Bicycle Trip to a Beautiful Japanese Shrine called Yusuhara

When I woke up today it was overcast and I decided today was going to be a laid back time in the studio dabbling around with the paintbrush. 

When my wife left the house, however, she remarked that it appeared to be getting brighter. I went outside and saw that one half of the sky was cloudy and the other half a light blue. 50: 50 I thought and went back to the studio. I shouldn’t really call it a studio because it’s like calling a shoe box a drawer.

But as I dabbled away with my paintbrush at the kitchen table (aka my studio) it gradually became brighter and brighter until with sunlight pouring through the window I was forced to admit that it was actually going to be a nice day after all.

I was, though, still in the sway of deciding it was going to be a laid back day in the studio and this had created a peculiar gravitational pull that held me back from jumping up and going out. Not until 10.30 did I manage to get myself out of the house and onto my bicycle.

I decided to cycle to Yusuhara shrine. It has been quite a while since I did a long bicycle ride. Although not too far away it is on the top of a very high hill or should I say low mountain I’m not sure. I wonder at what height a hill becomes a mountain.

Anyway, I have cycled to this shrine several times and done it without stopping but this time because of age or being in a very laid back state I walked on occasion which was probably good for my heart.

I actually, though, did my first painting before I ascended the hill. I came across a captivating scene of an entrance to another shrine. The tricky part was the background; there were houses in the background that over complicated the scene so I decided to exclude them and to make it some simple greenery instead.

I was pretty red in the face when I got to the top of the hill and the entrance of Yusuhara shrine which was about 50 steep steps – how welcoming! But this was the scene for my second painting. I really liked the shadows across the ground and I think this part of the painting was the most successful. The steps I feel need to be much darker so in the near future I will redo this in the studio. (I never did!).

After this, I ascended to the shrine; in other words climbed an endless number of steps. It was tiring but I quite enjoyed it. 

The final painting was a small courtyard next to the shrine. I really like the space and in particular the corridor on the right which is a pillared walkway that gives a spectacular view of the forest. 

Painting this beautiful scene though was a nightmare as I was surrounded by a cluster of tiny flies that desperately wanted to kamikaze into my eyes or explore my nostrils. It doesn’t help that I have cavernous nostrils which absolutely amaze my wife who often wants to put things up them, such as a 500 yen Japanese coin – which is a very large coin. 

I’m just glad that I didn’t have a can of kerosene else, being quite a short-tempered person, I would have doused and set light to myself. 

Instead I resorted to squirting them with extreme malice with my water spray. I have to confess that all humanity had departed me and I was vigorously swearing, blowing like an angry bull through my nostrils to shoo them away and erratically waving my arms in front of me. I was perhaps quite a spectacle for the calm monk in the ticket booth. 

To add to the sport some mosquitoes also came which then made me start to jerk my head around every so often and add to my madman performance. The joys of outdoor painting!

I did though, in spite of Mother Nature, finish the painting and was even quite happy with it.

Then it was back home which was nice because half of the ride I didn’t even have to pedal but just kept breaking.

That night while I was sleeping I suddenly woke up with an urge to go to the toilet and as I was getting up my left calf muscle contracted into a solid ball of iron. It was excruciatingly painful and I had to rub frantically to relax it. It ached the rest of the next day.

If this was the result of the bike ride then I am glad that I walked on occasion and didn’t over strain myself.

That’s all.


I originally wrote this in May of 2014. I am editing it in April of 2021. I think I still have the final painting but the others I have thrown away. It was interesting for me to read this article again as I had forgotten nearly all of it except for the muscle spasm – that was excruciating. I’m not happy with my paintings here but I included them as I think the story is good and the paintings add to the story.

The cover image (the painting at the very top) was not painted on the day of this trip although it might have been painted in this year or sometime around this period. I’m showing it here though because it is a painting of Yusuhara shrine and I quite like it.

Gareth Naylor

I am an Englishman living and painting in Japan. I have now been here for over 17 years and have been painting for all that time. I love to travel around the Japanese countryside and find beautiful places to paint.

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