A Hike to Mt. Ikoma a.k.a. the Western Air Temple

10:45 AM

This sign is located 1/3 of the way up the mountain.
Now, I know what you're thinking. What's this air temple? Did the Japanese formerly worship the air or something??
..No.. this is just my fandom slowly try to creep it's out from my imagination... but I can't help it. It's Saturday, and new episode of The Legend of Korra  should be released. And since Game of Thrones is already over.. I NEED this. (I don't, but I'll keep saying I do).

But all silliness aside, I'm loving this new Avatar series against my will, and this adventure out on Mt. Ikoma in Nara Prefecture only increased my enthusiasm for.. air. :x

See that in the background? That's Ikoma. Now climb it.
A trip out to Mt. Ikoma is also a great retreat for the less monetarily inclined i.e. me, and costs nothing to climb and explore

 It's really close to Osaka City (about 17 minutes from Osaka Uehonmachi Sta.), and awesome for those times when you want to get away from the noise, pollution and random stabbings (though we did go here before the stabbing occurred).
Osaka is still totally safe, but sometimes, you just gotta wonder and then get out for a few hours.

Ikoma Station is located on the Kintetsu railway system and the Osaka Municipal subway system via the Nara Line (Kintetsu) and the Chuo Line (subway). After exiting the train station, the cable car for riding up the mountain is immediately visible and pretty easy to get to as it's also connected to the train station. Or, if you're hardcore, you'll just walk your way to the top.

We were feeling frisky, and in need of exercise, so we decided to walk to the top. We didn't really research how to get there, so we just started walking in the general direction of the mountain and taking whatever roads lead in that direction.

For the most part, it is easy to follow, but there's no direct root from the station to the mountain. You have to follow roads with tiny sidewalks and hair-pin turns. So be careful and look both ways. Twice.
This shot is probably about.. a quarter of the way, almost a third. By this point, we were drenched in sweat, but we were also grossly overdressed for hiking, so I guess that was our bad.

The view was lovely though.

After making it to the 'Welcome to Ikoma' sign, you'll encounter your first collection of shops. It was pretty quiet though, even for a Sunday, so we didn't try anything out.

 Unfortunately, this path leads no where near the more historical Ikoma Shrine that dates back to the 5th Century. I would have totally loved to visit that, but that must be saved for a different train stop and trip. :<

 Here is, opposed to Ikoma Shrine, the lovely entrance to Houzan Temple (Houzanji) which would roughly translate to 'treasured mountain' I guess.

Fun fact: they produce a rather famous brand of incense here that I used to sell at my old part-time job back in D.C. What a small world. Sort of. :D

This temple is pretty huge, and extends far into the forests of the mountain. We probably spent a good hour or so, just checking out all the smaller temples and paths. Tons of fun, and awesome refuge from the sun.

I really wanted to find a path to that Buddha in the mountain. There's a small temple next to it, so it seems reachable. Maybe it's one of those things that's for monks only, but I really want to ask when we visit again :x

If I were an airbender, I could just air bend my way to the temple D':

I've been to quite a few temples throughout Western and Eastern Japan, and I have to admit, this is one of my faves. The architecture is what really drew me in the most. And what can I say, it was my first time seeing a Buddha carved into a mountain (or at least placed into one) in person.

Also, I just read that this tmeple used to be a training place for monks. Completely validated my Western Air Temple theory. All it needs is a few flying bison or winged lemurs :3 *end of fandom. maybe*

And to top it all off, there's an amusement park located on the top of the mountain. How quaint :D. Aang would love that~

It's only a children's amusement park, but the restaurants do serve beer, which would make for an awesome-yet-counter-productive celebratory beverage after hiking up a mountain all afternoon.

Oh, and the view is pretty damn cool.

This view. This is the one. My favorite one really. I'm sure I just sat there and stared for a good 15 minutes. That and checked my phone for messages, but all part of the relaxation process.

Osaka is there, off somewhere in the distance. Probably where the large gathering of skyscrapers is. It makes you realize how small you really are, until you remember how small Japan is, and then how insignificant the Earth amongst the billions of trillions of stars and systems.Still love this view though :D

Anyway, it was a great little trip. I loved being outdoors, not near some sort of shopping center. I'm sure Nara is full of hundreds more ancient temples, and I probably won't get to them. But at least I can say I've been to Hozanji, that means treasured mountain which obviously means it's the best one in Japan. Yup.

Check it out sometime! :3


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