Sunday 30 April 2017

Climb Mount Takao and meet Tengu

A giant stone statue of Tengu at Takao Station
Tengu statue at Takao Station
A winged Tengu Statue on Mount Takao
Tengu statue on Mount Takao
Last Sunday I climbed Mount Takao (Takao-san=高尾山), a beautiful 599m peak in Western Tokyo less than an hour by train from Shinjuku Station. On a good day you can even see Mount Fuji from the top! Getting off at Takaosan-guchi Station, it is possible to skip the steepest part of the climb and take the cable car or chair lift to half-way, though no part of the climb is particularly hard. This is a popular spot so expect to ascend slowly taking in various temples, shrines, torii, and very old cedar trees along the paved route up. Takao is a sacred mountain and you will see many instances of the long-nosed Demon/God Tengu (pictured, right, at Takao Station and, left, further up the peak) who acts as the protector of the mountain. In Japan, if someone is acting in an arrogant, conceited, or haughty fashion people might place their fist in front of their nose to impersonate Tengu and say that that person is "becoming Tengu" (tengu ni naru).

One unusual feature I noticed on the mountain were the plethora of black balls sitting on a stone lotus plinth with a spinning wheel underneath (right). On each ball was written one of six kanji characters reflecting the six "roots" or senses: eye (目), nose (鼻), ear (耳), tongue (舌), body (身), and mind/heart (意) - the latter to interpret and judge the senses. According to the "instructions" (left) one is supposed to spin the wheel thereby reflecting on and cleansing/purifying (seijō =清浄) the self, enabling one to feel rejuvenated and look ahead to the future. In sum, climbing Mount Takao will help you to feel refreshed both mentally and physically - but be careful not to become too proud of yourself...