A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Pepperismybaby

Shinjuku, Shibuya and Harajuku and some travel tips

Last day and a half in Tokyo

overcast 26 °C
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More children's delight - a massive range of sweets

More children's delight - a massive range of sweets

View from the government buildings in Shinjuku - all free

View from the government buildings in Shinjuku - all free

Child's delight - more Sylvanian families than I've ever seen. In Shinjuku department store

Child's delight - more Sylvanian families than I've ever seen. In Shinjuku department store

Backstreets between Shibuya and Harajuku. These were often very quiet once you got away from the train stations

Backstreets between Shibuya and Harajuku. These were often very quiet once you got away from the train stations

Govt towers in Shinjuku all lit up

Govt towers in Shinjuku all lit up

More quiet back streets

More quiet back streets

I thought this was purely aspirational.  I did not see a single horse the whole time I was in Japan. Still I suppose some people must go horseriding

I thought this was purely aspirational. I did not see a single horse the whole time I was in Japan. Still I suppose some people must go horseriding

An edgy exhibition in the Parco building in Shibuya. I have no idea what it means

An edgy exhibition in the Parco building in Shibuya. I have no idea what it means

Overground Park in Shibuya. I had no time to check it out.

Overground Park in Shibuya. I had no time to check it out.

No rest for this guy- still at work at 8pm on a Friday

No rest for this guy- still at work at 8pm on a Friday

I discovered after I needed it that there's a great underground walkway from Shinjuku Station, through the govt section, complete with travellators.  Instead I slogged through the 26 degree heat on the busy street.

I discovered after I needed it that there's a great underground walkway from Shinjuku Station, through the govt section, complete with travellators. Instead I slogged through the 26 degree heat on the busy street.

I came back to Tokyo, this time staying in Shinjuku which is one of those famously busy areas of Tokyo. Although my hotel was on the other side of the government buildings, across from Chuo Park.

The government sector was impressive - all sorts of tall buildings imaginatively titled Govt building no 1, no 2 etc. What did surprise me was the large number of homeless living under the underpass, right beneath the law makers. I was a bit apprehensive at walking through there after dark but they were a quiet, law abiding lot who stacked their cardboard boxes neatly in the morning. On the Saturday there seemed to he a distribution of food boxes and I was amazed as several men and women queued for this largesse.

The Knot Shinjuku Hotel was quite trendy - it seemed to attract a youngish crowd, both local and international, although there were people my age as well. I got talking at the bar to a young Japanese man (I thought he was American) and his girlfriend, who worked as asset managers for the owners of the hotel. They were working and living in the hotel.

I didn't have a lot of time but I managed to find some freebie attractions. There is an observatory on the 45th floor of one of the government buildings which you just walk into. Not as high as the Skytree but close. I also visited an interesting little museum (also up high on the 33rd floor. I'm not a big fan of high floors). This was about the Japanese experience in Manchuria and the Russian gulag at the end of the Second World War. They glossed over the reasons why Japan was in Manchuria and why the Chinese had no great love for them. It seems to be set up for schools so it's interesting to see what they're taught. The museum was quite hard to find and a young government employee took me to the right floor. I asked her why she was at work on a Saturday - she just laughed and said she was busy.

Saturday morning I headed to Shibuya and Harajuku for a whistle stop tour. I'd checked out about 6 department stores on Friday night but nothing really grabbed me. I liked Shibuya - it seemed quite edgy but I wondered who bought all this stuff. There were designer shops galore - Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Balenciaga, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Gucci - often with long queues outside but I noticed a lot of people looking and not many buying.

And that was the end of my trip.

Some suggestions for anyone travelling to Japan:

  • Pack light. You really don't want to be hauling massive suitcases through the large stations. There are thousands of people using them, the escalators are narrow and often there are stairs you have to carry bags up. Everywhere I stayed had a coin laundry- cheaper than NZ so you don't need to take a lot.
  • Go beyond the Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka triangle. There are some amazing lesser known parts of the country which are fantastic for cycling or walking. By the same token try to avoid travelling in a large group all the time. You will have very limited interaction with Japanese people if you do this.
  • Take a little washable rubbish bag (nylon would do) and a small hand towel. There are very few bins anywhere but the streets are amazingly clean. People carry their rubbish around with them. And the hand towel you need to dry your hands. Japanese toilets have all the bells and whistles but usually nothing to dry your hands on.
  • Use travel apps such as Google and Navitime. They work well together to plan your public transport.
  • Wear a mask on public transport or inside buildings. It's a small thing to do and I think Japanese people appreciate it. They have a large number of elderly people who are vulnerable to illness. It's consideration pure and simple- just think of it as behaving appropriately in someone else's house.
  • Take cash to change at the currency exchange because they dont take cards. Or use a Wise card at the 7-11 stores to withdraw cash. While you can use cards in some places, most people still seem to prefer cash. I found that hugely annoying but you just have to get used to it. They sell dozens of women's change purses for that purpose.
  • Fruit is surprisingly hard to find so when you see some grab it. And if you ask for a drink, specify that you want it hot, otherwise you will get a cold drink with lots of ice cubes.
  • Japan follows the American system in some things. So the 1st floor is what we call the ground floor and their dates are month/day/year.
  • Learn a few key words - sumimasen (excuse me), konnichiwa (hello), thank you (arrigato) and use a translation app. I found Google Translate good for simple stuff and their camera tool for translating food and the like was also good.

Do your research - Japanese websites provide a mountain of information. I often found it too much so it takes to digest.

Posted by Pepperismybaby 01:21 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Himeji

The castle and Mt Shosha

semi-overcast 23 °C
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The garden at Koko-en next to Himeji Castle

The garden at Koko-en next to Himeji Castle

The garden at Koko-en

The garden at Koko-en

I particularly liked this boddavista because of all the arms. It reminded me of Polanaki's film "Repulsion" where the girl sees all the arms coming out of the wall

I particularly liked this boddavista because of all the arms. It reminded me of Polanaki's film "Repulsion" where the girl sees all the arms coming out of the wall

The cable car. I noticed there were a group of houses at the bottom- you just hope the cablecar never fails and drops on top of them.

The cable car. I noticed there were a group of houses at the bottom- you just hope the cablecar never fails and drops on top of them.

Richmond Hotel Himeji - its a business hotel, well situated and good value.

Richmond Hotel Himeji - its a business hotel, well situated and good value.

Listening to the candidates at the train station. They were a very polite crowd - no heckling - but probably wouldn't be heard over the loudspeaker

Listening to the candidates at the train station. They were a very polite crowd - no heckling - but probably wouldn't be heard over the loudspeaker

One of the many staircases at Himeji Castle. You had to take your shoes off and climb these in socks so you needed to be careful.

One of the many staircases at Himeji Castle. You had to take your shoes off and climb these in socks so you needed to be careful.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

One of the rooms in the castle. They must have heen awfully dark and cold back then.

One of the rooms in the castle. They must have heen awfully dark and cold back then.

A very relaxed looking boddivasta

A very relaxed looking boddivasta

The West Wing of Himeji Castle

The West Wing of Himeji Castle

Stone throwing holes - this was one way to keep the enemy at bay

Stone throwing holes - this was one way to keep the enemy at bay

Another view a temple

Another view a temple

One of the Buddhist temples at Mt Shosha. They were all beautifully constructed out of wood

One of the Buddhist temples at Mt Shosha. They were all beautifully constructed out of wood

There were some truly scary figurines inside. Enough to give a child nightmares

There were some truly scary figurines inside. Enough to give a child nightmares

A mythical creature

A mythical creature

This was an odd one. I used the camera on Google Translate and found out these people were wanted for some fairly serious crimes. Murder, robbery, having explosive weapons. But why was it at Mt Shosha not somewhere like the middle of town?n?

This was an odd one. I used the camera on Google Translate and found out these people were wanted for some fairly serious crimes. Murder, robbery, having explosive weapons. But why was it at Mt Shosha not somewhere like the middle of town?n?

There were dozens of these figures about 5 metres apart all the way into the temple complex. I liked the wavy shape of this one.

There were dozens of these figures about 5 metres apart all the way into the temple complex. I liked the wavy shape of this one.

My hotel in Himeji. Its only classified as a 3 star but I think its nicer than that. I think some manager has decreed they have to play classical music in the foyer all day. The staff must love that.

My hotel in Himeji. Its only classified as a 3 star but I think its nicer than that. I think some manager has decreed they have to play classical music in the foyer all day. The staff must love that.

Entrance to the temples

Entrance to the temples

I left Kii-Katsuura on Wednesday morning for Himeji, further south. Breakfast was slightly better than dinner. Boiled egg, rice, miso soup with tofu, natto (salty and sticky soy beans), pickles (I thought they were pineapple pieces) 😔, yoghurt, green tea. And another bloody fish complete with eyes and tail. I didn't touch it. I only had one futon to sleep on and a German guy in the room next door snored all night so I was rather tired in the morning. I had ear plugs but...

Essentially the whole area from Osaka down to Himeji seemed one big conurbation. There were areas that looked a little more suburban with little plots of veges growing but it was built up the whole way - that's about a 90 km stretch. I've noticed the houses always seem quite closed off to the outside world. There's no indoor/outdoor flow that many other cultures enjoy, including my own. The balconies are small and are generally used for washing or storing air conditioners or satellite dishes. I have seen almost nobody sitting outside enjoying the sun and I couldn't find anywhere much to sit outside at the homestays. The curtains or blinds usually seem to be drawn in most homes - perhaps that's a privacy issue. The first thing I've done in nearly all the rooms I've stayed in, is to open the blinds and the window, where possible.

Wednesday was an admin afternoon. I got to Himeji mid arvo, had a shower, and washed my hair. Then did my washing downstairs in the laundry. I had to ask the young woman from reception to help me unlock the machine. The buttons were mostly in Japanese with some English but I'd missed the button to unlock the machine. I learnt I could sit in my room watching my laundrey's progress on the TV screen. Such fun. I did this while listening to a political candidate drive past delivering her campaign speech on a loudspeaker.

Another admin job. I had to pop down to the station to pick up my last reservation and buy a ticket to the airport on the Narita Express. The office was full so I took a number and sat down to wait. I was gratified to see that everyone else was Japanese so that it wasn't just foreigners like me who found the train system complex. I got served in about 20 minutes by a very competent young man who whizzed over the keys and handed me the tickets. What a never ending job for those poor guys.

I don't know what the local issues are but the candidates and their supporters have been out and about on the streets handng out leaflets and giving speeches. How it's done here is that the political hopefuls drive round the streets speaking over a loudspeaker and waving out of the car window. They all wear white gloves too, which I thought was curious. Perhaps it's to give the idea of service in the same way the bus and train drivers wear them. There was campaigning happening outside the train station last night and there was a good crowd, but I noticed no-one seemed to be asking any questions. I went to find a loo at the top of the station shopping centre and joined a queue of women for what I thought was the ladies. When I got to the head of the queue, the man directing operations looked at me strangely. I realised I'd joined the queue for what looked like a polling booth. The loo was next door. Oops.

Last night I was wondering if I would find enough to do in Himeji but I couldn't have been more wrong. I loved today. First thing I walked to Himeji Castle and was second in the queue behind an Italian couple. Once it opened, I headed straight to the top - it was up a hill then up about 7 flights of steep stairs. Any invading horde would have been exhausted before they could attack. The castle survived the bombing of WW2 but it was completely dismantled and restored from 1956-1964. They did a great job on the restoration. The wood and stonework is so impressive. Its known as The White Heron Castle - I've forgotten why now.

There are very pretty gardens attached to the Castle and a large West Wing where the women of the castle used to live. It was designed with right angles and hiding places for warriors to prevent surprise attacks. The garden was full of plants I recognised - wisteria, azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons. I think the climate must be very similar to home. One thing I did notice was the platoon of quite elderly gardeners working in the Castle grounds. At home landscape gardeners or council gardeners are mainly young and fit men and women.

One last fact about Himeji Castle - Tom Cruise filmed part of The Last Samurai here. He also filmed it in Taranaki - the mountain standing in for Mt Fuji.

I had a nice lunch in a little vegetarian restaurant run by an older couple, picked up some baked goods and then headed back to the hotel to sort my luggage. I've forwarded my bag to the last hotel in Shinkuku so I don't have to schlep it through a really busy station. I just have my backpack.

Once I'd sorted this I took a bus to Mt Shosha. I didnt know anything at all about this place but I came away feeling so pleased I'd gone there. It was really beautiful - peaceful and calm and quite spiritual. You took a cable car up there and then walked around a series of Buddhist temples amongst the trees. Its been a centre of Buddhist worship and learning for about 1000 years. Some of the trees themselves were very old - one cedar was huge and estimated to be about 800 years old. There were a number of people there but nothing like the busyness of Himeji Castle. I noticed several Japanese had brought books with them which they got stamped and then a monk added some calligraphy to them. It was fascinating to watch him do this.

Before we went into any of the shrines we had to take our shoes off. I've been into several temples and castles now where we've had to do this and I've noticed that virtually all the Japanese can take their shoes off and on standing up, while most non-Japanese have to sit down. The Japanese seem to have great balance. I must work on this.

On the way down the cablecar the woman conductor gave us a running commentary in such a sweet and gentle voice it could be used as one of those sleep inducing sound tracks. I don't know what it was about but I think it was marketing the attractions of Himeji as there was a very brief summary in English. From the bus I watched the secondary school kids still playing sport at 5pm. They start early too - I've seen them heading to school around 7.30.am. it's certainly very different from our school system.

I picked up a vege burger at the train station and a can of vodka and orange at the 7-11. I really like the way they have such a big stock of single cans. You don't have to buy a six-pack and it encourages sensible drinking instead of binging.

I wanted one last onsen. The hotel receptionist recommended one at a nearby hotel so I set off. It was great - there was a rather complicated system of two lockers but once I was in, it was fantastic. A great showering arrangement, several different pools of different temperatures, even a mist room and a sauna and plunge pool. I sat in the pool wondering if a system like this could work in NZ. I doubt it. It would be too big a cultural mindshift I think. Such a shame.

Posted by Pepperismybaby 13:13 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Kumano Kodo

Day 4 and 5

sunny 17 °C
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Day 4 was a much easier stretch after yesterday's long haul and all the ups and downs. It also seemed to be the most popular section of the walk and I met lots of internationals and Japanese walking it. My back was feeling a bit shot in the morning - I slept on four futons but the pillow felt fill of bean bag beans and I woke up with a sore back and ribs. I'm not sure how that worked.

I left the accommodation behind and waited at the bus stop with 3 Germans and their baby. At least the baby belonged to two of them - she was about 9 or 10 months old and very sweet. I congratulated their friend on travelling with a little one. He said 'it's ok, I'm a deep sleeper". Over breakfast we'd been talking about German parental leave and I told them how good it was. Twelve months at 60% your income for the previous 12 months and the right to stay home for 3 years. Certainly beats our conditions.

We got to the town of Ukegawa where the trailhead for Day 4 began. A Dutch couple and I stopped to look at a bantam and her chicks foraging by the roadside. The Dutch guy was worried they would wonder on to the road. "I said they'd only do it once". He looked at me in surprise " ah yes". The highlight of today's walk was a lookout where the highest point of the Kodo is. I'm not sure how that worked either because Day 5's walk was higher.

When I got to Koguchi, electioneering was in full swing. There were voices coming from loudspeakers extolling somebody's virtues. I mimed talking through a loudspeaker to an old man and he laughed. Someone told me prefectural elections were on and there were billboards with politicians smiling faces - very few women and a lot of men.

The young woman who owned the accommodation at Koguchi picked me up in her car. I had to ring from the phone box in the village - its been a long time since I used a phone box. I found her the most interesting of all the hosts because she was the youngest and a remote country area seemed an unlikely spot to live in. The house had been her grandmother's and her father had helped her renovate it. I was surprised that even though it was in the country, it had all the electronics you would expect in town. When we drove up there was a mini tanker by the neighbours house- very mini - and she said it was for toilet cleaning. I wrote "septic tank" in Google Translate and she said yes. So I was surprised to find one of the modern electric toilets inside the house. She set the bath running for me - she did this on her phone - and told me to listen out for the alarm in the kitchen. All very high tech.

I was curious about the neighbours and asked if they farmed. She said they used to but not any more. Its not economical so many have jobs in town. I went for a walk later and could see how small the landholdings were - about the size of a Kiwi section. Most of the neighbours were elderly - this seems to be the same for the countryside all over Japan. When I was waiting for the previous day, three old chaps on mobility scooters came trundling past me, nodded and then stopped to have a chat with each other.

Once I'd talked to my host a bit longer I realised she was older than I first thought. She'd lived in Osaka for 12 years and then travelled to Europe. The day I left was her day off, she said, and she was headed to her home town of Kii-Katsuura "to see friends and drink sake" I'm sure there's a story there.

The futon at Koguchi was great - supportive and very cosy.

Day 5 - I got a lift with my host to the trailhead at Ogumotori-goe. On the way we spotted a young woman with a backpack. We stopped and asked if she wanted a lift. Turned out she was a Kiwi - the first one I'd met since the flight from Auckland. She was very chatty but much younger and fitter than me. She took off and I didn't see her again till near the end of the walk.

They said today was long and demanding - I thought they were over egging it. But no - the first couple of hours was hard going - on and on, ever upwards. It took 2 hours to get to the first pass of 800 metres and another half an hour to reach the second pass. Still I was pleased to reach Nachisan in 6 hours - which included an hour of stops. The trail guide said it was 8 hours but the German trio and I agreed the times they quote are very slow.

Nachisan, the town at the end of the Kumano Kodo is very pretty, probably the most attractive on the trail, but I was a bit over it by then. An ice cream, a bottle of fizzy and the bus to my accommodation at Kii-Katsuura was all I wanted.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the accommodation. Tonight Im in a Japanese style boarding house. The reviews of this place have all been terrible and so I wasn't expecting much, but its been quite good. I was offered a shower and bath as soon as I arrived which was great. There are no showers in the morning though. Kii-Katsuura is a gritty little fishing town - not that prosperous looking. Every second shop is a fish shop. Bleugh.

Dinner was well-presented, just not what I wanted. I told the guy I didn't want fish. Guess what I got? Fish and more fish. He kept telling me what it was - stomach of tuna, some Japanese fish, some other part of a fish. The smell made me heave - even the miso smelt fishy. I didn't eat any of the fish - just the rice and vegetables. And I made the mistake of ordering plum wine - it came out in a mug and was horribly sweet. I didnt finish it.

The guy is nice though - I kept wearing the wrong sandals in the wrong place. He chased after me "Mari-san, Mari-san, outdoor slippers" and gave me indoor ones. I couldn't tell the difference myself. And then he saw the slippers on the tatami mat in my room (I am.in a 4.5 tatami mat room, about the size of a small bedroom). "No, no slippers go here" and he put them on the wooden floor by the door. On top of that there are the toilet slippers. I often forget to put them on and keep wearing the room slippers.

Now I just have to lay out my futon and hope I get a good night's sleep.

OMG this place is slipping in my estimation. There is no insulation at all and the guy next door snoring sounds like he's in my room. Plus I can hear all the noise from downstairs. 😔

Not forgetting toilet slippers

Not forgetting toilet slippers

The final leg of the Kumano - onwards and upwards

The final leg of the Kumano - onwards and upwards

Farmhouse at Koguchi

Farmhouse at Koguchi

This was in the old farmhouse at Koguchi. One thing I've noticed is that Japanese houses often have really large sinks

This was in the old farmhouse at Koguchi. One thing I've noticed is that Japanese houses often have really large sinks

My living room in the old farmhouse at Koguchi. The young woman was adamant that she only wanted one guest at a time

My living room in the old farmhouse at Koguchi. The young woman was adamant that she only wanted one guest at a time

I spotted these ferns today - I thought they were rather pretty

I spotted these ferns today - I thought they were rather pretty

The corridor in the old farmhouse at Koguchi. I loved the old wood alhough I wondered how warm it would be in the winter

The corridor in the old farmhouse at Koguchi. I loved the old wood alhough I wondered how warm it would be in the winter

I know how this guy felt "this route is very rough and difficult; it is impossible to describe how tough it is"

I know how this guy felt "this route is very rough and difficult; it is impossible to describe how tough it is"

The old farmhouse at Koguchi. I live how Japanese houses have outdoor slippers (like crocs) and indoor slippers.

The old farmhouse at Koguchi. I live how Japanese houses have outdoor slippers (like crocs) and indoor slippers.

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More forestry slash - I wouldn't want to be in the middle of this during an earthquake or flash flood

More forestry slash - I wouldn't want to be in the middle of this during an earthquake or flash flood

The waterfall at Nachi - it looked pretty but I was too tired to walk up to it

The waterfall at Nachi - it looked pretty but I was too tired to walk up to it

A temple at Nachisan

A temple at Nachisan

The three story pagoda at Nachisan. Looked pretty but again I was a bit tired to stop and look.

The three story pagoda at Nachisan. Looked pretty but again I was a bit tired to stop and look.

The unisex bathroom which is open to the corridor.  I'm going to try to use the basin opposite my room tomorrow

The unisex bathroom which is open to the corridor. I'm going to try to use the basin opposite my room tomorrow

View from the window in Kii-Katsuura. I don't think there's much money in this town

View from the window in Kii-Katsuura. I don't think there's much money in this town

The semi-public urinal. Not for the shy. There's a unisex women's and men's toilet area. Thank god I have a little single toilet across the hallway

The semi-public urinal. Not for the shy. There's a unisex women's and men's toilet area. Thank god I have a little single toilet across the hallway

Kii-Katsuura port - lots of fishing boats which explains all the fish shops

Kii-Katsuura port - lots of fishing boats which explains all the fish shops

Main street of Kii-Katsuura - spot the fish decorations

Main street of Kii-Katsuura - spot the fish decorations

The dreaded fish dinner - more bits of fish than I want to see for a long time

The dreaded fish dinner - more bits of fish than I want to see for a long time


These billboards were all over Koguchi township. Politicians looking to be elected - 15 men and only 2 women

These billboards were all over Koguchi township. Politicians looking to be elected - 15 men and only 2 women

Posted by Pepperismybaby 12:01 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Kumano Kodo

Day 3

sunny 22 °C

It was an absolute stunner of a day today - completely different to yesterday. After a stonking breakfast I left sharp at 8 to get on my way. Today was the longest day and I'd planned to get a bus at 12.20 to cut off the last 7 kms. The earnest and worthy Americans told me I should climb some hill to get a fantastic view of the Torii Shrine gate at Hongu. I figured I'd be be doing enough climbing without adding in more. And I did. I climbed over several passes and high ridges- up and then down again and then up.

Today, for the first time, I started encountering people. An Italian or German who I bumped into several times, groups of fit looking Japanese hikers, some families and a bewildered looking bus load of Dutch tourists. They strode off in one direction, then came striding back in the other. I think their leader needed to study his maps more.

I missed the first bus but had a relaxing bento lunch - more fish unfortunately and no muffins. I walked another couple of kms, got on the bus and confused the system by standing up and trying to work out my change. One guy asked me if something was wrong and I realised the bus driver couldn't move until I sat down. I'm used to drivers that take off before you reach your seat.

The Torii gate in Hongu was fine - it was large, it was there but what I really wanted was a beer. An Aussie couple were looking for the same thing. I found a little shop, bought a can, some chocolate and a moochi (sticky like Turkish delight, covered in icing sugar and filled with red bean paste). I confounded the poor old shopkeeper by giving her 5000 yen and taking all her change. Holding up the queue again.

I sat down to drink the beer at the bus station amongst some more earnest and worthy Americans. They were eating ice-cream and looking askance at my beer, so I wandered off and sat down on a bench next to a little Japanese family. We got talking through Google Translate and the young woman had a bit of English. She had a very cute little boy with a missing tooth who was 6. She found out where I was going and said "do you want to come in my car?" I don't think her mother was so keen - they had a bit of playful banter about "my car, no my car" but we set off. They set me down right outside my accommodation. Such a nice thing to do.

The accommodation tonight is great. It's right by the river but very peaceful. Its a Japanese style room with tatami mats but the house is bigger and I'm right at the end. Its definitely more soundproof. It has not just 2 but 3 onsen - one of them is a natural one outside under the bridge. Its got that nice sulphur smell. I've already had a dip. The code is that you turn over the block of wood at the top to red to indicate you're there. I explained this to the Aussie teenager who came traipsing down the stairs. I said it's a good thing I wasn't in the pool. He looked faintly appalled at the idea.

I had a second dip after dinner and have set up my futon bed myself. I put all the futons down - 4 of them, the sheet on top and then the duvet. They gave a quaint way of putting a fitted sheet around the duvet . It works quite well. I wonder why we don't do that? After a 5.30 wakeup I'm fading fast.

It was such a pretty today - warm and sunny

It was such a pretty today - warm and sunny

The lovely family who gave me a lift from Hongu to Yunomine. They had one of those dinky cars which are surprisingly roomy inside.

The lovely family who gave me a lift from Hongu to Yunomine. They had one of those dinky cars which are surprisingly roomy inside.

View I'd the ridges I climbed over

View I'd the ridges I climbed over

The natural onsen by the river, in a secret little spot under the bridge

The natural onsen by the river, in a secret little spot under the bridge

There were some really sheltered little farmlets with gardens. No kitty cats though.

There were some really sheltered little farmlets with gardens. No kitty cats though.

View from.my garden

View from.my garden

The enormous breakfast. Kept me going till about 12ish

The enormous breakfast. Kept me going till about 12ish

Fish on the river. They looked a lot like big goldfish to me.

Fish on the river. They looked a lot like big goldfish to me.

The Torii gate - the biggest one in Japan.

The Torii gate - the biggest one in Japan.

Posted by Pepperismybaby 10:28 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Kumano Kodo

Day 1 and 2

overcast 17 °C
View Japan 2023 on Pepperismybaby's travel map.

The dinner table tonight

The dinner table tonight

Entrance to the Kumano Kodo

Entrance to the Kumano Kodo

I was impressed with the engineering on the bus ride to the Kumano. Lots of fencing along the highway to stop slips

I was impressed with the engineering on the bus ride to the Kumano. Lots of fencing along the highway to stop slips

There is some of the original paving stones left. They're quite slippery in the wet. I don't know how the original pilgrims got on wearing Kimono and socks and sandals

There is some of the original paving stones left. They're quite slippery in the wet. I don't know how the original pilgrims got on wearing Kimono and socks and sandals

Typical path on the Kumano Kodo

Typical path on the Kumano Kodo

There are marker posts every 500 metres along the trail. Handy for figuring out where your accommodation is and you can hardly get lost.

There are marker posts every 500 metres along the trail. Handy for figuring out where your accommodation is and you can hardly get lost.

Takahara Village

Takahara Village

View over the valley

View over the valley

I think some of the "natural" features have had a little man-made intervention

I think some of the "natural" features have had a little man-made intervention

There are loads of these little history boards all along the trail

There are loads of these little history boards all along the trail

Mossy bank. I think this means they must get a fair bit of rain. The bears were somewhere in there.

Mossy bank. I think this means they must get a fair bit of rain. The bears were somewhere in there.

Minshuku Tsugizakura - the accommodation house

Minshuku Tsugizakura - the accommodation house

My lovely Japanese style room with heat pump and under mat electric blanket. My bedding is in the cupboard

My lovely Japanese style room with heat pump and under mat electric blanket. My bedding is in the cupboard

I was told the cedars were harvested after 40 years. Seeing all these logs I wondered if they have the same problems with slash that we do.

I was told the cedars were harvested after 40 years. Seeing all these logs I wondered if they have the same problems with slash that we do.

Day 1
I left Shirahama to go one step up the line to Tanabe. I was just about to head onto the platform when I noticed a small sign telling passengers they had to reserve a seat. Japan railways are very efficient but also incredibly pedantic - there was no real reason I needed to reserve a seat for one stop but I joined the queue and a helpful young employee took me through the screens to get my reservation.

At Tanabe I had to wait for the bus to Takajiri-oji and the start of the Kumano Kodo trail. At the bus stop I had one of those nice encounters you often get when you're travelling alone. An elderly woman started talking to me and we communicated through my map and Google Translate. It was hard going but we kept the convo going for some time. At the same time an American guy walked past and asked me in English if I needed any help. I recognised him and said "aren't you the guy that does the YouTube videos?" He said yep he was just the talking head for the information centre. The videos were actually quite helpful.

The landscape on the way to Takajiri reminded me of the West Coast of the South Island - except with thousands more people. The trees came right down to the road and I was interested to see how much reinforcing there was to keep slips at bay. The first part of the walk was straight up but only a short hop to my first stop at Takahara. I'm staying in a little guesthouse run by an older couple - its a bit like staying in your granny's house- lace doilies and covers on everything. Dinner was excellent, very filling and came with a glass of homemade plum wine. I'm the only person here tonight.

I had a shower earlier and it was interesting to see inside an ordinary persons bathroom- rather than a hotel one. I couldn't figure out where the drain was at first but found a cover and lifted it up. There was the usual little stool and bowl but I just stood up and showered and tried not to spray the water round too much. There were three covers on the bath and when I lifted them up I could see there was hot water in the bath. Its a good way to keep the water warm.

Like many older Japanese men the host's husband is still working - and he is 75. I read an article that says many older Japanese men continue to work because of the cost of living and that they live exceptionally long lives in retirement.

I took a quick walk around the village before tea and couldn't get over how quiet it was. There are 2000 people living here but it felt deserted. No lawn mowers, no dogs barking, no music playing, no sound of TVs, no motorbikes. It was deathly silent apart from 2 small boys playing with a ball. Even the garage I passed had music playing very very quietly. Which reminds me when I've seen tradies working here, they dont have the radio up loud. It's not on at all.

It's dark now and super quiet - the dinner is sending me to sleep.

Day 2
It rained all last night and kept on raining today - mostly a steady drizzle so not too bad. Breakfast was another excellent meal - omelette with tomato sauce, lettuce salad with tomato and dressing, slices of apple and banana (all on the same plate). A small bowl of yoghurt, a piece of toast, 2 small croissants with jam. Coffee and apple juice. Plus, my hostess gave me a bento box for lunch. She was slightly anxious because the next woman staying was vegan and gluten free. I think when youre staying in remote locations like this, you have to be a bit flexoble. The local shops don't stock much. I said I would eat fish which I don't normally do.

The lady at the accommodation (I never found out her name) dropped me off at the start of the trail this morning. I was admiring the cedar trees and she said they cause huge problems with hay fever in Japan. I wondered if they caused problems during landslips as there seemed to be lots of logs lying on the ground.

Today I saw one person on the trail - a man carrying a plastic umbrella. I think he was Japanese but when I said "konnichiwa" to him, he looked startled. I left umbrella man behind and basically saw no one else, apart from some motorists at a little roadside cafe. On top of the ridgeline the wind got up and it was quite cold, but once I dropped down it was quite calm again.

Today was up and down, mostly on tracks but also partly on the road and through a few wee settlements. There was no one out and about but a few locals in cars waved to me. The signs for bears were back and in the dark quiet segments in the trees, it was a bit freaky. I kept my eyes peeled for bears who might decide to crash out of the undergrowth.

I was given quite a good map of the trail showing the elevations and details of each section. However it doesn't show you the topography so I never know if my accommodation is on the valley floor or up in the hills. Yesterday I had to drop right down to the river, today I had to climb. Some of the little roads were so steep I wouldn't like to drive on them in winter. The woman I stayed with yesterday said they use snow tyres in winter for safe driving.

This accommodation is a step on last nights although oddly is cheaper. I was offered a lovely hot bath when I came in - which I needed since I'd got cold waiting outside. I was then offered a kimono and jacket and shown to a very warm room - heat pump on. There is even an under mat heater like an electric blanket. The bed was made up Japanese style with a futon on the floor. I'm curious how comfortable this will be tonight.

The one downside of traditional Japanese houses is that sound carries. There are people in the room next door and you can hear everything. Plus, the toilets are in a public area of the house. There's 7 people staying here tonight - me, 2 Americans who don't seem to understand me, and 4 Japanese. Dinner was beautifully presented - about 9 courses although there was a bit much fish for my liking. I was trying to be flexible and said I'd eat fish.

Posted by Pepperismybaby 11:13 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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