May 10, 2018
During the recent string of national holidays known as Golden Week, yours truly had the opportunity to make a neat little trek up the steep slopes and root-adorned mud that leads up the sides of Kurayoshi's Mt Mitoku, toward a glimpse of the Nageire-do, the temple built into the sheer stone cliff that marks the apex of the climbing route.
The climb is marked as a pilgrimage, and includes a stop at a large bell which one can ring by swinging a log-like wand suspended on cords inside the bell gazebo.
Unfortunately, this being Golden Week, the trails were crowded--not only with pilgrims genuinely after a spiritual experience, but also with inappropriately-dressed young who loudly and constantly joked or complained about the difficulty of the trek. If I have it to do again, I will most certainly choose the middle of a working day, where the only people I'd be likely to encounter on the path would be the serious ones. At the very least, they'd most probably be quiet, retired types who wouldn't do embarrassing things like smash the log against the bell as hard as they could while taking gratuitous selfies.
But this was my first time, and I was otherwise in good company--a seasoned climber visiting all the way from France, and a little entourage including locals entirely up to the journey, which we made all the way into a wee grove of trees that let us look nearly down at the Nageire-do, or fairly level with it.
The structural ingenuity of the temple is remarkable. (I did take a photograph, and even uploaded it to the server, but the file browser connected to the TPIEF web site is no longer allowing me access to any images. That's okay, though. An image search provides plenty, in better clarity than my primitive mobile telephone camera offers.) One might wonder--or at least I would--how many monks must have lost their lives in putting the thing together several centuries ago.
A trip here should be on everyone's itinerary if passing through Kurayoshi. Just remember to keep your voice down, wear shoes with treads in them, and don't let go of the chain--it's a long way down.