Sometime in October we decided to climb the southern mountain of Tsuruoka, called Mount Kinbo. The leaves were changing colors so the hike was very beautiful. However, the trail itself was a bit more challenging than other hikes due to rocks and some mud. Mount Kinbo is famous for the jug of alcohol abstinence at the bottom, which many people go to every year to help them with their drinking habits.
Here is Kim at the very bottom of the mountain. She had managed to drive the ichi-man ($90) car to the base of the mountain but attempts to drive the car any futher up the road resulted in some sliding backwards (the car is manual and she could barely drive it right after it was bought). It was nice to drive to the mountain and not have to bike! Later, Peter also learned how to drive the car which eased transportation woes quite a bit.
Here is a fierce looking lion that was also at the base of the mountain. We were surprised at the bright red and white colors.
There was a graveyard of sorts at the base of the mountain as well and a little path. Peter took this picture with the leaves climbing up the stone. Later we found out that this little path led to a dead end.
Here is a bamboo forest that was on the little path past the grave. Although the temperature was comfortable, it was very humid at the base of the mountain. A few meters later the path disappeared and we retraced our steps and finally found the correct path and the famous jug of alcohol abstinence!
On the way back, we nabbed this neat picture of a temple in the early morning mist.
We finally found the correct path that actually went up the mountain. Here is Peter with the jug of alcohol abstinence (ask him about bounenkai in December and whether the jug helped him abstain...). Beer is sold in vending machines at various public places, so alcohol abstinence might be a bit more difficult than visiting a large earthenware shrine! There was no alcohol near the jug but instead a few bottles of tea juice. We could not decide if the tea and juice were trash, an offering,or left behind for others. We decided to leave the tea and juice where they were.
As we hiked up the first part of the mountain we saw many small shrines. This shrine seemd to have several Buddhas as well as a pretty waterfall. See the next picture for a close-up of the central Buddha statue.
Here is a close-up of one of many small shrines and figurines we encountered as we hiked up the mountain.The really nice thing about Kinbo was that it was very peaceful and we hardly saw anyone on the trail, which was a change from the previous mountains where there were crowds everywhere (especially Mt. Haguro).
At many of the shrines were stones that looked like people that had red clothes on them. Here is Peter showcasing some of these interesting stone-dolls. We do not know why there are clothes on them.
Half-way up the mountain we came to another series of large temples and a museum. Here is Kim in front of one of the temples. There was a parking lot here so one could theoretically drive up to this point. Also, there seemed to be some housing areas for local religious men (Mt. Kinbo used to be forbidden to women). After this mid-point, there were trails to the various peaks. There were also natural springs at this point so visitors could drink some fresh mountain water.
After studying a semi-confusing map, we decided that this trail was the one to the top.We were really surprised to see a bear warning, though not really alarmed. Bears are fairly rare in Japan and smaller than their American counterparts.
On the second part of the hike we had some wonderful views. Here is a view of some of the surrounding area.
Here is a view of Mount Gassan from the 3/4 point on Mt. Kinbo.Gassan had just received a dusting of snow.
Here is, once again, a view of the Shonai plain where we live and our city, Tsuruoka. The surrounding area consists of rice paddies, which were harvested at this point in time, hence the brown color.
We finally made it to what we thought was the top (we are still not certain...on the map we could read the kanji for mountain and "kin" but there were many peaks with kanji names that we could not read). To our surprise, the very old temple at the top had a batman-like carving in the doors. If you have any interesting theories as to why this symbol is here, let us know. We had a lot of uneducated guesses.
The End! We climbed back down the mountain and happily drove the car to a restaurant. The hike took around 3-4 hours, though it was supposed to take longer. It didn't rain (a rare event here!) which helped when we had to scramble up and over some boulders and rocks.