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These pictures were taken at our hike on the Okugakemichi through the Ōminesammyaku in the spring of 2000. Ōminesmmyaku is the highest N-S mountain range of the Kii peninsula south of Kyoto. Kii since old times is the home of innumerable legends, ghosts, demons and also the notorious ninja. The Okugakemichi is a traditional pilgrimage route for the Shugenja i.e. practitioners of the Shugendō religion. Shugendō is a Japanese folk religion which combines elements from esoteric Buddhism, Shinto, Shamanism, Asceticism and Taoism in an original and interesting way. These very mountains also happen to be the hinterland to the east of Tanabe where O Sensei is said to have performed ascetic practices. We choose this hike, because we are interested in Japanese culture and religion, and because we enjoy nature, mountains and long distance walks.

Just a few words on a problem we encountered on this travel. The area around Ōminesan temple has been forbidden for women since the 13th century. We of course knew this beforehand and it was pointed out to us at every corner in Yoshino. The year before, a feminist party had entered the prohibited area and they met with mixed responses, hostility mostly. The issue is hotly debated in Japan and there exist support groups for abandoning the prohibition. We had not decided what to do until we were at the gate to the prohibited area. I was all for proceeding together and looking what happens. Perhaps gaijin would not be judged so strictly. (And of course I was excited about using my 25+ years of Aikido experience in fighting off hundreds of angry misogynistic shugenja, empowered by magic and backed by Fudōsan.) Marina opted the view that, if we are interested in a foreign culture, as visitors we should play by the rules, even if they strongly opposed our general believe system. I now think Marina was right. We descended to the beautiful village of Dorogawa. On the next day I walked up to the Temple and the peak, was welcomed warmly at the temple and had some nice chats with shugenja, descending to Dorogawa again in the evening. Marina spent the day examining beautiful house gardens, sampling the local cuisine and being the attraction of the only non Japanese female in the local onsen. On the next day we ascended on the other side of the prohibited area and continued our hike.