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Ann blows the conch


At Yunomine oji

Flaming negi ramen

Joking with an Yakuza gangster turned priest!

Miwa Shrine on the Yamanobe no michi hike

Nishiki Koji market

Pickles on sale in Nishiki Koji market

Farewell dinner






The Imperial Pilgrimage Tour

October 2006

The umbrella pine tree ( koya maki ) is an important symbol for the Shingon sect of Buddhism. There are many tall umbrella pines surrounding the temples on Mount Koya , the centre of this esoteric Shingon sect. The koya maki has also been chosen as the symbol of Prince Hisahito, the boy born to Princess Kiko and Prince Akishino on the 6 September this year. The name means virtuous, calm, and everlasting. As we walked among tall, straight maki trees on Mount Koya , one could imagine the trees growing quietly there for centuries.

Isolated walks
Footsteps echo through endless woods
Serenity found


The Himalayan Kingdoms Imperial Pilgrimage tour this autumn was blessed with fine, warm autumn weather. The mornings and evening were cool. It was wonderful to be soaking in the outdoor hot tub brimming with natural spring water as the early morning mist lingered in the trees on the ridge across the river at Ryujin on the morning we started our four-day hike.


We spent a delightful evening between Yunomine and Nachi in the village of Oyama where the mountain priest Kosho kindly made us delicious oden – meat, vegetables, tofu, and konyaku. From the simmered konyaku devils tongue paste in the pot bubbling over the open hearth served with red rice and fresh sesame tofu to the sweetest persimmons and the jewellery box of choux in Kyoto , the food was, as always, sensational.


Tired, but with a sense of achievement, we reached the highest waterfall in Japan at Nachi after surmounting what has come to be known as ‘Gutbuster Hill' on the Kumano pilgrimage route. Watching the sun rise over the Kumano Sea after attending the pre-dawn sutra reading at Seigantoji temple at Nachi was a special moment.


The journey generated a quality crop of haiku poems. One or two were written at the priest and poet Saigyo's hut during our walk in the mountains above Yoshino.


We were fortunate in arriving in Kyoto during the few days in the year the Imperial Palace is open to the general public. The visit to the palace was followed by a visit to the Nijo Castle , a splendid residence built for the Tokugawa shoguns. Whilst they resemble one another, the contrasting architectural styles of the palace and the Nijo Castle , the former refined, the second more masculine and solid, reflect the characters of the dynasties that lived in them.


The youngest member of the group on this tour was twenty four. Having a seasoned, seventy-one year old traveller on the tour as well, made for some diverse and interesting insights into Japanese culture. It was pleasing to hear that they would like to learn more about Japanese culture and come back again one day.


Autumn deepens
Many summers pass
Who among us sees the spring?


Click to read haiku poems from this tour.

At Kinkakuji

Oden at Sangakurin

Early morning at Nachi Taisha

Hiking to Saigyos hut

Kids on day out in Asuka


On Mount Koya

Yatagarasu local ale




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