#44 – KINPU-SAN
Striding down off Kobushi to the west I was quickly swallowed by the scatty pine forests that lay claim to the mountain’s flanks. There had been nothing to see up top and likewise there were no views for the remainder of the morning. At times when the trail wound towards the edge of what seemed to be some kind of escarpment, giving rise to opportunities to peer out through the gaps in the trees I was only met with views of wet cloud sailing on the unflinching winds. Though the lack of views perturbed, I aimed to be over the next peak on the agenda, Kinpu-san, by the afternoon and down into the valley beyond by nightfall. It was to be my first double Hyakumeizan day of the trip.
A luxurious, deep green blanket of moss choked the floor of the dark woods, smothering fallen timber and solitary boulders. Mushrooms and toadstools, white and orange, popped their heads through the suffocating carpet, as did the next generations of pine, their spindly stems searching, stretching towards the light. Cloud, whipped at a high rate of knots through the tree tops, deposited condensation in the canopy overhead and once shaken free by the winds the drips were, in turn, deposited upon me.
In contrast to the floors of the woods I wandered, Kinpu, legend has it, was once a mountain whose summit was clad in gold. According to the Kyouchukikou, an ancient text, a greedy god resided on there and all visitors were required to remove their footwear once departing the summit so as not to carry one speck of gold off the mountain with them on the soles of their shoes.
As I neared the top of Kinpu, after some half a day’s trudge, the forests gave way to open ground and I traversed an exposed, rocky ridge line. On top of the mountain I stood alone in a howling gale, on a barren, boulder strewn summit, not a nugget of gold to be seen. Indeed, there wasn’t much else to feast my eyes upon, other than more uninterrupted views of the internal contents of cloud. Add Kinpu-san to the tally of panoramaless Chichibus.
I clambered over the summit boulders, biding my time on the off chance the cloud might part. As the clock ticked toward mid afternoon and the conditions persisted so I nestled down in the rocks, munched on a quick lunch and hastily fired off the obligatory mountaintop proof shot.
Soon after a man in a big hat appeared out of the animated gloom as I twisted the mini tripod from my camera. His smiling wife in tow; they both appeared a bit bedraggled due to the belligerent conditions. The fella offered up a hearty “Konnichiwa,” and pointed in the direction I was heading and said in the best English he could muster, “Big rock, over there.”
I nodded and smiled and once my gear was sorted, boulder hopped down to a flat area off the viewless and goldless summit and found myself staring up at a pile of blocks some two or three stories high. Before the boulders a bright red torii gate designated the area as sacred.
The only other people out in those wretched conditions were a family of hikers who whooped and hollered unperturbed by the flaying the gale force winds were dishing out. The men were trying to scale the rock tower while a woman fed her elementary school aged kids lunch.
I strolled around the boulders and greeted the others then continued on in the direction of Mizugaki and the hut below it, nestling in the forests. As I wandered down off Kinpu along a sandy trail the skies were abruptly torn asunder and brilliant mid afternoon light flooded in and banished the gloom I’d been suffering through for most of the day. Blue skies overhead lifted my spirits. The world shone again, for the first time in what, to me, felt like an eternity.