Friday, 25 September 2009


From Ga-san we went on to Yudono-san.
The atmosphere was quite different - unlike Gassan it was clearly a shrine (the torii below marks a shrine entrance) and had a definite money making feel to it.  In addition to the entry fee there was a 300Y bus that you could take up the mountain to the main shrine - 5 min bus or 40 min steep walk - it was a no brainer.  The  bus tickets were marked as being religious donations, which has favourable tax implications for the shrine, and were collected at the end which felt a bit dodgy.
In general it's fair to say that Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Japan operate as businesses and do not see social welfare as their responsibility (this is something I have a bee in my bonnet about so I am sure I will come back to it at another stage.)
We passed 2 groups of white robbed pilgrims walking down the mountain as we went up in the bus - my first impression was of the KKK...     The bus stopped next to a statue of a cow - statues of cattle are not that common at Japanese shrines; I guess as a mountain area where cropping was unviable cows assumed some degree of sacredness.  From the cow statue there was a stairway, leading down to the main shrine, flanked with signs announcing that taking photos was forbidden... it doesn't make a lot of sense to me that a mountain can be off limits to photos.   The photo ban extended to the shrine itself which was quite crowded.  (No objection to this part of the ban.)  You could pay 500Yen (6$) to take off your shoes, walk barefoot - very rare in Japan - along a path, wash your feet and come back.  I didn't particularly like the atmosphere, partly because it was crowded, and partly because it seemed purely a money making venture devoid of spirituality.  Both of us in need of something to eat, felt no need to linger. Of the 4 mountains we visited over silver week, I'd definitely rank it at the bottom.

Just as a piece of trivia, I read on Wikiepedia that in terms of the official list that grades shrines by significance, Yudono san's shrine is below both Gassan's  and Chokkai san's and on par with Haguro san's (which we didn't visit).

The torii at the entrance of Yudonosan

The cow shrine
The white bits you can see flank the walking paths - on the left down to the shrine, in the middle on a walking path inside the shrine.