Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Caves and Buddhas in Okutama

Set out early on what would be the last ride of 2008. It's to the point now where you can only comfortable ride between 10 and 2. Outside those hours, it's damn cold. Maybe Santa will bring me an electrically heated motorcycle jacket and gloves this year.

The destination was these huge Buddha that I found last year. I sort of knew where they were, but the fun is in the hunt.

A couple wrong turns, some mountain road, and I was somehow lost. Checking the map, I noticed something random near me.

The Nippara cave. Turns out the Chichibu mountain range west of Tokyo is a lot of limestone, so naturally there are some caves. In is the only direction to go.

For some reason, the good luck thing is to stick your 1 yen coins anywhere they will go. So the whole cave ends up being a big dumping ground for trash money. No idea how they got on the ceiling though.

Onward, in search of Buddhas.

Or freakishly huge haunted limestone processing plants.

Finally found the temple. Last time I went, I was all alone. It was past closing time, so no one was there. Today I was able to actually enter the Buddha.

Once inside this 35 meter statue, you can climb a spiral staircase to the crest of Buddha's head.

Another interesting detail, the inside was covered with tens of thousands of tiny versions. I asked someone, and each small one costs 20,000 yen, about $200.

To be honest, though, this place is magical. If I had money to burn I would gladly donate to something like this. I know, I know, it's some crazy Buddhist offshoot cult place, but it's the thought that counts.

Then I had to ride down the temple's mountain road, which is maybe a 50% grade. On balding tires. On wet leaves. And I was drunk.

Drunk on beauty that can only be found in the mountains of Japan.

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