I, KUKAI, WAS FOND OF WANDERING OVER MOUNTAINS IN MY YOUTH. WENT HIKING TO THE SOUTH FROM YOSHINO FOR ONE DAY AND THROUGH TO THE WEST FOR TWO DAYS. CAME ACROSS A SECRET ELEVATED PLAIN CALLED KOYA… ~ from a very fortuitously situated poster (a copy of which I immediately bought to send home), here in the tourist information centre in Koya where I am tapping out this post — and tapping into some free wifi & electricity — before hitting the pilgrim trail. * * * * * Hey there, folks. There’s an old monk tapping sporadically at the free PC here in the info centre. Things have changed a tad since Kukai (or Kobo Daishi as he was posthumously renamed) founded the place in the ninth century. Another example: there are a lot more foreigners on the streets these days, including this one. And my pilgrim staff is made of aluminium… I could go on, but I have …
PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOUR JAPAN, AUGUST 2013 I remember when my friend Andrew and I climbed Mt Fuji just over a decade ago, she was mighty elusive considering she was easily the biggest lump of rock and cinder on the entire archipelago. We had camped near Lake Motosu, and started walking to the mountain base at midday. It took us five hours, down vague tracks and forestry roads, to get to the starting point. Much of the time we were treed in, but even when we found ourselves in the open, with 3,776m of mountain somewhere in front, we often couldn’t see her. Haze, cloud, dense misty air is drawn to her, clinging to her flank like a camouflaging cloak. Then the cloak would shift, you’d be granted a glimpse and — Jesus.
PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOUR TOKYO, AUGUST 2013 The oddly pleasant smell of burning mosquito coils wafted through the upstairs-room window as I slipped into chu-hi-enhanced sleep. Then sometime after midnight I was shaken awake by tremors rippling through the tatami — wondered in the morning if I’d dreamed them till Andrew told me they’d originated up north, somewhere near the site of the Fukushima disaster.
PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOUR TOKYO, SEPTEMBER 2013 The flight to Japan was the easy part. A couple of hours from Busan we were swooping over a green and crumpled landscape. With a surge of long-dormant affection I gazed down on the farmland and mountains that, even from that height, seemed comfortingly familiar. And what a thrill to recognise an old pal (and on one occasion a formidable foe) in the last light of Wednesday:
This afternoon I collapse onto another plane to begin my Chuseok holiday; a mercifully brief two hours later I’ll be landing at Narita for three days and four nights in Tokyo. I can’t wait.