Mt Takachiho

For many years now I’ve longed to climb the hill where the gods first descended on Japan.  Tradition ascribes this to Mt Takachiho in southern Kyushu.  Here, according to Kojiki (712), the heavenly grandchild of the sun goddess was sent to rule the realm after the submission at Izumo of mighty Okuninushi.  Like the gods in their rock-boats, I too am flying in from heaven courtesy of ANA, scanning the Kirishima mountain range for a place to land.  Prominent among the peaks is Mt Karakuni, from which on a clear day it is said that you can see across to Korea and the continental homeland.

The path to the top of Takachiho leads up the steep shingle side of a sulphurous volcano, then round a small crater and along an unnervingly narrow precipice to where is rooted an ancient spear stood upside down in the ground.  Its provenance is lost in time, and folklore claims it as that of Ninigi himself.  Today, appropriately, it is wreathed in mist like an oriental version of an Arthurian romance.  Mountains are the nearest earth comes to heaven, and here at the peak one feels close to the ancients.  Myths have the power to move even as we recognise their untruth, and in the exhilaration of the climb comes light-headed fancy.  I close my eyes, and there before me stands long-nosed Sarutahiko, the coquettish Ame no Uzume at his side.  Lead on enchanters, guide me down this mountainside!  Though I am not made to dance to your tune, here on Takachiho’s sacred slope I’m powerless to resist …

Halfway to the gods
On this first day of winter
I’m kissing red rocks


7 Responses to “Mt Takachiho”

  1. Nice work, John. Welcome to full contributorship! How good to see a mention of those old kami, Sarutahiko and Amenouzume, in a haibun. I am very interested in the confluence of myth and the present moment. You allude to Arthur through the vivid image of a metallic weapon rising out of stone. As were the mythical heroes of bygone days, we may still be empowered by the rocks in such places. I usually slap the ones I like rather than kiss them, though.

    • John Dougill Says:

      Slap them?! I take it in a friendly way, as on a hearty pat on the back to an old friend….

  2. John Dougill Says:

    Slap the rocks?! I thought rocks were your friends… In my case I was kissing them not so much out of affection though but because I was clinging to the rocks out of sheer fright since I’m terrified of heights and things were getting a bit too steep for my sense of groundedness….

  3. That’s it. They are more thick-skinned than elephants, so that’s often my impromptu salute.

  4. Nobuyuki Yuasa Says:

    Thank you for this wonderful piece of haibun. It reminded me me of my own visit to the area some ten years ago. Unfortunately I was too old and weak to climb Mt. Takachio, but I visited the Kirishima Shrine where I saw a thick forest of giant trees, and I went up to the ancient site of the shrine closer to the summit of Mt. Takachiho. I saw many volcanoes along the way, and kept saying to myslef, “just as the gods made them, just as they saw them when they descended.” Well, I also found the word, kissing, a bit misleading. “embracing” might be better.

  5. John Dougill Says:

    Thank you for the comment and I’m interested that you found the site of the original Kirishima shrine. As for ‘kissing’, I did actually think of the word embracing but I wanted to capture the steepness of the slope and the fact that at one point I was scrambling on the ground up the side of the mountain scared I was going to start sliding down. I literally had the rocks in my face!

  6. I was moved by a few of the expressions written in this piece which created an atmosphere for transporting me back….

    1. “like the gods…, I too am flying in from heaven…”
    2. “Its provenance is lost in time…”
    3. ” Myths have the power to move even as we recognize their untruths”

    Thanks for the journey.

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