Mt. Daisen Autumn Haike

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Hailstone Haiku Circle’s 11th annual autumn haike (haiku hike) took place on the weekend of Oct. 20-21 in fine, still weather. 17 people, aged between 7 and 60-something, took part. All but two reached the summit of the Chugoku region’s highest peak (1,700m plus), Mt. Daisen in Tottori, but that was hardly the point of the hike. Rather, it was to tune into the mountain autumn and its layers of happy austerity. Two cars came from Kyoto, and one each from Osaka, Okayama and Kurayoshi. Once together, our first afternoon was spent strolling leisurely around the remains of Daisenji Temple and praying at the Ogamiyama Shrine.

the tilted top / of this stone lantern, / moss at Buddha’s feet  (Michael Lambe)

first snow on Mt Daisen? / no – the scarred white slopes  (Richard Donovan)

We climbed Jakujō Hill to watch the sun setting over the Shimane Peninsular, bedding down that night in the Sanrakusō, the only remaining pilgrim shukubō on the mountain.

Transparent autumn – / the Bow Bay of Yumigahama / lens-like, far away  (Miki Kotera)

Our host, a monk himself, provided the most attentive service. The evening meal appeared – a tray of small, delicate dishes combining wild autumn mushrooms with local vegetables and seaweed, delicately prepared. After dinner, we shared some of our haiku from the first day … in the usual convivial mode.

climbing a mountain / deeper & deeper / into autumn  (Jiko)

The following morning, we left early for our climb, dragging our feet up the unremittingly steep, stepped path that zigzags an ancient beech forest resplendent in shafts of sun and autumn tints.

Mountain mist / moving to reveal / one golden tree  (Sean O’Connor)

in my ears / a pounding heart, / and all through the beech forest, / woodpeckers  (David McCullough)

Fall leaves – /brighter still / the hiker’s gear  (Kittredge Stephenson)

The jagged edge of the summit ridge finally came into view over reddening shrubs.

mountain climbers gone, /leaving autumn silence – / wind rustles the wood  (Akira Kibi)

We had finally to trudge on a raised plank path, ever upwards, across acres of withered flowers and grasses, in burning sun but with a cold breeze blowing. At the top, slowly we collected to sit down and eat our packed lunches amid a throng of other hikers. The youngest companion, the Kibis’ granddaughter, Nanami, had made it all the way entirely under her own steam – and still, fortunately, with some energy in reserve!

Summit view – / eight wind turbines / in the direction of / the Land of Susano-o  (Tito)

For some the descent proved cruel on knees and thighs, but the charitable lent a hand and we all made it back to the temple that had seemed at lunchtime so far, far below. Those early to arrive even managed another bath before our departure. How many snoozed in the various cars as the drivers propped open their eyelids, ticking off the homeward miles? Sleep must have come to all that night through the yellow of beech and the ruby-red of rowan.

Sunlit beechwoods, / twilit waves of silvergrass – / my Daisen souvenirs  (Kyoko Nozaki)

6 responses to “Mt. Daisen Autumn Haike

  1. Nice record! The slideshow of joyful photos and exciting phrases of scarred white slopes, beech, jagged edge, shrubs, etc! They remind me of Daisen in a past summer when my friends and I camped out at a small open place near the top (Misen Peak). Water was a problem but there is a pond nearby. However, we found carcasses of insects like moth and beetle and many other unidentifiable things floating on its surface. Water was brownish but clear. We finally decided to drink it after boiling for longer than 30 minutes because the boiling point was thought below 100 deg. We drank it after cooled and adding the powdered fruit juice, and cooked rice using the water for dinner of canned curry. Nothing happened: we were happily healthy. Now I don’t like to drink that pond water again even after boiled repeatedly! There is a very narrow, naked ridge trail (about 30cm wide at the narrowest part) from Misen to Kengamine Peak (the highest summit, 1729m) which is called a horse or camel back although its trekking is now prohibited because, yes, Daisen is collapsing continuously. To walk through the horse back was allowed in the old days, but it was actually dangerous, dreadful, and thrilling(!) as occasionally, both sides of the trail were descending precipitous cliff and easily breakable. The plank path was set up later to reserve the Daisen-kyaraboku shrub (eaglewood tree), a special natural treasure, by which we had camped surrounded. Wishing I had joined the hike!

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