|Taku-san by two of the waterfalls|
At the western fringes of Saitama, north of Tokyo are forested hills. Tucked into corners of these otherwise modest mountains are beautiful waterfalls and hidden statues to mountain aescetics or Yamabushi, solitary monks who lived there. I only gradually discovered this run which links some together, before I had any proper maps, by struggling with a few of the unhelpful leaflets you get at railways stations. They didn't meet up or overlap, so it was fun going back until I had worked out how the complex landscape fitted together: I frequently went astray but was always glad to be in the cooler green shade and away from the baking heat of the Kanto plain. The area is well used by walkers, and crossed by small roads, but the hill-sides can be steep and loose so it is important to stick to trails.
|Guardian figure by the Yama-jin statue, on a ridge SW of Kuroyama San Taki|
The most extraordinary discovery I made was the cluster of statues, on a ridge beneath huge broad-leaf trees which had been spared the axe in the waves of woodland clearance and plantation which have stripped most of this region of it's native trees and replaced them with commercial crops with precious little diversity. On a little-used path pitted with holes made by wild-boar rooting for food, I came across the carvings beneath a tremendous green canopy and wondered why they weren't marked on the leaflet. But they were all the better for that.
|Kamakita Lake, in Iruma district, west Saitama|
|Shukuya no Taki - it feels fantastic battering down on your shoulders|
I ran around here for years on my own before being able to discover any information about trail races or meeting any other runners, so it was nice to be able to go back later with Taku-san and Kik-san from Tama Orienteering club and show them the sights - they normally run further south.
|Taku-san and Kik-san descending towards Kuroyama San Taki|
|Taku-san by the third of the three waterfalls|
Koruyama san Taki (The black mountain with three waterfalls) is best approached from the hills above it. The closed road below it leads up through stalls and places selling the local fish, with a small temple next to the waterfalls, which have been co-opted in the usual fashion. I was swayed by the magic of hearing chanting and a drum in that special place and became quite moist-eyed until I noticed the monk's ride: a large new and white Mercedes. I guess they don't know anything we don't know after all.
Getting there: Apart from cycling or driving to Kama Kita Lake, Oyagi, Iruma-gun, you can get the train to one of the stations to the East or South of this area and find trails into it. For example this route. You can also park below Koru Yama San Taki (marked with a circle with three dots in the map below) by driving up the next valley to the north of the lake. Happy running, Geoff