I think my boss thinks of me as a new toy, like oh sheâ€™s fit how far can I push her? What can I get her to do next? Damn it I accept these challenges so today I caught the train to Saga Arashiyama one of my favourite places in Kyoto.
I think I’ve also gotten used to the reactions of the Japanese when I tell them I want to run somewhere at first they try and persuade me to catch public transport, then they say how hard it is, then they say an estimated length of time it takes to walk, finally they give up and say â€œGambatte Kiotsketeâ€ (good luck and take care). I set out through the famous bamboo forest which no matter how many times I go through there it blow my mind with its beauty every time, continuing North in the direction of Kiyotaki. I ran down to the flowing river to find many Japanese folk and families enjoying the relief from the heat having picnics or simply just playing by the water which was beautiful to see. I hit the bottom of Mt Atago the tallest mountain in Kyoto at 924m high and 4km straight up. I started the incline and man was it steep, my calves were burning already, I knew this would be a run walk trek. Thank goodness for the signs marking each 100m they pushed me to be faster and keep climbing. It was raining softly today and I was so thankful for that cool moisture adding to the sweat to cool my body down from the very humid and hot day here in Kyoto. The track was muddy and surrounded by trees and old ruins, and my favourite Jizo leading the way. Jizo the embodiment of Bodhisattva vow with the aspiration to cure all being s from suffering and is the protector of women, children, and travelers in the six realms of existence. The Jizo have a few meanings on is that they are trainee monks and is a guide to travelers through both spiritual and physical realms, hence you see them at intersections. Another meaning is they are the protectors of pregnant women or children who have been lost in childbirth so you will see them dressed with the sacred red coloured bibs and perhaps donations of toys around them.
Winding through the trees I think that first half of the climb was the hardest and the treat to a view of Kyoto city and Katsgawa river, the trees stretched far through the mountain and it amazed me that I could be living in the third most populated city in Japan and still be able to be so close to all this nature. A quick break for photos and continued my climb, with a cheeky flat bit for 200m that was a nice relief at the 3km mark the donated barrels of sake were looking very appealing.
It was surprising to see so many hiking on such a wet day but nice at the same time as everyone you passed would happily say â€œkonichiwaâ€ I saw one lady that looked like she was just going to the shops to buy some milk rather than climb a mountain wearing her weekend best and carrying a hand bag it was very strange but we both smiled and said hello as she walked down and I continued up up and up.
The last kilometre was interesting as I took notice of the song that was being repeated in my head pushing me up, and then I realized Iâ€™d been singing in my head Eminemâ€™s â€œLose yourself.â€ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmXumtgwtak Yeah boy!
I reached the large torii gate welcoming into the Atago shrine and what was to be the peak, thank goodness! No wait letâ€™s just throw in another hundred steps for you to climb, â€œblast you Japanese pilgrims blast you!â€ the shrine was magnificent you could still smell the wood as if it was brand new, there were carvings of animals that reminded me of the carvings in Nijo castle. The shrine is worshipped as a protector against fire and damn were my legs on fire. After taking in the shrines beauty and giving myself a rest I started the running decent, I think I have also gotten used to the Japanese and their shocked remarks when they see me still standing let alone running as they say â€œsugoiâ€ I laugh awkwardly and continue down, I even passed the lovely old lady with her hand bag. It had stopped raining now, but the path was muddy and slippery so I was careful with my foot placement kind of playing as I jumped from rock to rock and step to step, it felt like a small massage in my five fingers.
When I made it back to Kiyotaki I thought maybe I would catch the bus back to Kyoto but a 20 minute wait was just not ideal so I ran back to Arashiyama feeling that Iâ€™d definitely just ran up and down a mountain. So much for the 5 hour hike the information lady had warned me about just from the bottom of the mountain I just smashed the 15km in an hour and 45 mins take that!
Tip for all of you lady runners out there: Do not wear a thong when running long distances on a hot day…. Just sayin.