I was staying at Burakujiyakushi-do near the center of Shikoku on the Yoshino River. The temple is home to the Smiling Jizo and the youth hostel was known as the Smiling Jizo Republic. The temple had a series of trials for guests of the hostel to undertake. One of these was to climb Mt Kajigamori across the Yoshino River. One morning, my feet still massive blisters from Yo-San-Kyu, I set off to conquer the trial. The kitchen provided me with rice balls for lunch and I crossed the river via the foot bridge.
The path laid out for the trial quickly left the main road and wound through the terraces of Higashiionotani. Soon enough the farmland ran out and I was hiking through woodland up steep scree slopes that often approached 45˚. At the top of one slope, the designated path ended in a sheer rock face at least 10 meters high. A huge crack ran through this cliff about 15˚ off the vertical. I scrambled up this chimney to find gentler slopes and sparser trees. A band of woodland ahead blocked any view of the summit which was so clearly visible when back on the other side of the river.
I entered the thick woods. After a no more than a dozen steps, I came out into the open again, into a field of bamboo, on the summit of Kajigamori. As I walked through the waist high bamboo, lost in the views of the valleys spread below me, heavy snow began to fall.
I ate my lunch of rice balls before hiking back to the temple.