Monday, January 08, 2007

Mt. Haguro: The Summit

Halfway to our destination we pause, panting and perspiring, to explore a small hakaba, or graveyard, a few meters off the path. The sun, which ordinarily hestitates to peer into this twilight region shielded by towering firs and cryptomerias, has found an opening in the canopy and brilliantly illuminates the Buddhist statuary of the hakaba. The most recent of the wooden laths informs us that this plot is sacred to those who have supported the religious authorities with monetary endowments, and who have prayed for generations of Fathers Superior. The general sense of the inscription is, "The shrine undertakes to pray for those whose donations have defrayed the expenses of the shrine and enabled its operations. In the name of the current Head Priest and generations of priests before him..." A few more photos taken, and I steel myself for the final ascent.
The last of the 2446 steps trod, behold the imposing shrine on the summit. Haguro enjoys a long history as a sacred mountain, a place of Shinto and Buddhist worship for over 1400 years. The present haiden, or sanctuary building, was constructed in 1816. It is exceedingly rare for such a structure to have a roof of thatch, roofing usually being of copper or tile. There is quite a crowd, both young and old, to pay respect to the mountain deities and snap "I was there!" commemorative photos. But I musn't tarry, for my family awaits me at mountain's base for the bus ride back to Tsuruoka.

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