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Start of the Imperial Pilgrimage Nakaheji Route

Western-style breakfast at a ryokan

At Yunomine  Look where we've been ..

Cypress wood hot tub on your verandah

 Great nosh

Ryokan garden at night

Springtime in the Heart of Japan

April 2005

Well, we had cherry blossom in spades. And experiences vivid enough to produce haiku of outstanding quality:

The toilet hot seat
Unaccustomed luxury
I think I'll steal it
                   Dermot Nelis

A haiku commenting on a common social problem? Not at all. This is a poem written by a talented individual moved to compose a line or two during or after a visit to a one of the very widely installed Japanese toilets with a heated seat and a control panel to set the type and temperature of spray you require. It captures the humour, and the nature of the insights, brought to this tour by the Irish and Scottish members who made up the group. More haiku written during this tour can be found by clicking here .


As on all the tours, we were treated to delicious Japanese food. Occasionally, however, I request a more familiar breakfast, since Japanese ryokan breakfasts on top of Japanese dinners can get a bit much. We were treated to a sensational ‘full western breakfast' on the day we started our hike along the Nakaheji. It was great to see a traditional ryokan responding so warmly to a request for a breakfast with brilliantly prepared fresh fruit, cereal, eggs, toast, yoghurt, juice, coffee, and tea. There was twice as much we could eat. The table was groaning with delicious things.


As usual, the stamps collected at each of the wayside shrines and resting places (oji) were a hit. Perfect stamps in our booklets became a prime objective, and curiously motivating. At least the members now have proof, in addition to photos (and possibly a loo seat?), of having walked part of a mountain route which has been used over the centuries to connect Kyoto to the Three Great Kumano Shrines.


The weather in mid-April improved for this second spring tour. The big question was whether we would catch the cherry blossom at its best. Our timing couldn't have been better. We seemed to float on a cloud of blossom from Takejiri Oji all the way to Kyoto via fabled Yoshinoyama. Securing accommodation in Yoshino, at such a fine ryokan, was a triumph. We had our own private, brand new, outdoor cypress wood tub and rooms which would normally sleep three or four times as many people on futon.


Getting out of Yoshino was almost as miraculous as getting in. The narrow road up to the village was packed both ways. I am always amazed at how composed Japanese are, living in a country so crowded with vehicles. We normally move with hold-ups through the mountains, but Yoshino in spring is an exception. But it was worth it. The mountain was covered in blossom which, I am happy to say, the clattering helicopter flying overhead filming the scene failed to scatter.


Our haiku competition was fun, with Mieko running proceedings in the pub with her usual grace, and coming up with a brilliant translation of the winning haiku.


Like the cherry blossom, the tour passed too quickly, however, with the group leaving Kyoto on a bullet-train bound for the bright lights of Tokyo .


Click to read haiku poems from this tour.

Leaving the ryokan

Hiking through tea plantation

Yoshino cherry blossom 'Senbonzakua'

Isuien garden Nara

Leaving our temple lodgings on Mount Koya

Classic borrowed landscape garden in Nara.


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