The first stop when climbing from Kibune -side over the Kurama-yama is Okunoin Mao-den. It's a small shrine dedicated for Mao-son, 'devil king' or 'conqueror of evil' who landed in the form of meteorite from Venus six million years ago. His mystical power emanates from its beautiful hiding spot high up in the hill. Also a good place to wipe off the sweat and take a break before continuing deeper into the verdure.
It's the classic Japanese landscape of green hills with snake-like cedar roots covering the trails between the tall trees, the trails that lead from shrine, from an ancient mystery to another. These buildings and forms were made with care and lots of manpower. I have no connection to this cultural heritage although I can see why such spirits that Shinto consists of would be born in this land and its beautiful nature. It's there, it always was. The early Japanese people just picked it up from the ground and made sanctuaries for it. Religious system that acknowledges the dependence on the ancestry and sees the nature's plethora of lifeforms as the sacred and transcendent on earth is more enchanting than most of the belief systems still alive or dead.
Still, in the middle of the depths of this folklore, mysticism and beliefs I always stand as an outsider. Shinto is bound to Japan and its genes, even if some parts of it connect to the blood that flowed into me from my ancestors, from the times of similar world views.
Kurama, Kyoto, June 29th: