Recently, some old friends invited me to go hiking in Shiga, the prefecture just northeast of Kyoto. I actually used tolive in Shiga for two years, but my town was over on the west side of Lake Biwako. The hike was in Kusatsu, over on the east side, so I jumped at the chance to experience a new area of Shiga.
All I knew when we set out was that it was a hike up a mountain. No other details were given, so I tried to keep my expectations in check. Luckily, they were far exceeded when we reached the peak.
The area we were hiking in is known for a certain Mount Tenguiwa 天狗岩. Tengu are red-skinned flying goblins with long noses and huge wings, and are said to inhabit remote areas of Japan. The tengu king is actually said to live at Mt.Kurama in Kyoto (which you can visit on one of our KyoTours hiking tours!), but they're known to gather in other places in Kansai as well. Considering that Mt. Tenguiwa is one of the best hikes in Shiga and offers a magnificent view of the Biwako basin, I can see why the tengu are said to flock there.
We started the hike in a dense valley of ferns, and passed over and through many streams and small rivers. The momiji here was already way past its peak, so most of the trees were already barren, but the lush ferns made up for it.
As we approached the summit, the vegetation died off and it was mostly barren rock. The peak itself is a weird collection of giant boulders stacked on top of the mountain in incomprehensible towers. Really awesome to see. How these boulders have remained up here for all these years is beyond me... must be the power of the tengu!
There were a lot of people on top of the boulders at the peak who were cooking lunch on little gas stoves. The thing to do at this mountain seemed to be eating instant ramen and drinking beer. A few hikers were even preparing more involved meals with fresh vegetables and meat.
I looked around and saw that the hikers who made it to the top were of all ages, from elementary school kids to 70 year olds. As difficult as it was (and trust me, it wasn't easy), it seems like anyone in decent shape can do this hike.
So that got me thinking about bringing people here as a hiking tour for KyoTours. I'd definitely be the only tour company in Kyoto offering this kind of experience in a hard to reach area! There are a few other hikes in the area that I've been thinking about adding as well, so look forward to our tours expanding this spring when the weather becomes suitable for hiking again!
See you in Shiga!