Konze Alps in Shiga (Ryuo Mountain 605m) – Unique Rock Formations and Thrilling Slacklining

It was a pleasantly warm weekend, hard to believe it’s already December. I went hiking to the Konze Alps in Shiga Prefecture. Although it’s a low mountain, it has various faces, featuring unique landscapes with peculiar rock formations and many cliff-carved Buddhas. This was my second visit, and it was just as impressive and enjoyable as the first time.

I took a bus from the East Exit of JR Kusatsu Station to Kamikiriu, and in about 20 minutes, I arrived at the trailhead. Leaving the parking lot, I followed a trail overgrown with ferns and soon reached Ochigataki Falls. Although the waterfall has little water, its most notable feature is a rock above that resembles a whale’s head.

There are also sections where rocks are stacked like in a garden, making for a rich and varied hiking trail. Eventually, I came across the large Tengu Rock. Since it is provided with ropes and chains, it's easy to climb, and many people enjoy climbing it amidst lively chatter.

As I continued climbing, to my surprise, I saw people playing on a rope strung about 200 meters? across the sky from Tengu Rock, walking or sitting on it like tightrope walkers. Occasionally, someone would fall, but they were safely tethered, so it was okay. However, just watching them was enough to give me the chills. It turns out this activity is a sport called slacklining, and I was amazed to see people enjoying such thrilling activities on top of a mountain. I spent some time watching in awe.

From the ridgeline, the view of Lake Biwa and Mt. Omi Fuji is spectacular. There are rocks so whimsically placed, they seem as if a wizard might have set them there, creating a magical landscape to enjoy. The stacked rocks, positioned as if laboriously put together, resemble a creature lying on its side. Before Buddhism spread, there were no cliff-carved Buddhas, and I wonder if these peculiar rock formations and the rocks themselves were symbols of mountain worship. There are even theories suggesting that Jomon people could dematerialize rocks and move them at will. Whether true or not, seeing these unusual rock formations lets your imagination run wild and adds to the fun of the hike.

Also, near the summit of Mount Ryuo, there is the Kinsho-ji Hachidai Ryuo Honden (Main Hall of the Eight Great Dragon Kings), which enshrines the deity Ame-no-Mikumari-no-Kami (known as the Eight Great Dragon Kings until the Meiji era due to the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism). This deity is revered in the Konze area as a provider of water, and rainmaking rituals were performed during times of drought.

Currently, Lake Biwa is experiencing low water levels, with the water level more than 70 cm below normal. I offered prayers for rain to increase the water level!
The Komasaka Cliff-Carved Buddha features a three-meter-tall seated Amidanyorai Buddha with the Bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamaprapta by its side. Around this central figure, nine other Buddha statues emerge. This ancient site, believed to have been created by immigrants from Silagi during the early Heian period, is located at the site of the Heian-era Komasaka Temple. It is a nationally designated historic site.
The "Upside-Down Kannon" was not originally inverted. However, during the construction of the Dutch embankment, a shortage of stone materials led to the carving of a part of the large rock. This caused it to lose balance and slide down from the mountain, ending up upside down. The Konze Alps are full of such wonders, and I look forward to visiting again in a different season.
the route taken for hiking this time

I stopped at Sakura-yu, a public bath that retains the atmosphere of the Showa era. The ladies at the counter and the customers are all friendly, and it has a calming atmosphere from a while ago. My body and mind felt warm. There’s an old-fashioned hair dryer like this, which gives it a retro feel.

See you in the next blog!

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