I finally did what I keep telling my students I’m planning to do and climbed Sarakurayama, the tallest mountain in Kitakyushu City.
The trailhead was a 30-minute walk from the nearest train station, and it was an interesting walk. I got a little lost in a residential area’s alleyways, and accidentally found a temple.
There’s a cable car to the top of the mountain, but I took the more interesting route. Near the bottom of the mountain there were several shrines beside the path, mostly featuring jizo, a Buddhist saint who looks after travellers. I also passed a semi-abandoned temple: the residential part had the roof caved in, but there were icons with recent offerings.
The trees on the mountain are a mixture of cypress, camelia, and giant bamboo.
Giant bamboo. Google translate says this is the “Tree of Relations.”
I found a spring on the path, about halfway up. Presumably safe water since it’s signposted pretty clearly, with a sign saying 皿倉山泉 (spring) with a plastic mug hanging on a tree branch.
The mountain got quite steep after a while. I met a few other hikers, and it seems normal to greet each other. I also met this guy, when I eventually made it to the visitor centre near the top. Ravens are pretty common here.
There are a lot of paths around the peaks, and there’s a fair bit going on. There’s an archery club, and I saw the targets through the trees. There’s a campsite. There’s also a couple of shrines.
The twisted rope shows the boundary of shrine grounds, or encircles something holy. Torii on the edge of the campsite. I was expecting a traditional building, but it looks like this shrine is postwar.
Here’s a gallery of photos taken from the top.
Almost sunset. The view southeast. This is why most Japanese cities are coastal. View towards Shimonoseki. The suspension bridge. Kitakyushu. The view westward. Below the peak, view towards the Kokura/Wakamatsu bridge.
There was also a little viewpoint made to give lovers good fortune.
The procedure is to hold hands while reaching through holes in a plinth, which puts both people in a position to look through the heart and see, on a clear day, Aijima (love island). Following this, you’re supposed to clip a padlock onto a nearby railing in Pont Des Artes style, and give an offering at small shrine by the cable car station.
Sarakurayama officially offers one of the three best night city views in Japan, but it was getting cold so I’m leaving that for another time.