On another planet in Kurama, Kyoto

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.

View looking east from Kurama-dera Temple.


 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.

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6 Responses to On another planet in Kurama, Kyoto

  1. Anonymous says:

    Troubadours sing of paramours…

    • tomointokyo says:

      Not in Devon they don`t. And where`s the Wikipedia link for this quote?

      • Anonymous says:

        ‘Tis no quote Sire, merely a base and foolish devyse all mine own, made golden by the gaze of thine eyes. I needs must solemnly warn thee ‘gainst conjuring the spirit of Wikipedia in this public place. A thousand ills, more than the harms we know may thereby be hatched in the bosom of the sleeping world.

  2. Rachel Pinder says:

    Sorry you have not heard of “paramour”. What a sheltered life you must have led. A paramour is a lover – have you never had one? Do let me know. Rachel.

    • tomointokyo says:

      Thank you Rachel. Sadly my 33 years spent on this earth have not required me to understand the meaning of paramour. I have not given up hope though, perhaps I`ll sponsor an advert in the Japan Times. Paramour Wanted for Confused Devon Man.

  3. Hi — I tried to find a place to send a direct email but am leaving this comment instead. I have a section on Kyoto in a new book. I just published Japan’s Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World as a short ebook and hope you will take a look at it. A paperback will be available soon. For info, see http://www.markpendergrast.com. I could email you a review copy. Here’s an overview:

    Japan’s Tipping Point is a small book on a huge topic. In the post-Fukushima era, Japan is the “canary in the coal mine” for the rest of the world. Can Japan radically shift its energy policy, become greener, more self-sufficient, and avoid catastrophic impacts on the climate? Mark Pendergrast arrived in Japan exactly two months after the Fukushima meltdown. This book is his eye-opening account of his trip and his alarming conclusions.

    Japan is at a crucial tipping point. A developed country that must import all of its fossil fuel, it can no longer rely on nuclear power, following the massive earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011. Critically acclaimed nonfiction writer Mark Pendergrast went to Japan to investigate Japan’s renewable energy, Eco-Model Cities, food policy, recycling, and energy conservation, expecting to find innovative, cutting edge programs.

    He discovered that he had been naive. The Japanese boast of their eco-services for eco-products in eco-cities. Yet they rely primarily on imported fossil fuel and nuclear power, live in energy-wasteful homes, and import 60% of their food. That may be changing in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Maybe. But as Pendergrast documents, Japan lags far behind Europe, the United States, and even (in some respects) China in terms of renewable energy efforts. And Japan is mired in bureaucracy, political in-fighting, indecision, puffery, public apathy, and cultural attitudes that make rapid change difficult.

    Yet Japan is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with friendly, resilient people who can, when motivated, pull together to accomplish incredible things.

    As an island nation, Japan offers a microcosmic look at the problems facing the rest of the globe. And as Japan tips, so may the world.

    Mark Pendergrast, the author of books such as For God, Country and Coca-Cola, Uncommon Grounds, and Inside the Outbreaks, entertains as he enlightens. As he wrote in Japan’s Tipping Point: “The rest of this account might seem a strange combination of critical analysis, travelogue, absurdist non-fiction, and call to action. It might be called ‘Mark’s Adventures in Japanland: Or, Apocalyptic Visions in a Noodle Shop.'”

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