Mount Maya

This continues my after the fact travel blogs. I figure it will assist in keeping me in a state of denial that I’m back in the land of liberty, even though writing about things that happened two weeks ago strikes me as disingenuous. Regardless, Fumie and I decided to brave the heat and scale Mount Maya, part of the Rokko mountains outside Kobe, Japan. While I could find no evidence of legends of ghosts of spirits on Mount Maya (unlike Mount Mulanje in Malawi), the name derives from the Mayabujin, or the mother of the Buddha Shakyamuni, who is enshrined here.

The path up the mountain is well prepared, requiring no special skill to reach the top. Centuries of travel through the mountain have worn out walking paths. Maps are provided at various points and sign point the way to prevent being lost in the woods. The trip is mostly easy (assuming cool weather), aside from a series of stairways ending in what’s known as the “agony slope”, a nearly vertical, seeming endless slope. Fortunately, there’s much to see along the way and one can always stick one’s feet in one of the mountain streams to cool down.

Aside from the multitude of shrines and odd abandoned houses along the way, one passes by dam which provides the city of Kobe with fresh water. I was always curious as to where Japanese cities got their water and now I know how. Seeing this pristine water in the middle of a mountain top causes me to question the nearly obsessive water quality suspicions Japanese residents have. The water in Kobe is likely cleaner than the water in Michigan.

It takes about six hours to reach the top of Mount Maya. Highlight of the trip was stopping to read a sign describing the types of people who get dementia and having a female wild boar sneak up behind us. Presumably, the boaress has a strategy where she frightens people who stop for lunch into running away from their bentos. After we walked way, she started gnawing on the bench hungrily. These animals are feared throughout Japan, being known for quickly attacking and biting humans with little provocation. However, I could tell that this one was just after lunch.

One can do the walk back down the mountain to catch the train home, but then you would miss the sweet cable car ride back down. While the view is excellent, it’s a bit disconcerting to spend a mere ten minutes going down a mountain that took you six hours to scale. Conclusion? Highly recommended. Easy and safe walk, great scenery and if you get into real trouble there are people around. Maps and vending machines abound. I’m still wondering why I didn’t do this kind of thing when I actually lived in Japan. The twenties have to be the dumbest period of person’s lifetime, at least for me.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

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