Hundreds of years ago, a swordsman went to a cave, hidden in a valley, surrounded by mountains and forests. He went there to train his mind before taking on other powerful swordsmen. Decades after him, another monk found this cave. He stayed there in order to pursue his ascetic training. A temple came to be built around the cave. It was called Tanukidanisan Fudoin.
There are several tori gates by the 250 steps that go up to the temple. The climb is rewarded by a veranda onlooking the hills. Statues of racoon-dogs or tanuki are placed all over the grounds of the temple. In Japanese folklore, these creatures are often portrayed as shape-shifting, mischievous, tricksters. In reality, they are regular canines, with a complex relationship with humans, hunted for their fur. Still, any encounter with them – in reality or myth – is curious. The unusual statues at this temple only add to its intrigue. A trail goes out from behind the temple, leading up to a small mountain summit, Uryu-yama. This detour makes for a great lunch spot or an evening tea snack, as the sun lights up the city.
The temple isn’t very far from Ichioji – a bustling area full of ramen shops. Yet, it isn’t hard to imagine what Musashi Miyamoto, the swordsman or Mokujiki Shōzen Tomoatsu, the monk might have experienced when they first encountered this mysterious little corner of Kyoto. Unseen forces are at work here. By interacting with some of that energy, by training one’s body or mind there, it may be possible to imagine that one can go back renewed to the world that sits outside, ready to battle whatever strange obstacles it may throw your way.