the final stop. It`s a narrow tiny settlement, with steep hills on either side. Signs in English and Japanese guide visitors to the stone steps leading up to Kurama-dera temple, I marched up then continued along a dirt trail over a forested hill.
All the fresh air does strange things. In the wooded hills, the mind is free. What shall it do? It needs a focus, a topic to explore. So, I read the pamphlet from Kurama temple.
More than six million years ago, Mao-son descended upon Mt. Kurama from Venus, with the great mission of the salvation of mankind.
OK, this is a promising theory. First, let`s think about Mao-son: Who is Mao-son? I open my clam phone to look up Mao-son in the Japanese dictionary application. Nothing comes up. The closest word is maotoko (lit. gap man)
What`s a gap man I wonder? The Japanese-English dictionary on my phone tells me it`s a paramour. But, what does paramour mean? Surely it`s not an English word. Do paramours exist? Why has nobody told me about them? If Mao-son is coming again to save mankind, I hope he comes soon. I have many questions for him.
The dirt trail finished by Kifune Shrine, dedicated to the God of Water. Appropriately, a workman sprayed me with water as I ascended the stone steps. The water washed the paramours out of my head.
From Kifune, I walked 2 km down a traffic-free road to reboard the Eizan line at Kibuneguchi station. In total, the hike took about 90 minutes and it was superb, the best I have done in the Kyoto area.