Winter Tracks Garan Temple Complex


Can you identify these fresh tracks???   Answer at the bottom of the page.

この足跡わかる? 答えは下にあります。


Look closely.  The first tracks made were from the deer, after that a cat left some tracks.  More than an hour or two later the car tire tracks were made. The last tracks (the most recent) are the footprints from someone making an early morning visit to the temples.


A priest was making morning prayer rounds in wooden geta.


Varied Tit Yamagara

Let’s learn about some birds.


Varied tit (Sittiparus varius)   ヤマガラ

Its habitat consists of open mixed forests, in particular with the Japanese Castanopsis species Castanopsis cuspidata and Japanese larch / karamatsu (唐松), coniferous forests with Japanese Yews, Cryptomeria (Sugi) and pines as well as bamboo forests at mountain slopes and in river valleys.

The varied tit eats a mixed diet consisting of seeds and insects, namely caterpillars.


Sarcandra glabra Takijiri Kumano Kodo Nakahechi route

Sarcandra glabra   仙蓼/千両     センリョウ  senryō

Saw this plant near the Tainai Kuguri 胎内くぐりの近くに見ました

There is some research showing aromatic oils may be extracted from the leaves.

I will check and let you know.

The same research indicates that the entire plant has anti-stress, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, blood activating, and anti-bacterial effects.  I’ll leave that up to the researchers.

TCM Traditional Chinese Medicine uses this plant extensively.

Kadsura Japonica Takijiri Hike

Kadsura japonica サネカズラ

I saw this colorful plant when doing guide training in the Takijiri area.

We were hiking the Nakaheji route of the Kumano Kodo piligrimage.

Look at the plant, but don’t miss its connections and relationships within its community.

Photo: Caloptilia Semifascia (kind of moth)

Caloptilia kadsurae is very similar and native to Japan.  Their larvae feed on Kadsura japonica.  The Caloptilia are leaf miners.

Do you see any evidence of them?


The fruit is listed as edible (raw or cooked).  I have yet to try it, thus cannot recommend it.  Always best to be cautious.

Yuki Mushi Snow bug

“Snow insect”  Harbinger of the end of Autumn.

Some places have a saying that if you see a Snow bug it will snow in the next few days.  I’ve seen them around for the past week and still no flakes.  Definitely mark the end of Autumn though.  Squeezing every eyeful of color I can from the Japanese Maples and Ginko trees.

It’s also called the “cotton bug”.  Easy to see why.

They are easy to catch, but SUPER delicate!  Better to enjoy them on the fly.  If you must catch one, maybe use something for them to land on and then gently whooosh them off with a light breath of air.

Prociphilus oriens


Prociphilus is an aphid genus of the subfamily Eriosomatinae, which cause the plants they attack to produce galls. The aphids reside and feed within the gall.


Nameko Mushrooms

Nameko Mushrooms late September early October Koyasan

They looked so delicious!!!

It was hard not to gather a few for a little miso delight.

I promised myself before going hiking that it was a “look” only trip,

no gathering…It was really hard not to say… just a few…


The first kanji, 滑, is read as “suberu”, or slip / slide.

The second kanji, 子, is read as “ko”, child.

That’s a great match for this slippery little mushroom!

Pholiota microspora

Pholiota is derived from the Greek word pholis, meaning “scale”.

Pholiota is a genus of small to medium-sized, fleshy mushrooms in the family Strophariaceae.They are saprobes that typically live on wood.  The genus has a widespread distribution, especially in temperate regions, and contains about 150 species.

These amber-brown mushrooms have a slightly slimey or gooey coating.

They are used as one of the principal ingredients in miso soup and nabemono.

It tastes slightly nutty and is often used in stir-fries, fowl. Roasted or grilled it is very tasty. Sauteed it is good in soup and risotto. It fits perfectly to Pinot Noir wine.



(click to enlarge photo)

In Mandarin Chinese the mushroom is known as 滑子蘑;  huá zi mó) or 滑菇.

In Russia it is also consumed widely, and is known as (often sold as) “o-pyo-nok” (опёнок) or plural “o-pya-ta” (опята).

In America the mushroom is sometimes called a “butterscotch mushroom”.

Okunoin stone prayer wheel 2018

Okunoin stone prayer wheel

This is a stone prayer wheel located in Okunoin Cemetery.

There are similar stone prayer wheels in many temples in Japan, such as the much newer one at Shitennōji Temple (四天王寺),  in Osaka.

In this new “updated” version you can see a sutra prayer carved into the stone wheel.

By rotating it one full turn a believer earns the same merit as chanting it once.

This is not just being lazy!  It is a physical act symbolizing the turning of the wheel of life.  Seeing it come back around.  Learning to understand that the prayer wheel and life can turn endlessly, unless… we transcend the cycle (circle).

The  the prayer wheel in Okunoin is gives the location of

大阪西長堀 Osaka Nishi Nagahori

It also gives the name of 作次郎 Sakujiro

as the donor / almsgiver 施主

The stone marker next to it has


Commemorative stone honoring the visiting of “One hundred times a month” for

榮次郎 Eijiro

Red-billed leiothrix Birds Koyasan

Red-billed leiothrix

Peking robin

Scientific name: (学名) Leiothrix lutea

Modern Latin, from Greek leios ‘smooth’ + thrix ‘hair’

lutea  “yellow”

相思鳥  mutual affection    ソウシチョウ

It is a small olive-grey babbler, with a forked tail, (which I didn’t see).  Its’ bright red bill and pink feet are highly distinctive.  It has a soft yellow throat fading, blending into an orange breast. One of the pair I saw had red over yellow wing markings.

It is cited as an invasive species, but not verified to any substantial degree.  Considering the many similar bird species Japan and China share.  It seems much more likely to me that it is native to both countries as are innumerable other bird species.  Disclaimer: I am not an ornithologist.

According to one source its’ song is long and complex, a rather rapid, fluty warble of up to 15 notes.  I observed and recorded what appeared to be a pair.  I wasn’t able to distinguish if what I heard was their song or other birds nearby.  Chalk it up to not enough field time, not enough time with the birds…yet

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