One of the most fervent recollections I have was from our adventure to Yoshinoyama. (I touched on it briefly HERE).
We strolled down the mountain a tortoise-pace. It was raining that peculiar sort of rain that is like magical stuff. Dewy, hazy water-glitter that vanishes on contact yet penetrates everything. Mist was rising in swirling vaporous billows that would hover among the cedar trees.
I have no idea what it must feel like to find yourself in a kingdom within the clouds but I imagine that it must be a bit like how it felt that November day in Japan.
About half way down the mountain, we came across a temple in the mist. Stone fox guardians glared at us as we passed and when we found ourselves stood before the mysterious Kinpusenji we had a feeling that serendipity brought us there that day. We were invited right into the heart of the temple which is very rarely open to the public and though photography was prohibited, what we saw and felt struck me right in the heart and I shall never forget it.
Within the half-light of the main hall we caught sight of the colossal and sacred figures of the Zaogongen. The Avatar and the Protector of the mountain stood terrifying and breathtaking amid the shadows and dark wood of temple. I remember the palpitating beat of a drum. And in the far corner, sat a monk in black robes creating a faultless oscillating beat. Beside the monk and before a small sacred fire, a priest clothed in gold coruscated and dispersed into the dimness. I remember watching in silent awe as he proceeded with his secret ritual. Occasionally, he would throw something into the blinking ashes before him and flames would awaken to his beckoning with a hungry irritation.
I am incapable of perfectly describing our experience at Kinpusenji. And, thinking about it now, I realise that it is not so much about what I saw but more about how I felt there.
Travel Note: This part of Japan is a little hard to get to if you don't speak any Japanese but making it to Yoshinoyama in autumn when the leaves are flame-coloured or in Spring when the mountains are shrouded in pink cherry blossoms would be a sight to behold and is something that many Japanese people do.