Memories of Japan
By: August Booth
Our trip to Mount Zao was one of my favourites among the many trips that we went on. We met at Murayama city hall where we then got onto the bus to begin our hour long ride up the mountain.
It was foggy for most of the journey which made it difficult to see the scenery which was quite a sight to see on most clear day and when the clouds did open up a little the view as we rounded a bend was breathtaking.
Unfortunately we could not see Lake Okohama because it was too foggy. My home stay family and our translator, Sato, explained that Lake Okohama is one of the main attractions of Mount Zao. It's is a giant crater lake that can be seen from atop Mount Zao on a clear day. It was made from an asteroid hitting the earth long ago creating a giant crater.
It was quite cool up the mountain which was very nice for walking around enjoying the countryside because it was very hot in Japan during the time we spent there just like here on our hottest days in summer.
There was a sloped path which was very wide, almost like a dirt road, heading up to the very top of the mountain. There were open concrete culverts on either side of the path to keep the water flowing, so it didn't damage the road and some of us had a lot of fun careening down.
There is a small shrine at the top of the mountain for those willing to make the long trek to the very top.
The bus ride back was much louder because everyone was much more awake than when we had set out so early in the morning.
Our trip to the Buddhist temple was another one of my favourites among the many we went on. It was clear day but very hot. Before visiting the temple we first visited Gen's fatherís house on the same property as the temple. It was a very impressive house and here we were offered some very exotic sushi-- Octopus with tentacles and suctions as well as entire fish. It was fun to see the chef prepare the sushi. After our feast it was on to the temple. Gen, our guide for much of our trip, arranged for us a unique visit inside the temple. This was very impressive and something most tourists would not get the chance to see. Gen's father is a high ranking priest. He must be a very wise man because the amount of reading one Buddhist priest must undergo is quite amazing. The temple was larger than I expected. In the main room used for meditation everything was so beautiful with many artifacts and treasures. It made me feel quiet. Outside in front of the temple was a short but huge spreading ancient evergreen tree pruned into the shape of a mountain.
Another room was very long and narrow with hundreds of stepped shelves were pilgrims could come and leave water, food and other offerings for their ancestors. There was also a small tower like building for ancestors in which were kept smalls bags of ashes which contained the persons teeth and a small part of the skull from the middle of the forehead. Of course I found this interesting and so different from our way of things. It was very interesting to learn about Buddhism customs. The temple was quite old.
We all truly enjoyed our trip up the mountain and to the temple.