Nachisan

After another traditional Japanese breakfast we packed and checked out, leaving our cases to collect after we had the chance to view the Nachi-no-Otaki waterfall, Japan’s tallest, at closer range than yesterday. We walked downhill and reached the tori gate nestled between two rows of tall trees.

image

We made our way up the stone stairs and quickly came to the main viewing point. The water was tumbling down. We noticed with interest how it bounced off the rocky surface about half way down making lots of mini falls.

image

Before departing I asked Colin to take a shot of Karen and I together.

image

We noted there was still quite a bit of time until our bus to Katsuura so we decided to go up the stairs to the Nachisan shrine complex and look where we could have our Pilgrim passport stamped. As it was all upstairs that had the legs going and the lungs pumping! Anyway, when we reached the shrine area we had a good look around for the little house that we had become used to finding the stamper in but to no avail.

image

So I asked one of the young guys on the amulet stall. With a smile he pointed to a nearby table. There it was in a very open position if only you knew where to look. (On the right side of this photo) So we very happily stamped our Pilgrim passports and made our way back down the steps to collect our cases and wait for the bus to Katsuura.

 

Kumano Kodo – Day 5 – Koguchi to Nachi-san

Awoke to the calming sound of running water. Again breakfast was a lovely meal with such a large number in the dining area. It was good to sit at a regular table even if we were on a stool as the legs were a bit stiff from our walking. By 8:00 we were at the trailhead stamping our Pilgrim passports without having to walk anywhere!

image

The first section of 4.8kms would see us climb nearly 800m in elevation and was nicknamed ‘body breaking slope’. By the time we had completed it we had certainly given our lungs and legs a good test, that’s for sure! Not only was it sharply uphill but the rock steps had plenty of moss covering them and if you tried to walk on the edge of them the tree roots made it tricky too.


imageAt one point when we stopped to catch our breathe just about everything was moss covered.

image

Anyway upwards on onwards we walked.

image

At one point we had a bit of an obstacle to clamber around

image

But after about two hours we finally reached Echizen-toge pass. I used the timer on the camera to give us photographic proof.

image

The trail continued in an up and down fashion for nearly two kilometres.

image

Occasionally we heard and saw small streams.

image

Eventually we came to a place with a shrine, remains of an old tea house and a shelter with seats so we took a well earnt break and ate a snack. A couple of other Aussies came along and we chatted with them. They had an update that parts of the next section of the trail had been damaged by storms so we walked along an adjoining forestry road for about a kilometre instead. We could see evidence of the storm damage as we walked.

image

Back on the real trail we had an uphill section walking through water

image

but the bonus was we also saw some waterfalls.

image

We also had an amazing view across the mountains not long after. Just love the layers of mountains.

image

As we continued across a couple of saddles the wind started to bite. So we were pretty pleased to come to Funami-maya tea house remains. It was a it late but another shelter with seats had been constructed here. The view down to Katsuura and the Pacific Ocean was sadly a bit unclear due to the misty, cloudy day.

image

Due to the cold wind we put jumpers on before eating our final bento pack of the Kumano Kodo.

image

Once finished we moved on ever downward. The signs on this part of the trail were now on stone pillars.

image

My knees were not appreciating it but the end of the steps came soon enough, so said the sign. The pile of walking sticks added weight to this line of thought.

image

However there turned out to eat about another half hour of steps down to the shrine complex at Nachisan!

image

Once there we looked around at the shrine complex. A number of the buildings were bright orange whilst others were plain wood.

image

image

Sadly we couldn’t find where to stamp our Pilgrim passports so we headed down to the triple level pagoda with views to the famous Nachi-no-Otaki waterfall.

image

From there it wasn’t really clear which way to go to our accommodation but by continuing down the road we finally made it not long before dinner.

image

Dinner was another delicious Japanese meal.

image

The good news was we sat at normal height tables with Colin and a couple of young Dutch guys who had walked past us earlier in the day on one of the steep step climbs. The dining room was full with many of the others we had met along the trail or at the various accommodations. So I’m sure they all felt the same sense of fulfilment we did and I’m pretty sure their legs and bodies were as tired as ours!

image

If you are reading this and thinking of doing the Kumano Kodo, yes, we would recommend doing it. Just make sure your knees and hips can stand up to the downhill parts and I’m sure your lungs will handle the uphill bits. As an old hiker once said to Karen and I, “you can do it, just so long as you want to and can put one foot in front of the other.”

(Your comments and questions are most welcome.)

Kumano Kodo – Day 4 – Yunomine to Koguchi

Our day started with a lively breakfast at our minshuku in Yunomine. After breakfast we gave our hosts an Australian animal 2017 calendar to thank them. This of course led our hostess to reciprocate by giving us a Japanese bandana in return.

We met travelling companion Colin on the way to the bus stop. Lots of walkers and others clambered on. Along the way we passed two of the other onsen towns. At Ukegawa our driver was kind enough to go past the bus stop and drop all the walkers at the trailhead. (Later on we realised this meant we missed the place to stamp our Pilgrim passports.) Started with a walk past the houses of a few locals before a steep step climb then into the rhythm of a continued climb for quite a while. Some of the trail was quite smooth

imagebut other sections were quite uneven and rocky steps. Reached one of the passes at 329m after about 4kms so had a bit of a break.

image

The trail continued up and down but mostly up for some time. The sound of running water made it a peaceful walk. From time to time we crossed small wooden bridges and could see some of the small streams.

image

After another 1.4kms we came to a shrine area with an outstanding viewpoint so we stopped for a few photos. It was called Hyakken-gura lookout.

image

image

At about the halfway point the trail met a forestry road with public toilets so we took the chance while we had it. The view from nearby was quite good too so we sat down for a snack.

image

As we resumed we seemed to be walking along a ridge part and the trail was smooth and well treed. At one of the many tea house ruins there was a shelter with tables and seats so we stopped for lunch. In our lunch pack there was a large leaf enclosing four rice balls of various flavours and then a bamboo leaf bento box with an assortment of other items. Some really delicious but a few of the pickled vegetables didn’t appeal.

image

Not long after, a view down to where we presumed our destination Koguchi was, provided a photo opportunity.

image

The trail now went through an area with lots of ferns along its edges beneath the many tall cedar and cypress trees.

image

The village below came into view again as the trail descended.

image

Sometimes the trail was well stepped but other sections were large rocks covered in moss and very slippery. Just as well we had our poles for balance and support. From time to time we also passed stone pillars which had poems inscribed on them.

image

The uneven mossy rocks made the downhill going quite tricky. At times we used the edge of the trail and walked in dirt or mud to avoid the rocks. My right knee was giving me quite a bit of pain by now on the mostly downhill sections.

image

Finally we came to the river we had seen from high above. As we crossed it we spotted a few keen fishermen.

image

From there we actually went through a short tunnel in the hill.

image

On the other side our destination, the converted high school building at Koguchi, came into view.

 

imageSo down the road we walked. After checking into a very spacious room with a small adjoining sitting room with a view of the river

image

I asked the kitchen staff for some ice to put on my aching knee which they were able to give me. Sat down for a while icing my knee with a towel wrapped around it until water started to drip.

image

Karen had gone for a bath. On her return I also went and had a good soaping and brief shower before enjoying a massive bath all to myself. Very soothing. Dinner at six o’clock was a noisy affair as there were twenty walkers from Japan, Spain, USA as well as several other Aussies. Beautiful food as we have come to expect at dinner time in all the places we have stayed. The tempura was especially wonderful.

image

After sitting in the lounge area using the wifi for a while we headed to our room. Sleep on the thin futon mattress finally came.

If this, or any of my other posts about the Kumado Komo walk have interested you or helped you please let me know by making a Comment below or clicking on the Like button. Questions are also welcome. Happy hiking!

Our Kumano Kodo rest day at Yunomine and Hongu.

A chance to take a break from the Kumano Kodo trail at Yunomine Onsen was quite welcome. Our accommodation at Minshuku Yamane was a really peaceful place (as you can see form these photos of their garden)

image

image

image

and it looked like we had it to ourselves as the young German couple who we had dinner with the previous night had left to continue walking on the Kumano Kodo. Well that was what we thought until a bunch of cases and bags arrived with the luggage shuttle service just as we were heading out. Just around the corner on the main street we could see the Wordl Heritage onsen in a cabin over the stream that runs through the town. It can be booked for half an hour for two but didn’t really appeal to us.

image

Locals also used the hot water stream to place baskets of eggs and vegetables in to cook. (Our breakfast boiled egg being an example of the efficiency of this method.) Further down was the temple just at the entry to the public onsen.

image

In our minds bathing could wait until later. After finishing yesterday with a very demanding walk from Hongu we had decided to take the bus back to Hongu for another look. Coming on the bus gave us a whole new perspective on Hongu as we came from the opposite side. The massive tori gate still stood out.

image

You also approached the grand shrine by climbing the stairs.

image

I had taken the opportunity to write out a postcard which I purchased from the very helpful service officer at the Toursit Information Centre. It was going back to my parents via snail mail as at their age they are not email users. Near the grand shrine you could have the stamp postmarked with a special postmarked and send it from the special postbox.

image

We took a bus back to Yunomine and ate lunch at a small cafe near the public onsen. Even though it was quite busy we were quickly served by the lady who was running a one woman cafe. Quite impressive and the food we ate was delicious. Karen ate sushi and I had ramen noodles with beef and vegetables. Stopped on the way back for this photo in the main street of Yunomine Onsen.

image

Once back at our Minshuku we decided to use the onsen while it was quiet. This gave me the chance to take a couple of quick photos of the dressing room, the soaping up and preparation area and of course the onsen itself which was constantly fed by the natural spring stream running through the town. The water entered this bath at the top left and it was pretty hot but you can adjust to it after a few minutes.

image

image

image

Here I am looking the part after a relaxing bathing session.

image

Dinner time was a much noisier affair than the previous night. We had a couple from Melbourne, a group of six from Perth, and two women from Scotland, though one spoke with quite a Spanish accent! The food was delicious and here’s a photo of Karen just before the meal started. The conversation was lively and it made for a lovely relaxing end to our day off from walking.

image

 

Kumano Kodo -Day 2 – Nonaka to Hongu via Hosshinmon

Slept well for a while but by about five o’clock my left hip and right knee especially began to ache badly so didn’t need our alarms to wake up at 6:30. Breakfast was artistically presented. Rice with lots of small dishes. One even had ham and lettuce on it. Melon and a piece of orange were a refreshing finish. Packed and rested until our bus at 7:49. Due to our huge effort yesterday opted for a bus part of the way to Hosshinmon-Oji. After leaving the bus the first part of the trail was on the road. Soon after we turned onto a narrow country lane which took us through a number of small rural villages. After a while we came to a stamping point for our Pilgrim passports. As it was an area with seats we stopped to have morning tea and also take in an awesome view.

image

As we continued we passed a number of shrines

image

and even a pillar with many small rocks stacked up against it by previous pilgrims. Our mascot Kirby joined them.

image

About a kilometre past Fushiogani we came to a spot where a lady was selling vegetables. She told us that this was the turning off point for pilgrims going to Koyasan using the Kumano Kodo Kohechi trail.

image

From here the trail was reasonably smooth for a while.

image

At times we found it amazing to see how the trees could grow in such rocky places. Given they were up above us we were pleased they were well rooted.

image

Like the day before we came to a sign tempting us up to a viewpoint which again we did. The climb was well worth it. Later on we would see the tori gate in the distance for the massive structure it was.

image

We continued downwards for some time until we reached the tori gate on this side of the Kumano Hongu Taisha grand shrine complex.

image

A short walk through a small forest and we were there.

image

We had a good look around

image

image

ensuring we found the shrine with the pilgrim stamper.

image

Next we had a steep descent down stairs which in former times, and now too, many pilgrims and visitors use to come up to the shrine complex.

image

We sat and ate our lunch in the gardens before heading over to the adjoining Cultural and Visitor Information Centres. We had a good look at the static displays as well as a couple of informative videos before going out of the town through the huge tori gate we had seen from high above earlier in the day.

image

image

Our last few kilometres were extremely punishing. Firstly an ascent of just over a kilometre of very steep steps followed by an equally steep staired descent which my old hips and knees definitely didn’t appreciate!

image

Eventually we made it to the shrine at the entry to Yunomine,

image

our stopping point for the next two days. Thank goodness we had a rest day coming up to rest and soak our worn out joints in an onsen!

If this, or any of my other posts about the Kumado Komo walk have interested you or helped you please let me know by making a Comment below or clicking on the Like button. Questions are also welcome. Happy hiking!

Kumano Kodo – Day 1 – Takijiri to Nonaka

Awoke about six and finished packing. Ate western breakfast at 7:00. Checked out of Tanabe City Hotel and walked down to the station. Karen went with our walking companion Colin to pick up beautiful Bento lunch boxes while I took the cases to the bus stop. Caught 8:02 bus to Takijiri. Arrived about 8:45 and transferred our cases to the luggage transfer man’s van. Had a brief look in the Tourist Information Centre before crossing the road.

image

Had a photo at the Kumano Kodo marker rock then stamped our Pilgrim folder for the first time.

image

Started just after 9:00 on a very steep starred first section with two Swiss girls. It took us to the first of the many 500m markers but it went up 100m! After a brief respite it was up, up again for another kilometre. At that stage we took an option to go up to a viewpoint.

image

Quite steep stairs but the views were great.

image

Then back down a different way to rejoin the Kumano Kodo. There were lots of signs plus even some for Not the Kumano Kodo! Continued up and down until we came to Takahara. I was a bit behind and spotted the shrine.

image

Went in and signed the Visitors book and stamped my Pilgrim passport. Karen and Colin had walked further to some seats and a great viewpoint.

image

I told them it was a short walk back to stamp their Pilgrim passports too. Turns out later they found the little shrine house and used the correct stamp. I had used a different one. We all ate some of the sushi items and the prawns from our Bento boxes for morning tea as it was warming up.

image

The path as we left Takahara was really steep again!

image

Kept rising for the next 2kms but at least we could hear the peaceful sound of running water. Soon after there it was.

image

Eventually we reached Daimon-oji where we stamped our Pilgrim passports again.

image

After that more uphill but at Jujo-Oji saw no stamper for our Pilgrim passports. Kept going for another 3kms over reasonably flat and smooth surface so made good time. We stopped at the Three Fold Moon signboard for lunch from our Bento boxes.

image

Quite steady downhill after lunch, some alright but some very dodgy and slippery rock surface. As we approached the Osakamoto-Oji we heard water which became steadily louder. Eventually we came to a series of bridges that crossed the stream with its numerous small waterfalls.

image

Very peaceful but the wooden bridges were quite slippery and a bit dangerous we thought.

image

At Gyuba-dojo Guchi we took a snack and toilet break as the trail met the main road here. Made the decision to keep walking as if we stopped we had about an hour and forty minutes to wait for the bus. (My knees regretted this decision!) uphill to Gyuba-dojo statue for a stamp then a bit of a descent until we came out to Chikatsuyu township which seemed to be on a secondary road. Crossed the river on a bridge. Great photo spot.

image

Then the Kumano Kodo followed mostly sealed tertiary roads uphill, in one section steeply uphill to Hisohara -Oji where it levelled out.

imageOne of the gardens had quite a bit of novelty value so we let our trip mascot, Kirby the frog, rest there for a photo.

image

 

Our walk continued until we came to Tsugizakura for our last Pilgrim passport stamp of the day at the shrine (Oji) there. Here we left the official trail for a detour to our accommodation. We even saw one of the signs telling us it wasn’t the Kumano Kodo!

image

The next section took us steeply downhill past a spring for over thirty minutes to the rural village of Nonaka where we finally met the main road again.

image

All that climbing seemed such a waste when we had to descend so sharply to get to our accommodation at Minshuku Nonaka Sanso.

imageHowever on our arrival we were warmly met and made to feel welcome with a quick orientation of the property. After settling in went for a soap up, shower and bath. Next Colin and I had a beer with a young American/Japanese couple – Sara and Ian.

image

Karen joined us after her shower/bath. Another four young Americans were there too. Had dinner on two tables. Beautifully presented as you can see

imageand by far the most delicious food we have had in Japan. The plum pickled in beer being a highlight. (Bottom centre of this photo) After chatting for a while we retired quite willingly to bed (a thin futon with a layer of foam beneath) for an extremely well earned sleep. Had walked the best part of 22kms.

If this, or any of my other posts about the Kumado Komo walk have interested you or helped you please let me know by making a Comment below or clicking on the Like button. Questions are also welcome. Happy hiking!

Koyasan to Kii Tanabe

Rain! Every travelers least liked weather type. Perhaps it would be clear after breakfast. We joined about 18 other travelers in the breakfast room with the same priest as yesterday so some of the conversation was the same but some was new. This time he did explain all the foods on our breakfast tray which was good to know.

After packing we checked out. The temple staff leant us umbrellas to use as long as we gave them to the staff at the cable car. A good deal otherwise we had have been soaked on the way to the bus stop. Took the bus to the cable car. Purchased our ongoing tickets to Hashimoto and rushed to catch the cablecar. Only had a short wait and our train arrived. Managed to secure a seat. Here is a photo of the misty scenery near Hashimoto.

image

Here we left the Nankai railway system and purchased Japan Rail tickets to Wagamaya and then onto a Limited Express to Kii Tanabe. Have included a few photos of the countryside as we travelled. (Apologies for the window reflections in some of them but it gives you an idea of what we saw.)

image
Near Gobo

 

image
Near Gobo

We noticed these hothouses near Gobo. Clearly it is quite cold here in winter.

image

We noticed these railway workers at Gobo station. Just like everywhere else, seemingly just standing around rather than working.

image

 

image
Houses ear Minabe.

This was our first view of the coast near MInabe.

image

Another one of the coastline as the view changed.

image

We arrived at Kii Tanabe a bit ahead of schedule so we went into the Tourist Information Centre and the helpful lady gave us a map and directions to our hotel. We had an appointment with her later in the afternoon for a briefing about our walk on the Kumano Kodo. We took our cases up the hill to our hotel. Checked in and after that went out to the attached shopping centre where we purchased a few snacks. We walked back down to The Tourist Information Centre for our briefing from Fumiko, the very helpful tourism officer She was very detailed. She gave us a few options for dinner. After looking for one of them in a maze of small streets and alleys unsuccessfully we found another of her recommended restaurants, Ichyoshi. We ate with Colin for dinner. Karen ate egg and chicken rice. I ate udon noodles with chicken in a soup with a beer. An enjoyable night.

Koyasan

I must admit sleeping on a thin futon wasn’t easy but it seemed like no time after I rested my weary head on the Japanese pillow that it was time to wake up and attend the morning ceremony at 6:00. We sat on a stool in the outer section of the temple while the monks knelt in the inner section. Starting with a traditional Om the chants continued with intermittent gongs, drums, bells for quite some time. At one point the group of visitors was welcomed into the inner sanctum for a couple of rituals. After seeing the fire ceremony we returned to our seats until the reading and chanting was finished. One of the priests came and explained a few things to us before we returned to our rooms to prepare for breakfast. This was served in a common dining area. The meal was presented in a similar fashion to the previous evening in a number of small bowls on a tray with legs. While we ate the priest explained some more to us about the history of Buddhism in Koyasan and how he came to be in Koyasan after being born in the German speaking part of Switzerland. A few of the visitors asked questions which he answered in detail. After breakfast concluded we made our way out for the day. Green tea isn’t quite the same for Karen so she tried a dispensing machine tea in a can. To her surprise it still wasn’t what she was looking for. It was milky and tasted alright but was cold! Given it is still taking time to become used to some of foods also we headed to a small food store next and bought a few snacks to tide us over.

From there we walked to the eastern side of the town to Okunoin, an area of over 200000 graves and memorial pagodas, some belonging to feudal lords and others to everyday commoners. It is set in a beautiful, peaceful forest of cedars and other trees. The main path runs for about two kilometres from Ichinohashi Bridge

image

to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi Kukai, a great Buddist monk. Kobo Daishi Kukai was the founder of Koyasan in the late 800s. The belief that he did not pass away but lies in eternal meditation has brought pilgrims here for 12 centuries and resulted in Koyasan being World Heritage listed by UNESCO in 2004. Even though it was a Saturday and many people were on the paths leading to his mausoleum it was a pleasant place to walk as you can see from these photos.

image

image

Most of the gravestones are quite old

image

but some were quite recent.

image

Another thing we observed was that a number of the small statues had a red bib on them. This attracts Jizo to them and he is believed to watch over children in the afterlife as a surrogate parent.image

As we came to the mausoleum there was bridge.

image

After that photography isn’t permitted.

After looking around the mausoleum we retraced our step back over the entry bridge. Here we noticed black Buddhas. Visitors can ritually splash water over them to show respect to their deceased relatives.

image

Our return walk brought us past a number of temples and lodgings (Shukubo).

image

image

By now it was after 13:00 so we started to look for somewhere to eat. We settled on a small restaurant with a window display of the meals which helped us see what was available.

image

The English menus helped us to order. It was run entirely by two little old energetic women. The two were doing the cooking, waiting and serving, washing the dishes and taking payments. Amazing. After ordering our meals came quite quickly and were delicious. The presentation of the sushi was exquisite.

image

When we came to pay the lady who took our payment was clearly rushed and overpaid change to us by ¥1000! She was quite relieved when Karen pointed this out and returned the overpayment to her.

Next we walked to the western side of the town and visited another temple complex named Kongobuji. It is the administrative temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism.

image

We were especially taken with the 17th century building (above) used to store ancient manuscripts. Needless to say it was closed to travellers like us.

As we were just across the road from the Danjo Garan complex which we had enjoyed exploring the day before we went back to look around more. We were pleased we did as we came upon a lovely bridge, lake and shrine.

image

On our return trip we also visited a small but lovely garden just opposite the Visitor Information Centre.

image

Once back at our lodgings we rested and chatted with our room neighbour, Colin in the tranquil gardens of our temple lodgings.

image

Dinner was again beautifully presented as you can see. This time we were able to eat more of the foods. Perhaps we are becoming more used to the new flavours we are experiencing.

image

Tomorrow we travel to Kii-Tanabe by local bus and then train for the start of our trek the day after.

From KIX to Koyasan

The worst part of travelling for us is now the long flights from Melbourne. After so many trips the excitement of the flight to wherever we are going has worn off. So after leaving Melbourne at 9:30 (a delay of 45 minutes) a nine hour flight to Hong Kong and then another three and a half to Osaka’s Kansai airport meant we were over it. However we followed that up with an hour in a limousine bus to reach Osaka railway station. Finally we were able to stretch our legs as we walked for about ten minutes to our hotel in Umeda, the Sunroute Hotel. Tired as we were it was a pleasure to be welcomed by the friendly reception staff. After checking in formalities were over we made our way up to our room, 522. The room and bed were indeed small but the bathroom was good and the hot shower very welcome before we crashed into bed for a wonderful sleep.

An excellent breakfast buffet kicked off day two. After checking out we walked down to the station. A quick visit to the helpful information centre provided us with two handy maps and a few clues as to how to head off to Koyasan. Thank goodness the ticket machines had an English option. After making our way to the platform it took us a while to work out where to line up ready to board a train and which train was going to take us to Shin-Mamiya station. Once there we took some time to find the correct ticket window for the Nankai trains as distinct from the JR ones but managed it in the end. We must have just missed a train as it was about a 45 minute wait which did give time to read our trip notes. Our 12:17 train was quite busy. Karen managed to get a seat straight away but it took a few stops before another became available for me. At Hashimoto the people in our carriage started to all move so we took the hint, just as the train staff came aboard our carriage to emphasise the need to move to one of the front three carriages. We chatted with a family group of Aussies as we headed up and into the mountains through beautiful green forests.

image

At Gokurakubashi we exited the train and with about fifty others made our way onto the cable car carriage. It soon headed up the track to Koyasan station. There the very helpful staff gave us a map of Koyasan and showed us where to catch the bus down to the main town. You pay when you reach your stop. Ours was stop five just near our accommodation at the Muryoko Temple.

image

We decided to leave our cases there which was fine by the head monk. He even gave us an information leaflet in English to help guide ourselves around. We walked back to the start of the town.

imageLots of temple complexes, many offering accommodation, could be seen from the main road.

image

We stopped in a peaceful park and ate our lunch which we had fortuitously purchased back in Osaka. By then it was 15:00 so we walked back to our accommodation and checked in. A brief tour of the facilities preceded us being taken to our traditional room where we were served green tea as a welcome drink. After settling in we went back out to continue to explore the many sights of Koyasan. We passed one of the other temple complexes before coming to the World Heritage Danjo Garan area. We spent quite a while here looking around, reading the excellent information boards and taking lots of photos. Some of which I am including in this post.

image

image

A number of the buildings dated back to the 800s but some were recent 20th century reconstructions due to fires caused by lightning strikes over the years.

image

The main pagoda was a reconstruction dating back to 1937 and was the fifth built on the site since the late 800s.

image

After about an hour we headed up the road to the Daimon Gate at the western end of the town.

image

Even though it is reputed as a good spot for sunset photos sadly the clouds which had moved in made this a non event.

image

After walking back down to Muryoko Temple we met another Aussie, Colin. He is also here for two nights before going on the Kumano Kodo walk too. Our vegetarian Buddhist meal was beautifully presented but some of the pickled vegetables were not really to our liking. However there were enough things to fill us up. Another different experience, that’s for sure.

image

The young monk who had bought our dinner also came back and set up our futons and rice pillows and doonas for us in the inner part of our room.

image

Next we spent some time reading up more about what to see in Koyasan tomorrow before heading to the bathing area. Traditional Japanese bathing is somewhat different we had discovered from our reading and talking with friends who have been to Japan. For a start it is communal and males and females bath separately. After stripping off you take a preliminary soaping up and shower before you enter the bathing pool. Personally it was almost too hot but I did manage to soak until my fingers became wrinkly and perspiration poured down my forehead. I had the bath to myself for most of the time until one of the young monks came in. A bit strange bathing with someone you have never met! After drying off and changing into a yukata robe I returned to our room to find Karen already back. We typed and read for a while before retiring reasonably early as we will be attending the early morning meditation ritual at 6:00 tomorrow.

Jetting off to Japan

Just two days to go until we jet off to Japan. Can’t come quick enough now. We’ve spent the last few months reading, planning and booking the various parts of our first trip to Japan. Given we’ve been to nearly fifty countries it’s hard to believe we have never been before. Three of our sons have been twice. In fact our youngest son, Jay, is there right now. He received a uni exchange from the University of Melbourne to Sophia University in Tokyo for semester two complete with a scholarship to help pay for some of the exchange. So we figured it would be good to go to fulfil some of our Japan travel ambitions and see him a couple of times. At least for that part of the trip we will have a Japanese speaker with us. Our Japanese is pretty limited but we’ve been to quite a few countries where we knew very little of the language and managed. So where are we going you ask.

The first part of our trip (days 1-8) will be walking along the UNESCO World Heritage rated sacred Kumano Kodo trail on the Kii Peninsula south of Osaka. Starting with a monastery stay in Koyasan we will then walk from Kii-Tanabe in the west via Hongu to finish at Kii-Katuura in the east.nachi-no-otaki-waterfall

 

On completion of our walk we will train it back to Osaka before activating our JR Rail Pass and heading west to Hiroshima via Himeji and its famous castle. We plan to do a day trip to the famous tori gate at Miyajima from Hiroshima.

dscn0485

Next we will train it towards Tokyo with a couple of days in the Tsumago- Magome area. Following that we will spend a few days with Jay in Tokyo before taking a train to Fuijikawaguchi which is in the heart of the lakes area near Mt Fuij. Our aim is to do some walks in this area.

dscn0732

 

Next will be Takayama. Whilst there we will visit the Hida folk museum before heading to Kanazawa to visit the castle and Kenroku Garden. As our time comes to the last ten days we will split our time between Kyoto and Tokyo. In Kyoto we plan to visit the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-Ji Temple), Nijo Castle and the Imperial palace as well as visiting the bamboo forest at Arashiyama.

dscn0590

In Tokyo we will catch up with Jay for his birthday as well as doing a couple of days trips to nearby Yokohama and Nikko.

dscn0881

All up we are spending just over a month in Japan. I am hoping to upload some posts of our travels whilst in Japan so hoping wifi is good otherwise I’ll be doing some once we return home. I have read a number of posts about Japan on other travel blogs but if any readers have been to Japan we would appreciate any tips you have.