chapter  XIV
20 Pages

The Mountain Sects

Four-fifths of the total area of Japan is mountainous. The reflection of a mountain environment stands forth from her varied folklore and religion much as the images of her tall peaks glimmer from the depths of her many inland lakes. Yet the Japanese are not a race of mountaineers. In spite of all the difficulties of providing for the needs of a large and rapidly growing population, the mountains are comparatively unused in the economic life of the nation. The people, perpetuating perhaps old habits that were brought in long ago from other climes, love to cling to the coastal plains and the river valleys where the indispensable rice may be raised and where waters may be drawn on for fish. With all the teeming millions in the lowlands, it is possible to find even now isolated mountain regions where one may walk for days in solitudes unmarked by human habitation other than the occasional shelter of a charcoal burner or, here and there, at intervals, small and straggling clusters of the reed-thatched huts of peasants who eke out a precarious and unaccustomed living on the uplands.