Long ago when the world was yet to take its current shape two deities were sent from the heaven to make this mortal world more interesting. Izanagi no Omikoto (the male God) and Izanami no Omikoto (the female God)… When they arrived they saw there is no land..no life, they were unimpressed. He stabbed the face of the mighty ocean with the spear he was carrying… and the islands were formed. In Japanese mythology this is called as Kuni-umi (国産み) Kuni is country and umi stands for birth.. so this was ‘birth of the country’.
They then started to build a heavenly pillar. While doing that they fell deeply in love and gave birth to numerous deities of Shintoism. But their romantic tale was about to take an unfortunate turn.
While giving birth to the fire god Izanami got burnt badly and died. Izanagi longed to be with her.. so much that he decided to follow her to the after life. He wanted to see her at least once.. He went to visit her in the land of the dead. Initially she refused but then agreed upon one condition. He shouldn’t lit the torch and see her face. They finally met.. it was difficult for him to control. He broke his promise and lit the torch. What he saw; he could not control his fear. His beloved wife who was once graceful is now rotting form of flesh. The moment he broke his promise she got furious. He started running away. She asked the god of thunder to chase him. When Izanagi reached the entrance of the land of dead he closed it forever with a boulder. Goddess in her anger declared to kill one thousand of his people every day; he retorted that a thousand and five hundred will be born each day.
Izanagi had to cleanse himself when he returned to the mortal world. In that process three gods were born. One of them was Amaterasu; the goddess of sun and the universe. She is a major deity of Shinto. And it is believed that the Emperors of Japan are direct descendants of Amaterasu.
Mt Ryokami (両神) is one of the 100 famous mountains in Japan with the elevation of 1723 m. And the Shrine on the mountain is believed to be of Izanagi and Izanami. The name of this mountain suggests the same. Ryou is both and Kami is God. So, both the gods are enshrined here.
There are few routes to the top. We took a route which started from Hinata Ooya bus stop. If you have a car you can do this hike in one day. There are only four buses running each day from Mitsumineguchi bus stop, so we planned to stay in the mountain hut. We started the hike at 1230. For an hour or so the route is pretty easy with beautiful tall cedar trees on both sides. Soon it got steep and narrow. We crossed a river few times. Hiking in May with heavy gears can be exhausting so took few mandatory breaks at the beautiful streams.
There are few rocky patches where you will find ropes and chains for safety. We wanted to do the summit on day one but met few people who were returning from half way and that was pretty demotivating. Reached the hut at 1530 and decided to rest. The hut is very specious. Has water and clean toilet facility. It got chilly at night and we decided to have a bonfire. With groovy Bob Dylan songs, enjoyed the dinner and bonfire.
In the morning started early. Summit was 1.8 km from hut. And it was twice as steep than day one. In fifty minutes we reached the shrine. It is a very old shrine. An interesting thing I noticed was the statues of wolves outside. Outside Inari Shrines there foxes, and other shrines have two monsters. These protect the spirit inside the shrine. But wolves instead of monsters was new. Had few snacks and started the ascent for summit.
The last part was tricky. The path was very narrow with lot of chains and few places I was almost climbing vertically. In 20 minutes we were on top! The narrowest summit I have ever seen. People were lining up for photographs. It was a good day and we got to see the 360 degree view of surrounding mountains. Just beautiful.
There is another interesting fact about Mt Ryokami. Women were considered impure in Shinto. And as this was a sacred mountain women were not allowed to climb it. First climb by a woman was in 1914. On my way back I was satisfied to visit the shrine of two major gods in Shinto and to be one of the women climbing this majestic mountain.
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