For Mountain Bikers and spiritual climbers, Kaba-san – Ibaraki.

Hello Climbers and Mountain bikers Lovers 🙂

Mt. Kabasan is the second highest mountain in the range of Tskuba-Ashio-Kaba mountains (Ibaraki pref. Japan), 709 meters in hight above sea level. The mountain is known as a place for traditional religional training and its legends of tengu monsters. The Kabasan problem of Meiji renovation is also famous.

A quite complicated thing is that there looks two Kabasan jinjas. Recently, Kabasan-saenazumi-jinja and relating shrines are generally called as “Kabasan jinja,” and Kabasan-jinja and relating shrines are called generally as “Tabako jinja”. There seems to be some difficult historical reasons 🙂 . Because of this mess, this documentation may also includs some misunderstandings like other published sightseeing guidebooks. Please be careful.

  • Kabasan jinja (Kabasan Tenchugu, sometimes called Kabasan Dai-gongen)
    This shrine is often refered as “Tabako jinja (tobacco shrine)”.

    • Buildings on the top of the mountain: Main building, Tabako shrine, front shrine, inn and office. 
    • Buildings in Nagaoka, Makabe town: Front shrine, main office.
    • Buildings in Ootsuka, Yasato town: Front shrine.
  • Kabasan Saenazumi jinja (Kabasan jinja Hongu, Kabasan jinja Shingu) (also called Kabasan Dai-gongen)
    This shrine is often refered as “Kabasan jinja (Kabasan shrine)”.

    • Buildings on the top of the mountain: Main building of Hongu, front shrine of Hongu, main building of Shingu, front shrine of Shingu.
    • Buildings in Nagaoka, Makabe town: Front shrine and main office.

“Kiseru Matsuri” Festival of a big tobacco pipe

A big Pipe( 2.5 meters in length and 60 kilograms in weight ) is pushed up by several people to the top of the mountain.

Every year on September fifth, from 10:30 to 12, a huge KISERU ( traditional Japanese pipe), said to be the largest in Japan, is set out in front of the Mt Kaba Shrine ( Kabasan Jinja), filled with tobacco, and then lit. The finely cut leaves are then kept burning with the help of a pump which is attached to the mouth-piece.

Before the pipe is lit about ten Parishioners ( UJIKO) enter the shrine for some purification rites and prayer before the ceremony gets underway. There are of course, also some visitors present ( about 30 this year), mostly armed with cameras, who negotiate the extremely narrow and poorly paved road to get to beautifully rustic shrine. Those who have made the hair-raising  journey wait out in front of the shrine brimming with anticipation while the preliminary prayers are taking place inside.

And if you`d like to know more about WHY there is a ceremony for tobacco crops held at Mt Kabasan read my article about the history of Tobacco in Ibaraki and Japan: Here

Ceremony of “walking on fire”

People walks through burning fire in Kabasan Saenazumi shrine in the winter solstice day.

“Zenjo” religional trainig in Mt. Kabasan

Traditional religional training is still alive in Mt. Kabasan. Ascetics in white clothes go around 700 sacred places in the mountain in period from first to middle of August. There is no qualification to join the training. You see several paper streamers which trainers put in front of sacred rocks in the photo.

“Chinowa kuguri” ceremony of sacred ring

“Chinowa kuguri” is one of popular Shintoism ceremonies. People creep through a big ring made of kaya (pampas like weed). At Kabasan shrine, japanese art of drawing sword is performed before Chinowa kuguri (28th of June, 11 a.m.).

Other events

Kabasan jinja (shrine)

Documents refer to date of events are always not certain, and actualy I found many date for one event (all but one should be wrong).

  • Anniversary events
    • 1st of Jan. : “Gantan-sai,” ceremony of New Year’s day
    • 1st of Jan. : “Hiwatari,” ceremony of walking through fire
    • 1st of Jan. (lunar calendar) : “Omikoshi-togyo-sai,” parade of a portable shrine
    • 28th of Jan. : “Nefudo-sai,” ceremony of Acala
    • 3rd of Feb. : “Setsubun,” festival of Setsubun, the day before the beginning of spring
    • 17th of Feb. : “Gokoku Housaku Kinen-sai,” Prayer for a rich harvest
    • 8th of Apr. : “Taisai,” Anniversary festival
    • 8th of Apr. (lunar calendar) : “Sancho-honden Taisai,” Anniversary festival of the shrine on the top of Mt. Kabasan
    • 5th of May : “Jido-sai, Tairyo-sai,” prayer for children, prayer for a rich catch
    • 17th of Jun. : “Saegusa-sai (Yuri-matsuri),” ceremony of lilies
    • 28th of Jun. : “Ooharai (Chinowa kuguri),” ceremony of purification
    • 28th of Jul. : “Tengu-sai,” ceremony for Tengus in Mt. Kabasan
    • 1st of Aug. : “Zenjo,” opening of religional training (the period ends on the last day of August)
    • 1st of Aug. : “Saegusa-sai (Yuri-matsuri),” ceremony of lilies
    • 15th of Aug. : “Sorei-sai,” ceremony of the dead
    • 5th of Sep. : “Kiseru-matsuri,” ceremony for a good harvest of tobacco
    • 29th of Sep. : “Okunoin-sai,” ceremony of the shrine on the top of Mt. Kabasan
    • 17th of Oct. : “Okunoin-sai,” ceremony of the shrine on the top of Mt. Kabasan
    • 23rd of Nov. : “Shinkoku-sai,” thanks giving ceremony of a rich harvest
    • the winter solstice : “Hoshi-matsuri,” prayer for stars
    • 31st of Dec. : “Ooharai, Joya-sai,” ceremony of purification, ceremony of New Year’s eve
  • Monthly events
    • 8th: Regular ceremony
    • 28th: Ceremony for a priest Fumyo and a Fudo budhha
  • Other possibilities ;-(
    These are the dates I found and I guess quite unreliable.

    • 5th of May : “Ranjo-sai,” prayer for avoiding disastrous storms
    • 1st of Jul. : “Tengu-sai,” ceremony for Tengus in Mt. Kabasan
    • 20th of Aug. : “Kiseru-matsuri,” ceremony for a good harvest of tobacco
    • 22nd of Nov. : “Shinkoku-sai,” thanks giving ceremony of a rich harvest
    • 23rd of Dec. : “Hoshi-matsuri,” prayer for star.

Biking Roads around Kabasan

Right next to Iwase station is a 70 km biking road was built along an old train line. Rin Rin road, as it is called starts off from Iwase (now Sakuragawa city) and passes by both Kaba san and Tsukuba san. Along the way, there are also some old shrines as well as an excavation site of an ancient castle. Some of the old train stations have been converted into rest areas and the road has been painted red so it is easy to follow.

The road is especially beautiful in the springtime when the cherry blossoms come out. The white blossomed trees really stand out from the rest of the trees on mountain side. The fields also turn a lush green color after a winter of brown.

Along the road, one of the first mountains you will pass is Ama-Biki San. On the side of this mountain is Ama-biki Kannon (seen in picture), an old shrine that is a popular destination for young families.

Mountain Biking in Kabasan

Rin Rin road also serves as an easy way to get from the train stations to some of the biking trails. While there are a few hiking trails that are rideable, some problems have developed in the area between hikers, mountainbikers and motor cross riders.

At this time, the trails on Kaba san are not legal. There are a few jeep roads that go all the way to the top. If you are riding in smaller groups (four people or less), most people won’t mind you riding along the hiking trails, just remember to be extra courteous. Also watch out for motorbikes riding up the trails.

How to get there?

From Ueno, take the Utsunomiya Line to Oyama (Tochigi), then take the Mito Line to Iwase (1760 yen) From Iwase take the bus that goes to Kabasan jinja hongu (1450Yen)

Make sure you bring food and water and wear good hiking shoes 🙂

Enjoy  hiking, biking and the festivals in Kabasan 🙂

This entry was published on 11/23/2012 at 1:00 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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