A&E on the World Heritage Train East 2009 travel blog

Dewa-Sanzen path


Early bridge

Five-storied pagoda amongst ancient cedars

Ancient wood

Path rises through cedars

Tea house

Path amongst cedars

The main Shugendo Temple, largest thatched building in Japan

Shugendo guy and conch shell trumpet

Memorials to the ancestral spirits

An early start, and there were tour groups on the go at 6 am on the lakeside. Another nice breakfast, and this time I worked out what to do with the raw egg, i.e. fry it over a candle effectively. So today I am heading for Dewa-Sanzen, and it will take all day. Well, first I nearly missed the bus by being in the wrong bus station, but having realised my mistake just in time, it was a nice bus trip up and over the caldera rim and south through more of the National Park, which for some reason reminded me a lot of the rural USA, as indeed much of Japan does. Then I had two hours waiting at Towadaminimi (a very small place) for a single carriage train to take me to the throbbing metropolis of Odata, for a three hour wait for an average train, and change at Akita to another one, and eventually getting into Tsuruoka about 6.30 pm. Blimey!

Sep 28th:

Technically this bit was tomorrow, but belongs with Tsuruoka, so...I got up dead early the next day with this clever plan that would get me into Tokyo by mid-afternoon, but it went wrong almost immediately! I wanted to get to Dewa-Sanzen early in the morning, and three different people had said when and where the bus was...but it wasn`t. After waiting in vain for a while, this woman offered to take me in her taxi (it cost her about 30 quid!) to the very nice town at the bottom of the holy montain of Dewa-Sanzen. This sacred mountain is home to the stange and magical Shugendo Sect, like a shamanistic version of Shinto. My original plan had been to get a bus to the top and walk down the mountain, but now I was clearly going to have to reverse that. So up the 2,500 steps I went. And it wasn`t even 7.30 in the morning.

It was absolutely fantastic, exactly the kind of thing I came to Japan for, just superb. The whole path was stone steps through a forest of giant and ancient cedars with shrines all over the shop, and best of all this wooden pagoda near the bottom, over 1300 years old. It was a photograph of this in my guide book that had made me want to come here in the first place, and I am so glad I did. At the top of the mountain was the main temple complex including the largest thatched building in Japan. So after investigating all this I waited around there for the bus, which didn`t come either! When it got to the time where I knew I wasn`t going to be able to get the connections to get to Tokyo in daylight, I gave up and walked back down again, hoping I had more chance of getting a bus at the foot of the mountain, which I subsequently did. On the plus side, it had stopped raining and I got to appreciate everything all over again as I went down the path.

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