myoken-san

11Nov06

Last year I went to Myoken-san for a BBQ with Yo-chan and several members of the Osaka University Photography Club, and this year we went again, which makes it a kind of annual event. Myoken-san is quite a wonderful place — it combines a feeling of mysterious quietude with the nostalgic familiarity of a run-down theme park that you never noticed was run down when you were a child because you were too busy having fun. When you arrive at the base of Myoken-san, you take a funicular up the side of the mountain where there’s a kind of play area for kids (including lots of happy tree-men mascots), and a picnic ground with firepits galore and a little hut that sells beer and food if you end up needing just a little bit more than what you’ve brought. If you want to go higher up on the mountain, you take a cable lift through a path that’s planted with cosmos that tickle your feet while you slowly levitate up the steep incline. At the top of the lift is a small shrine and a trail that leads up to the top of the mountain where there’s an interesting temple complex — popularly known as Myoken-gu (妙見宮) — with a contemporary steel and glass building that’s shaped like a star.

The Myoken-san cooking area is really great because it includes a shed filled with communal cooking utensils, as well as a sink area for cleaning them after they’ve been used. You don’t need to bring knives, cutting boards, bowls, or anything else up the hill with you.

These girls had rented some of the clunky metal stilts on offer in the playground area. I think these stilts rent for around 150 yen, but it may be the case that they’re actually free to use and the 150 yen sign is just an artifact from ancient times. As far as I could tell, there was no one around to police the area, which also included a concrete slide.

Here’s the lower of the two stations for the cable lift. It does cost a bit of change to use the cable lift, but not much.

At the top of the cable lift, there’s a small shrine area. This blue container holds matches for lighting offering candles.

This building sits at the top of Myoken-san and is the most prominent structure in a temple complex that — aside from this building — is clearly very old. The shape of the building replicates a symbol that’s printed on items all around the temple complex (you can see it printed on the image of the purple temple curtains below). I have no idea what the symbol signifies, but the glass-and-steel structure itself seems to be some kind of museum for housing important religious items. There are several large statues inside, and other Buddhist sculptures as well. The temple itself seems to have some association with horses and there are three life-size bronze horse statues located on the temple grounds.

As you enter the older part of the temple complex you pass by a pair of green lanterns wearing a coat of the most amazing man-made patina.

One of the rooms at the temple complex is a rest area where you can write your prayers on wooden plaques and then hang them up.

A small pagoda area between two of the temple buildings.

Here’s a view of the curtained front of one of the temple buildings. We were at the complex during a time of prayer and the monks were chanting and rhythmically pounding on the ‘clackers’ that they use (I wish I knew the proper term). There was also the occasional gong ringing, not to mention the large temple bell up on the hillside which you could ring if you wanted to.

At the edge of the grounds there is a small shop that sells omiyage. These cans are filled with some kind of local crackers. I bought a bag of burnt brown-sugar candies that were excessively delicious.

Here’s a view of the interior of the funicular just before our trip back down the mountainside.

This is a shot of a store, located near the train station, that sells local craft items — including some very nice ceramic ware. I love the dancing chestnut art.

After our long hike we went to a tea shop located near Ishibashi Station to get some tea and some coffee, and some cakes, and to relax. I like this shot especially because it looks it could be the cover of an early issue of White Dwarf magazine. Suganuma-kun looks like quite the dungeon master here.

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