|Dates:||26 Mar 2017 - 21 Apr 2017|
|Duration:||3 weeks, 5 days|
April 2017 trip with Colorado Mountain Club to Kyoto Japan and hike of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage route.
A big thanks to all my fellow hikers -- it was great getting to know you and to share the Kumano Kodo experience with you! ❤️
Made it home without problems -- it was a little strange to arrive home before I left Japan! Wally met me at airport and after lunch and a shower I slept the afternoon away with the cat, who seems to have forgiven me for leaving her behind!
At gate waiting to board -- hope this plane flies ✈️
Bus to Narita Airport.
Heading home! Outside Toyko Station where I'm getting an express bus to the airport. They really have mass transit figured out in this country. It is very easy to get around even without speaking the language you can figure it out.
This is a Koban or a little police station where you can stop and ask for help if you are lost, etc. I never needed to use one but if you ever travel in Japan it is good to know they are readily available.
Top portion of the Sky Tower ... now the tallest radio tower. You can't tell from this picture but it is much much taller than the Toyko Tower. I want to say it's 133 meters but I'm not sure.
Selfie on top of bus -- it got quite chilly!
Their big Ferris wheel.
Fuji headquarters building.
While the subway was efficient-- I really wanted to see the streets of Tokyo so I found a hop on-hop off double decker bus and toured the city. I'll post some of my pictures but unfortunately my battery died half way through 😕
Just a few of the hundreds of carp flags hanging outside of Toyko Tower.
The Eiffel Tower of Tokyo -- pretty cool!
Pretty proud of myself ... I waited for rush hour to be over and took on the Tokyo subway system. Took three trains on 3 separate lines to get to the Tokyo Tower.
I had heard that on the top floors of some department stores they have traveling museum like exhibits and sure enough this one had costumes and props from Disney's Beauty and the Beast movie. Many people were having their photos taken with the items. There were guards protecting the displays.
Spent the day browsing the Ginza shopping district which is like 5th Ave in NYC with international stores like Tiffany's, etc. I skipped all the familiar names and checked out the Japanese stores. Most stores were at least 8-12 stories tall. This one was dedicated to "little notebooks" (one of my favorite things!) they had planners from around the world but I showed remarkable restraint and didn't even buy one!
Passed Mt Fuji!
Went over water.
Flew past fields and small towns.
Nice comfy seats, fast, smooth ride -- it's a wonderful way to travel!
Taking the bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo on my own today. Trains leave every 10 minutes. They pull into station, unload, load and are off in 5 minutes time--it is a marvel to see--you must be organized or you will miss your stop.
Our last group dinner before we part ways tomorrow--we opted for American food and found an excellent place for burgers, fries and beer. Everyone agreed the food was great 👍
Osaka River just after sunset. We're not on the Kumano Kodo anymore! Osaka has lots of neon, people -- sort of like Times Square in NYC!
After dropping backpack off at hotel I went wandering around Osaka checking out the stores, street vendors and sites before meeting rest of group at a burger joint for our final dinner. Check out who was watching the street from above 😄
One of the first buildings we saw as we exited the train station--it appears to be a climbing wall that "climbs the building" pretty wild!
Mike leaving us in Tanabe, his home town.
Torri Gate by the sea.
Ocean out the other side of the train.
Rice fields out of train window.
Waiting at train station for a 4 hour train ride along coast to Osaka. One more night together before we all go our separate ways.
Had our farewell dinner with our guide Mike!
Every town we've been in has had at least one orange shop where they sell multiple types of oranges.
After leaving the shrine we took the bus to this blue fin tuna fishing port town on the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately the bus was pretty empty because we were all soaking wet and would have really annoyed any one forced to stand or sit next to us. We had to wait until our accommodation was ready for us so we had lunch in town and wandered around the shops. Here are some fishing boats at the port.
Where we are spending the night.
It's kind of hard to believe but back in the day this is what ladies wore to walk the Kumano Kodo. You can rent these costumes today to try it -- I found it difficult in pants and hiking boots this long dress, hat and wooden flip flops would have killed me those ladies were tough!
Gate at final major shrine -- it was raining so hard I didn't take many photos because I was afraid of ruining my phone.
Here are some sample pages from my book.
One of the things you do at Shrines is gave calligraphers write a blessing for you in a sketch book. The seated gentleman is who inscribed my book.
I spoke a little too soon about walking in the rain... we did end up walking in a downpour to tour the shine and walk one last mile over an oft photographed trail to officially finish the trail. It was a good thing we saw the pagoda and waterfall yesterday because today the cloud cover was so think you couldn't even see the 3 story orange building unless you were standing directly in front of it.
Got back to hotel just before it started to down pour! Am so thankful we are not walking the Kumano Kodo today it was very difficult on a sunny day -- it would be deadly today. Plan for today is to tour shrine and then bus into next town where we will get train back to Osaka.
Ancient gong in Buddhist temple where we went to 5:00 am service this morning -- it's amazing how similar their service is to the Benedictine Monks. More commonalities than differences.
We got here after the shrine had closed for the day but here is a picture of the falls and the Shinto pagoda. Tomorrow we'll be going back to really check this out.
The whole crew as we came off the mountain and had some champagne!
Here we are at the bottom of the stairs about to enter our last major shrine of the Kumano Kodo. Our amazing guide, Mike Rhodes, surprised us with champagne that he had carried the whole way!
The view from a top the third pass--that's the Pacific Ocean and the town we will be in tomorrow.
This tower is significant because our guide pointed it out to us yesterday when we were atop another mountain across the valley and it looked impossibly far away and today we were underneath it! This was a top the second pass.
Our guide's hat at a break. Many people covet this hat because it was made by an older artisan who makes very few of them today -- it is really a piece of art.
Violets -- my favorite flower -- were sporadically along the path -- usually very small.
Today was an amazing day -- didn't take many pictures because there was no way to really capture the scope of what we did today. We started the day by walking 5 miles straight up hill -- about 105 floors with almost no flat areas. It was incredible because every time you turned a corner there was another set of stairs as far as the eye could see. I didn't think we'd ever get to the top -- felt like a real pilgrimage and that we were on a stairway to heaven. And that was just the first pass of the day!
This picture is of a gizo who protects travelers. He took care of us today 🙂
Happy Easter! Some lilies at our inn this morning!
Our robes, jackets and towels for the evening.
Our room tonight.
The inn where we are staying tonight. It was an old elementary school.
Bento Box at lunch -- wrapped in Bamboo it had over 12 different items.
View of the Kumano Peaks.
Another vantage point.
View from top of the first pass of the day.
A warning sign for pit vipers on the trail. We've seen a couple on the trails but none today!
Wild irises along the trail.
Took a very crowded bus from hotel to trail head today.
This tea is pretty good -- it is sweeten and I usually don't add sugar but it is close enough 🙂
If you know me, you know I like my black tea with milk... well this country drinks green tea which is not my favorite. Well who would have guessed that Coca-Cola would come to the rescue! They have vending machines that dispense hot and cold beverages. If the price label is red the drink is hot, if blue it's cold.
Here's the view from the top -- that's the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
After lunch we climbed these steps to the site of the original shrine,
We had a great lunch-- here is our genius chef who walked the Camino de Santiago in 2011.
For lunch half of us went to eat at an Italian restaurant with this Camino sign in the window.
The actual Nagi-no-Ki tree. It is over 800 years old and it's leaves are a symbol of the Kumano.
In front of the Torri Gate at Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine.
For a bit along the river they turned off the motor and the captain paddled while the guide played the flute to give us an idea how things were before outboard motors -- it was just lovely.
We stopped and got off the boat at one point to rub some rocks which are supposed to give you longevity!
What a fully loaded body look like -- we traveled down river in two boats.
Here is me and my roomie, Stacey, on the boat.
Rather than hike to our next major shrine today we are taking a boat down the river like the Emperors of old used to do -- here's the boat.
More carp flags hanging across the river for the upcoming Boys Day on May 5th. No signs of any Easter celebrations.
UNESCO World Heritage Hot Spring. It has been in use for over 1800 years! There are legends about its restorative and healing powers.
Waiting at bus stop for bus to boat tour.
Today was Kris's birthday so she got a birthday cake 🎂at dinner!
Room made up for bed.
Here is what our room looks like during the day. When we're at dinner the staff will come in, move the table and set up our futons.
Then back to the hotel for lunch and coffee. This is onsein or hot springs coffee. Most of the others are going to climb over the mountain with the little boys and their fathers but my legs are still tired from yesterday so I'm planning on soaking in the hot springs instead 😄
After visiting the Shrine we went to the information center where we were able to apply for our dual pilgrim status. Here I am with my certificate and pin!
My Kumano Kodo and Camino credentials.
Two of the Shrines.
Flowers in the doorway-- possibly there for the festival...
When we got to the top we were lucky enough to see the start of the boys ceremony--I was able to get some great photos of these adorable 2 year old boys and their fathers in ceremonial garb and a video of their procession but I can't post them for their privacy. Was special to be able to witness it.
The steps up to the shrine -- there is over 200 of them!
Another view of the Otorri Gate.
This is the Otorri Gate. It is 33.9 meters tall and 42 meters wide. It is the largest in the world. It marks the entrance to the location of the original shrine Oyunohara.
We took the bus back down to the Kumano Hongu Taisha grand shrine this morning. As we were walking to the entrance I passed this flowering bush.
The hotel dogs at the front entrance-- front left to right there is Mago, Kasiko, Komaro Yasa (mother) and Kashiko.
Experienced my first earthquake that I remember last night. Evidently a 3.7 around 2:00 am. Building shook but nothing was damaged. Fell right back to sleep.
Tonight we are staying in a traditional onsen or hot spring spa. We're going to be here for 3 nights. I was so tired when I got here today I didn't take any photos. Can tell you the hot springs we're great! Just what we needed after today's hike.
For Matt: here is a Japanese fire station-- I should be able to get better photos tomorrow but the fire trucks are the size they of large minivans. I'm sure because many streets here are only single lanes.
If you look carefully at the clearing in this picture you will see a Torri gate. This is the largest on in the world and it marks the original location of the shrine. I will have close up pictures tomorrow when we go back to the shrine.
We walked through a few small villages today. The bushes in this picture are tea bushes. They carefully groom them to maximize the number of leaves.
We stopped for lunch by the river, under the cherry trees and ate our rices balls and banana lunch.
The pictures don't do the hike justice. The landscape is stunning. Beautiful tall trees, many many waterfalls. Imagine walking through a forest with the sound of rushing water, monkeys talking, frogs chirping, crows cawing it was magical.
The good news is that we had a sunny day and got to collect many stamps for our Kumano Kodo credential but it was not any easy hike. We climbed over 3 mountain passes. My iHealth app on my phone says I climbed 133 flights of stairs. I'm not sure how many steps they consider a flight but if you figure a round number like 20 that means I walked up 2,660 steps. I also had to go down at least that many as well! We walked 13.2 miles and has 13,500 steps.
To document you were there you find one of these stands that houses a stamp and an ink pad. I'll take a picture of my Kymano Kudo credential tomorrow so you can see what they look like.
Along the way we passed different minor Shrines. Here is the water purification dragon and ladles at one of them.
Today we hiked to our first of three Grand Shrines, the Kumano Hongo Takisha. This hike is enough to qualify those of us who have done the Camino to receive our dual pilgrim certification.
The outside our b&b.
One of the dishes at dinner tonight -- you get about 10 different things to eat at dinner. This was Japanese "fish and chips" literally. I was very proud of myself for eating it because seeing a similar photo before signing up for the trip gave me pause because I couldn't imagine how you'd eat a whole fish. Turn out you just eat it -- skin, bones and all! Full confession I didn't eat the head or tail.
All clean after our amazing Japanese bath. It's quite different you bathe together (women only/men only). First you shower and then you get to soak in an incredible hot soaking tub (think hot tub without the jets). Super relaxing after a long day of hiking.
This photo was taken as we were having beer or sake waiting for dinner to start.
Here's our traditional Japanese room with Tatami mats and futons you need to set out.
Here is where we staying tonight-- right by the river.
One tree was big enough that Stacey, Richard and Mary could crawl inside the tree.
One of the trees was so big it took 6 plus adults to circle tree.
Shinto shrine with Torii gates and enormous Spruce trees.
Here's where we stopped for lunch. We were able to eat out boxed lunches inside if we ordered a drink or bought a snack-- it was great to get out of the rain! I don't have many scenic pictures because of the wind and rain today.
That's me with the orange rain cover. Today's hike was challenging at times lots of rain and wind. The gusty wind evidently made the news as being stronger than usual. The whole group did great. The wind knocked down lots of branches so we had to watch our feet and be very alert along the way so we didn't slip.
Us starting out this morning. The rain was coming down hard.
Getting ready to leave this morning. The inn was incredible!
Our plan for tomorrow meeting... going much further tomorrow-- over 12 km versus 3.7 today. It is forecast to rain all day tomorrow too.
Our dinner! I'm amazed at myself -- eating and enjoying this food -- who'd have guessed it tastes so good.
Enjoying a glass of sweet plum wine after taking the hot bath in my yukota ( robe supplied by the inn)
The view from my room.
A cherry blossom near our inn.
The fish windsocks ate for Boys Day which is in early May. This was at a park right near our inn.
Our final shrine of the day. Had the ancient camphor tree and is one on the oldest original structures on the Kumano ( many have been rebuilt because of fire).
Today we only went 3.7 km but it was all uphill much of it very steep and in the rain. We all did great!
One of the Kumano Kodo trail signs. The sign on the post says be careful with fire. The first symbol is for fire.
Me ready to hike!
Lunch! Not a turkey sandwich 😉
The visitor center at our starting point. Stopped here to eat our Bento lunches and get dressed for the rain.
We're off to begin the Kumano Kodo. Taking a 40 minute bus ride to our starting point.
The train station with bus station next door.
Route 66 signs -- they're world wide! I asked our guide, Mike, about it and he said the Japanese like the idea of the "open road" which isn't really possible here.
Went to the post office to ship a package home. Note the carousel of eyeglasses-- I've noticed these at places where you need to fill out forms.
Waiting for dinner to arrive.
After leaving the store the shop girls came outside and asked if they could have their picture taken with one of the men. When we got back on the bus the all lined up and bowed and waved to us as we drove away!
We then went to tour the ume factory which is the major employer in the area. They make the pickled fruit which is typically eaten with rice and/or made into liquor. We went to their factory outlet and a few of us bought some of the liquor. It was impressive to watch the staff quickly wrap up the purchases. Unlike anything in the states.
We had a buffet lunch at the school. The restaurant there featured local produce. We got to eat local oranges and have ume (pickled apricots) with our rice. We again ate traditional Japanese style on low tables sitting on tatami floors.
We toured the school and learned about the local citrus industry-- they grow around 30 different kinds or oranges here. The juice we sampled was delicious.
First step -- off with our shoes. Slip on shoes versus hiking boots are recommended when visiting Japan because you take your shoes off a lot!
We went to tour a local information center for the orange industry in the area that is housed in an old elementary school building.
Beautiful orchid found at our first stop.
Taking bus to tour umami factory. Note the bus driver's cap and gloves. Taxi drivers also wear these. Many professions wear uniforms. The school children wear them and business professionals when uniform suits.
The streets have this yellow bar embedded in the sidewalk which is for the visually impaired -- they can use it as a guide for their canes. The crosswalks also make 2 different bird songs which let them know what direction the light is green.
The sun is coming out so hopefully no tsunami today.
Walked down to the beach/park. Kids were out playing basketball and skate boarding
Just an observation... in the USA the Prius is a smaller almost compact car. Here it is a full size car. Look closely at this photo and you'll see a "minivan" parked behind the Prius and it is shorter in length.
Stopped in a bakery and got a jelly doughnut. The breads and pastries here are moist and delicious. The jelly was a fruit flavored bean paste.
Japan reportedly has more vending machines than any other country because there is no vandalism. You'll see them every couple of blocks.
Had a free morning. Took a photo of the map of the town before I went off exploring on my own.
Me at dinner. I'm sitting on floor. Stacey, who took photo, was standing next to me.
The group went to dinner at a traditional Japanese tavern. Food was excellent although I'd be hard pressed to tell you what I ate... fish, chicken, rice, mushrooms and other things... Lots of laughter and fidgeting as we all did our best sitting on the floor for a couple of hours.
On our way to dinner we stopped by a shop to sample some ume liquor which was excellent! Tomorrow we'll go see where it is made.
This is for Matt-this is what the manhole covers look like. Must be the marker for their "water hydrants."
Here is one of the original ancient markets for the Kumano Kodo -- it says turn left here for the Kumano Kodo.
A little bar in the entertainment district. If you want a western burger in Tanabe this is where you want to go -- we didn't try it.
After the ceremony we walked around town. Here is Chris in a confectioners shop that has been in business over 100 years. We sampled their cake which was delicious 😋
Here's my amulet.
With the sound of rain drops, a thundering drum, and bells on branches the ceremony was very sensory. We each received a special amulet to keep us safe on the Kumano Kudo.
We were incredibly lucky to have a special blessing ceremony for just our group.
Went to the Tanabe shrine which was granted inclusion in the UNESCO World heritage sites in 2016.
This is a camphor tree that is thousands of years old. Having such a tree on the grounds of the shine is evidently common.
The bathroom. Reminds me of a cruise ship bathroom. Room and bath in Kyoto were similar.
My room for two nights before we start hiking. Wonderful to have a single! Not that sharing hasn't been fun but we all like our privacy.
At the Kumano Kodo information center. Mike is in the bright green coat.
Downtown Tanabe in the rain. We just got off the train and were met by our guide Mike. He says starting the Kumano Kudo in the rain means your pilgrimage will be purifying...
Kyoto Tower at night. This is near Kyoto Station where I went to dinner. Since it was raining I had Italian 😉
Another photo of temple in the rain.
Zen Buddhist Temple and gardens,Tofuki-Ji, in Kyoto.
"Food court" outside shrine.
Charms sold at the shrine for "a little luck"
Me at the gates.
The Torii gates at the Mt Inari Shrine. Torii gates are used to mark the transition from the ordinary world to the sacred most commonly at Shinto Shrines. You're supposed to bow before you go thru one and again upon leaving. You are also supposed to purify yourself by washing your hands and mouth before approaching to pray.
At this shrine there are thousands of gates which businesses have purchased to reflect gratitude for success in business.
Here's a map showing the layout -- there are literally thousands of gates heading up the mountain.
We took a couple of trains to the Famous Torii gate shrine, Fushimi Inari Shrine which is guarded by foxes.
The fox in Japan represents fertility, rice, tea, sake, agriculture and industry.
After the bamboo forest Chris and I decided to head out on our own to visit the shrines that everyone else saw on the first day when we were stuck trying to get here.
A rickshaw driver trying to convince a young couple in traditional dress to hire him. It seems like couples rent costumes as a date or photo activity.
Piles of prayers at a shrine in the bamboo forest.
We walked through a bamboo forest with many other people some of whom were riding in rickshaws. The guys pulling them were amazing. They could really run if they had the space.
My roomie, Stacy, rented a bike and met us st the train station.
Cherry blossoms are everywhere even on the roof of the train.
A pachinko parlor -- super noisy but now all electronic no more steel bearing balls.
Ice cream in the rain. I was boring and had vanilla. Next time I'm going to try the black sesame.
Cultural differences--controls for the toilet. I pressed the sound button which makes a waterfall sound.
The whole gang at Konkani Jo Temple.
Proof that I was there!
The Golden Pavilion -- just beautiful -- drizzle with rain drops hanging on the branches added to the sense of peacefulness and beauty.
My battery died so no more photos on phone. We went to an incredible performance by the Kyoto Geishas -- easy to see why they are a national treasure. Amazing costumes, music and dancing. No photos were allowed--this is an image from a poster.
A sign in front of another temple complex with a list of don't dos. Was surprised you can't sketch. Also notice the no drones...
Bunnies are a popular motif -- symbolize spring and many other things. Have seen a few shops dedicated to all things bunny 🐰
Signage along the way.
Unknown but beautiful flower along the path.
Many of us are quite a bit taller than some of the locals 😊
Funny photo: "one with the tree"
Quotation on wall of beautiful Zen temple. This is the first of many I will be touring. First impressions were it was calming and beautiful in every direction you looked and smelled incredible--a lovely blend of sandlewood and cypress.
Zen Temple along the Philosopher's Path.
Cherry blossoms for as far as you can see -- just beautiful!
Here's the whole crew right before we started our walk along the Philosopher's Path in Kyoto. Forecast is for rain but so far we've got just cloudy skies.
Festival Lanterns -- or a Japanese donor wall -- lanterns represent businesses/people who help sponsor the event.
Large cherry tree lite up in the park.
Japanese picnic tables.
My dinner. It was very tasty.
Yasaka Jinja Shrine in Kyoto where the crowds were out in force for the cherry blossoms.
Street food vendors by the shrine. We had a picnic under the cherry trees.
One of the more lovely tea houses. Check out the orchid -- it was real!
Instructional sign for how to behave if you see a geisha. We saw a few but they were like ninjas - walked quickly and disappeared fast into the tea houses. Never managed to get a photo.
A geisha house. The lantern and cherry blossom branch indicate the geisha either live or work there.
Made it to hotel just as group was getting ready to leave -- dumped my pack and joined them for a tour of Gion district last night. The cherry 🍒 blossoms were out in force.
Made it! Found this Pokémon just outside of customs 😀
On third Dreamliner, this time in an economy plus window seat, praying this plane works. So far has a more bustling energetic feel to the boarding process. I really want to catch up with group tonight and not miss any more of tour of Kyoto.
Hoping this plane has what it takes to get to Japan -- fingers crossed 🙏
Easy ride and security at San Francisco International airport this morning--hopefully an auspicious start for today's travel!
Made to San Francisco and am staying in a perfectly nice Comfort Inn complements of United Airlines. Have 11:05 am flight tomorrow to Osaka. The bad news is that it is another Dreamliner plane and I'm hoping the third one is the charm and it will work.
Yay! I'm now on a plane to SanFrancisco with a flight tomorrow to Japan at 11:00 am -- may make it there in time for night group activities. United rescheduled our flight for 3:00 pm tomorrow but didn't want to chance it again. Also discovered when trying to rebook ticket to Osaka versus Toyko that Air Nippon had cancelled my entire trip because I was a no show for my connecting flight yesterday. I just had to purchase an entire new round trip flight! I can look forward to trying to get a refund when I return home.
STILL in Denver! Second plane is officially out of commission they are looking for another plane. Hoping to leave today because storm is expected in Denver tomorrow-- at this rate will likely miss first day of tour.
On plane again -- changed seat to aisle and there is good chance will have an open middle seat 🙂We're on a different plane so hopefully this one works.
At gate -- ready to try again! The plane is at gate and someone is in the cockpit so hopefully all is well. Thanks to Holly and Kona for getting up and driving me to airport in rush hour traffic ❤ P.S. I'm wearing the same clothes as yesterday but they've been washed 😉
If you can't fly to Japan having a Freddy's sundae with my wonderful daughter is the next best thing!
Will try again tomorrow to get to Kyoto. Nice to sleep in my own bed again but have lost my planned recovery day in Japan.
So after sitting on the plane all afternoon (5hrs) and never leaving the gate they cancelled the flight. Chris and I decided to have a pint while we waited for our rides to come back to the airport to get us.
Re boarding. Have missed connecting flight so will now take train to Kyoto with Chris.
3 hours later I'm still in Denver! They kicked us off plane to fix something electrical so I went to get a coffee.
Found Chris waiting to board plane! We're off!
Airplane--not very big but it can go a long way fast 😁unfortunately I wasn't able to upgrade to stretch seating so I'm got a middle seat in the back but at least I'm on the plane ✈️
At DIA ready to go!
One week and counting! Bag is packed almost ready to go... just have one more week of work and a bunch of projects to finish up 🤗 I updated my website http://www.agoodquest.com and added info about the Kumano Kodo trip. Check it out!
|Dates:||26 Mar 2017 - 21 Apr 2017|
|Duration:||3 weeks, 5 days|
April 2017 trip with Colorado Mountain Club to Kyoto Japan and hike of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage route.