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