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New Website, New Blog, but the Old Blog Archive remains: September 28, 2023

After many years of wanting a real website, this month I finally have a website designed by the very knowledgeable Rey Rey Rodriguez ( TheMindOfReyRey ). My old blog,  Vacation-Travel-Adventure  continues with the same address but it is located in the "Archives" tab on my new website . The new blog which is a continuation but with much better resolution for 4K screens, it is now at .

Dorogawa, Japan: May 23-25, 2016

Table setting and starters for dinners at Yado Hanaya Tokubei Hotel in Dorogawa

Sandwiched between snoring men, I barely slept last night. Separated from our neighbors by paper-thin (truly paper) shoji screens, the guy in the tatami room next to us snored and the guy I was sleeping with also snored. Our first morning Dan asked for a different room. The room change came with a cost, but it was so worth it. We were put on the 3rd floor (stairs only) with our own balcony, an ensuite toilet and onsen bath with a view. We still slept on futons on the floor (we piled up 3 layers each), but everything else felt luxurious and definitely worth the price.

The meals at this hotel have been wonderful. At most places one of the little starter plates is sashimi. Dan refuses to try raw fish so anyone who sits next to him benefits from all the things he refuses to eat. With his limited input of calories and extra exercise, he has already lost a few kilos.

Last evening we strolled around Dorogawa and attracted by some shouting, we found ourselves at Ryusenji Shugendo Temple. Following the noise, we found a European Shugendo student "hardening" himself under a waterfall while shouting a mantra.

Searching the internet, I found Professor Mark Schumacher's website that explains: 
Shugendō (also spelled Shugendo) can be loosely translated as "path of training to achieve spiritual powers." Shugendō is an important Kami-Buddha combinatory sect that blends pre-Buddhist mountain worship, Kannabi Shinkō (the idea that mountains are the home of the dead and of agricultural spirits), shamanistic beliefs, animism, ascetic practices, Chinese Yin-Yang mysticism and Taoist magic, and the rituals and spells of Esoteric (Tantric) Buddhism in the hope of achieving magical skills, medical powers, and long life. Practitioners are called Shugenja or Shugyōsha or Keza (those who have accumulated power) and Yamabushi (those who lie down in the mountain). These various terms are typically translated into English as ascetic monk or mountain priest. 
Ryusenji Temple is a training ground for Shugendo practitioners and evidence of training methods litters the grounds. According to Prof. Schumacher's website, "this sect stresses physical endurance as the path to enlightenment. Practitioners perform seclusion, fasting, meditation, magical spells, recite sutras, and engage in austere feats of endurance such as standing/sitting under cold mountain waterfalls or in snow."  Besides the waterfall, there is a large, heavy iron pole that Shugendo followers attempt to lift and carry to prepare to walk the pilgrim's trail to Omine. There is also a pair of 50-pound iron sandals for strengthening toes, feet, ankles, and endurance. We slipped our feet into the sandals, but they budged nary a millimeter.

Fierce, warlike male figures inhabit the temple grounds. This is a sect of males. In fact, women are discouraged from climbing The Yoshino-Ōmine area is considered one of Shugendo's most sacred areas. This is a males only sect and women are prohibited/discouraged from walking on or climbing Mt. Sanjō one of the mountains above Dorogawa in the Omine Mountain Range.

Our first full day in Dorogawa was a free day; we hiked some of the trails above and wandered the streets of Dorogawa. The town is quite lovely and quickly became one of my favorite stops.


View from inside our hotel of Jenny and Tai on the main street of Dorogawa

After breakfast on our second morning in Dorogawa, our baggage traveled by vehicle to a bus stop in Kawai. We traveled on foot hiking through the beautiful, lush Mitarai Gorge to the bus stop in Kawai. 

We bussed from Kawai to Shimoichiguichi station from where we caught a train to Osaka.