Hitchhiking in Minoh (Katsuoji Temple)

Mino Travel Blog

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Random Observation/Comment #46: Minoh is still one of my favorite places to visit in Osaka. I wish I saw more than two monkeys.
My earlier visits to Minoh had been wonderful – today’s visit was no exception. I had been there twice: once by walking and another time by bike (explained in earlier entries). The first experience drew a deep appreciation for nature that had been hidden behind concrete and skyscrapers. I didn’t really understand how everything was so green. At first, this phenomenon didn’t hit me as something special, but soon I noticed the shades so distinct and beautiful. My life became so peaceful and nothing else mattered, but that relaxing walk.
The next adventure by bike was exhilarating, but extremely exhausting. My body ached with every step farther away from the familiar waterfall and deeper into the unknown woodland. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I were approached by elves or tree folk. It would be nice if there were hot amazons, roaming the trails in skimpy animal hide. My heart beat faster and my senses heightened, with every sound of the rustling leaves that hint a sneak attack. I was alone and feared that I would be stranded with nothing but the clothes on my back, a few vital survival tools, and my camera crew to record my journey.
This time felt like a blend of both experiences. There were parts in the day that felt like the first day of small hills of distanced hiking, and there were some trails that never seemed to end. They had all been new paths in the same place. I was surprised how different the river looked when it was to my left instead of my right. We spent more time taking pictures and stepping on some rocks in the river, but it was mostly chatting about randomness and looking for the next rest stop.
We stopped at the bug museum about a third of the walk from Minoh station to the waterfall. It was very childish, but we were still children. The fighting beetles looked like they took steroids; wielding their attached weapons and ready to take on anyone that challenged them. Chris told me he saw a documentary where one of these beetles fought a small scorpion and won. It just dodged the attacking tail and used brute force over agility and poison. I would have definitely put my money on the poison – maybe he was wearing a +5 armor against poison. As we all know, good necromancers can wreck the shyt out of warriors if they use their conditions wisely and then just spam them. Although, the striking blow is pretty deadly if used with earthquake. I don’t think the necromancer ascended yet, so he didn’t get half the skills (wow it’s been a long time since Guild Wars).
Anyway, the bug museum had a really cool butterfly atrium which must have had over 100 butterflies just chilling in their little paradise. I think they used either a visual barrier or some aroma to keep them from escaping their designated areas. The stop wasn’t necessary, but I think little kids would love looking at different insects in glass cases.
After a few jumping pictures at the gorgeous red bridge, we walked to the waterfall. The view was still spectacular, but I had already taken every angle I could think of the last few times. From my first entry, I tried to walk to the Katsuoji temple, but it started raining heavily so I had to turn around. This time, we trekked it along the road with no sidewalk. It doesn’t look like you’re supposed to walk there (probably because it’s 3.5km away and there’s no sidewalk), but it wasn’t too bad with company. The winding roads gave me so much hope that the next one would reveal a beautiful temple resort covered in monkeys and hot women. This, of course, did not happen. Instead, every bend of the road only brought more bends and crazy cars that don’t know how to drive on the right side of the street. This road looked like it was copied straight from a GT4 track in the woods. The bends and turns were so dangerous that we hugged the side of the road when going past around a blind turn.
About 1.5km into the walk, we found an information center. As we walked further into the woods near the dam, there were these adorable group of little kids dressed in the same androgynous light blue pajammy jams with straw hats and a little yellow backpack. They all had high pitched voices and basically looked like really cute, matching umpa lumpas (not as orange or midgetish – they just all looked alike). I do not condone child (or midget) labor.
So as they lined up to take their bus up the mountain, we walked like idiots. We tried to hitchhike our way up because we were already so tired and the roads were starting to look a little repetitive. Unfortunately, our hitchhiking technique was immature. It was weird to stick out our left thumbs, and we kept on getting family vans with children passing by. We also had no confidence with our limp thumbs and half-assed crooked smiles. The blind turns also made this very difficult because people did not want to stop in the middle of a turn – let alone stop to pick up two American guys.
We finally made it to Katsuoji Temple. The air-conditioned ticket and souvenir area was ecstasy. All we really wanted to do was find a nearby onsen and just pass out for the rest of the day. I didn’t know that the first structure at the near Minoh station was the only onsen in this area. We wound up buying tickets for the temple and enjoying the view. It was a completely empty weekday so we took beautiful pictures of the smoky bridge and half built bridge with the red tori. It was just nice to see something besides that repeating stripe in the road. The cool breeze in the shades and random trails off course were worth the walk up (we weren’t quite sure about the walk down yet).
During the walk up towards the pagoda and temples, we heard a loud bell ring. We continued up the steps and saw a monk walk by fully dressed with a shaved head, beads, and all. Standing back to hear not a sound and watching a monk walk up the steps was that extra dip into the culture that I was waiting for. As we walked further into the shrine and cemetery areas, we found a path going up the mountain side on the left. It’s a little bit of a walk, but the view at the top was worth the extra effort. Wait until you see the stone goddess before taking pictures across the mountain.
The Katsuoji temple is special for these little red charms with big bushy eyebrows and funny faces. At first, I thought they were bought at the store and just left around to make funny poses, but then we saw that the temple at the top had hundreds of them surrounding the bell, wooden windows, light posts, and shrines. Chris and I each bought one with a charm that we were supposed to tie somewhere, but we just took them home because the little guy looked so cool. After some interesting perspective shots of the masses of these charms, we began walking back.
It had been about 5 hours and 10 miles of walking up and around the temple. If we were to walk back, it would take about 2 hours and another 3 or 4 miles. Eff that. It started as a joke to hitchhike down, but I was giving it my all because I didn’t want to walk all the way back. Surprisingly, in 5 minutes, an old man stops his car and asks where we’re going. We looked at each other and back at the car as if it were a figment of our imagination. I said, “eki no Mino made” and he starts to open the door. We keep looking at each other second guessing whether this guy would kill us and eat our flesh, but we were really too tired at the time to consider the option.
We sat in the back seat and fastened our seat belts. My broken Japanese helped a little bit, but I was mostly in amazement that we had just gotten picked up, and we were making great time down the road. The old man wore large old aviator-sized glasses (probably glass instead of plastic, the ones that were popular during my Dad’s generation) with a pair of flip-up sunglasses clipped on above them (also from my Dad’s generation). He didn’t look like much of a creepster, but he did drive a little crazy with some classical music in the background. Everyone on these roads basically makes an imaginary middle lane where they drive down the mountain race car style. I almost shat my pants when we barely hit (we missed them) that Nissan.
The car conversation was lacking. What do you say to someone that picks you up if you don’t really know Japanese – ‘so… do you do this kind of thing often?’ – that’s so stupid; I don’t want him to think he picked up some retards. We wound up thanking him a lot in the beginning of the ride and then a lot more at the end with a full bow. There was one part of the car ride where the air became a little thicker – this happened when he asked us where we were from. I said that I was Chinese from America, but Chris said he was from New York in America. To him, the difference is that the stereotypical New Yorker is a gangsta gun carrying hooligan ready to kill for a cheeseburger. Now these people might exist, but I never thought NYC was that unsafe.
Anyway, after he heard New York, he said something in Japanese that I couldn’t understand. His hand gestures, however, were crystal clear. He did the universal sign for “No” and then followed with the universal sign for shooting a gun. It took a few seconds, but I think he was actually nervous that Chris was going to shoot him and steal his money. I saw a bead of sweat down his brow and imagined him rethinking his decision; considering the probabilities of survival for a car accident where Chris would be disarmed and pinned under the car’s pressure. The trajectories and physics went through his mind – maybe I’ll side-swipe that rail from over-steering and then spiral down a cliff. Thankfully this did not happen, and we were safe (or were we?).
Yes, we were safe (I guess it’s not as suspenseful if the next sentence in a new paragraph is the answer – I don’t even have a chapter separation, page to turn, or some blank space to scroll down – whatever). The ride down took about 20 minutes compared to our expected 2 hours. I invited him to coffee, but I think he was in a rush to somewhere else (or didn’t want to find out if the stereotype were true). He was such a nice guy – he made me less cynical for the day, week, and probably month. Although, I should not be as trusting in Tokyo – please don’t stab me.
~See Lemons Catch a free ride

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photo by: ys484