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Flora & Fauna

Mt. Yoshino’s Charm as Told by a Guesthouse Okami

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Mt. Yoshino is famous for being one of the three major cherry blossom viewing locations in Japan. Thanks to this fame, about 70% of the tourists Yoshino sees in a year come in the spring, according to research done by our inn.

As you can guess, this means that it gets VERY crowded here in the spring.

It is so crowded that it makes me think “Is this Takeshita Street in Tokyo? Or perhaps Dotonbori in Osaka?”

Therefore, I would like to recommend coming to Yoshino outside of the cherry blossom season. I want you to see the quiet Mt. Yoshino, where people, wild creatures, nature gods, and Buddhas coexist.

That is the usual Mt. Yoshino.

 As an okami (landlady) who lives in Mt. Yoshino and knows all the seasons of this land, I would like to convey to you the true charm of Mt. Yoshino.

What is the real way to enjoy Mt. Yoshino? To begin with, what exactly is Mt. Yoshino?

 Mt. Yoshino, Yoshino Town, Yoshino County, Nara Prefecture. The area referred to as “Yoshino” is actually very large, but the center of the area is said to be Mt. Yoshino.

A long long time ago, before it was known as a cherry blossom spot, Mt. Yoshino attracted people of faith from all around for its quality of being a location where nature gods and Buddhas inhabited.

 By the way, did you know that there is no actual mountain called “Mt. Yoshino?”

“Mt. Yoshino” is the name of the area, and not the name of one mountain. Most people do not know this fact.

I think Mt. Yoshino is not a so-called “easy-to-understand tourist spot”.

Among first-time visitors to Yoshino, it is common to hear people say “it is more mountainous than I expected…”

That’s right.

This is a sacred place for mountain worship.Mountain worship is the idea that “the mountain itself is a nature god and a Buddha.” Since ancient times, people have come to this area to “lie down(伏) on the mountain(山).” That is the origin of the term “yamabushi (山伏),” the common term for those who do spiritual practice in the mountains. In other words, Mt. Yoshino is in the mountains so you should wear good shoes when you come to Mt. Yoshino (This is very important!)

There are many things about  “Mt. Yoshino” that I like, but for this article I would like to share some information that is not so commonly found in guidebooks.

Even though its name has the word  “mountain” in it,  Mt. Yoshino actually has a lot of houses, souvenir shops, restaurants, and inns that are located around the lower ridgeline area of the district. That being said, there are also a lot of wild animals that live here as well.

These animals include deer, weasels, badgers, flying squirrels, foxes, owls, and brown hawk-owls…

I don’t see them much in the daytime, but when the sun goes down, they appear as if out of nowhere. Unlike city nights, mountain nights are very dark, so there are few opportunities to see wild animals, but you can often hear them rustling, pattering, and hooting in the surrounding forest.

If you focus your eyes, you might be able to see silhouettes of wild animals in the moonlight or shadows darting through the starry sky. In particular, the flying squirrel that glides over your head like Batman is pretty cool (Japanese giant flying squirrels are actually among the largest in the world.)

In the daytime, you can see some smaller animals like unusual types of snails with hair or insects such as Melanoplinae and Copris ochus (a lot of beetles and various stag beetles can be seen in the summer as well).

The stone wall of Kinpusen-ji Temple is home to an endangered species of moss called Miyama Haigoke, and slime molds that make a home in the area’s decaying cherry trees.

As you can see, besides the activities of people, there is a very rich natural environment on Mt. Yoshino where you can see various creatures.

Of course, if you go deeper into the mountains, you will be able to see a lot more natural diversity. However, to get there you might need a car or be willing to hike for quite a ways. Also there are no accommodations or places to eat out in the backcountry. I think that one of the central characteristics of Mt. Yoshino is found in how people live their lives in coexistence with nature. .

I think that it is difficult to sense the activity of wild creatures when living in the city. This gives humans the illusion that we are the center of this world and our power is ultimate. Nights spent in the mountains convey the strength and diversity of nature to our five senses. It is both exciting and thrilling. By clearing our ears and focusing our eyes, our natural senses can be sharpened even more.

Last summer, I found a larva of an ubabotaru (a kind of firefly) for the first time in Mt. Yoshino at night. I had seen adults around Mt. Yoshino during the day, but I had always wanted to see larvae because they are known to emit a beautiful glow. When I saw the little light during the evening walk, I was very excited. It was a tiny light that I wouldn’t notice unless I was in the dark and looked carefully.

“Why do they glow when they are larvae? Don’t you have to hide yourself?” I had such questions on my mind for some time about these creatures, but the moment I saw the larvae, these thoughts vanished. After watching it for a while, the mysterious light of the baby firefly disappeared back down into the soil.

A friend of mine who recently moved from Nagoya to Mt. Yoshino told me that their hearing had improved since coming here. Speaking of that, I also often hear noises that guests do not notice. This could be explained by comparing it to how fasting changes your sense of taste after some time. If you wish, you can definitely detox yourself in Yoshino and return your body to a more natural state, I think.

When you come to Mt. Yoshino, please listen to the sound of the mountains, focus your eyes, and gently sharpen your five senses. You will see that the mountain is full of information that cannot be obtained in the human world. If you grasp that, the world will become wider. And you can understand why Mt. Yoshino is called “sacred mountain” where the mountain god lives.

Mt. Yoshino is a place where one’s five senses can be polished. Please come to Mt. Yoshino and feel the “mountain” for yourself.

Yoshinoto editorial department

Yoshinoto editorial department

Introducing the hidden charm of Yoshino and how to enjoy it.

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