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Yukatas for dinner at Yochiin

Mount Koya

Dinner is served in our ryokan

IPR team leaving ryokan in Ryujin Onsen

Drying freshly picked tea leaves

Team photo at Yunomine Oji

 Trek spearheaded by Zoe and George

 Mist and soft rain in the morning at Nachi

Strolling around Yoshino

At the gates of the Mikumari Jinja shrine

 Watanabe san and Bob

Boys in pinafores

 At our ryokan in Kyoto

George gets a wide angle

The Imperial Pilgrimage Tour

May 2008

It was most refreshing to have a group almost entirely from Australia on this May's Imperial Pilgrimage Route tour. The witty conversation and good humour kept us going up all those long hills and endless steps!

I became aware during this tour with this group, and the subsequent tour with another couple from Sydney, of how little rain Australia gets and how little free flowing water there is compared to Japan. Here, at this time of year, the mountains and country are a verdant green and the rivers and streams full. We had a couple of misty days with light rain towards the end of the trek and in Yoshino, but the rest of the time we had sunshine and clear skies. Yet there was water everywhere

 

Green bamboo, cedar
Baby shrines on mountain paths
Blue sky, pink petals

 

As standard on a Hike Japan tour, we enjoyed excellent food. I copy the menu from one ryokan we stayed at below as an example:

 

Boiled wasabi and soya sauce

Itadori (Japanese knotweed) with sesame sauce

Chestnut, pickled ume, cucumber with butterbur and miso sauce

Sesame tofu

Lightly grilled venison with tataki sauce

Shiitake mushrooms, royal fern, carrot, bamboo shoots, mangetout peas, Japanese pumpkin

Amago (small trout) and local ayu (sweet river fish)

Hitomi manju (rice bun covered with a mix of minced chicken and potatoes)

Vegetable tempura (including eggplant, pumpkin, beans, shiitake mushrooms, king trumpet mushrooms)

Local Kishu chicken and wild boar stew

Devils tongue (Arum root) jelly with sweetened vinegar

Fruit jelly with local Wakayama mango and strawberry sauce

 

The western breakfast at this ryokan - fresh fruit and bread, yoghurt, salad .. is sensational too, not to mention the fine natural hot spring tubs. We really didn't want to leave!

 

We made one or two little discoveries as we always do on tours. This time a friendly couple who have opened up their home for coffee and tea along the Yamanobe no Michi between Miwa Shrine and Isonokami Jingu in Tenri.

 

Discovering unique Japanese earthquake countermeasures for buildings in Nara was interesting, and enjoying the Aoi Matsuri festival and delicious ramen noodles were hits in Kyoto. The Miho Museum was looking sensational, too, but I'm not sure we'll be revisiting it soon, however, given its links with the Soka Gakkai …

 

It was such a successful tour that one or two members are hoping to return to Japan, one to climb Fuji. Many a kind word of praise was received. “Wonderful hiking in beautiful scenery – past Japanese farms and houses. An inkling of life in Japan! Thanks for all the scrumptious food – taste, presentation, and variety. New insights into another culture.”

 

Long climb to hill top
Butterfly floats on by
Soak into hot tub

 

Hope to walk with you again soon (either here in Japan, down under, or in Scotland)!

 

Click to read haiku poems from this tour.
Mikumari Jinja shrine
 Looking around the Mikumari Jinja shrine
Prayers by the priestess at Mikumari Jinja shrine in Yoshino
 Prayers at the Mikumari shrine
Indigo dyeing
 Being served Japanese coffee
The team at Miwa Jinja shrine
Aoi matsuri dance in Kyoto
Shinto events during the Aoi matsuri festival in Kyoto
Des and Pete chat to school kids in Nara Park
Top ramen noodles
 Engrossed in eating delicious ramen noodles in Kyoto

Night stroll

 Dinner in yukatas at Yochiin temple

Time to get those hiking boots on

Team photo in front of Takejiri Oji at start of hike

Looking around Matsumoto san's tea plantation

Boys in the outdoor hot tub

 Kumano Kodo team

George's gorgous legs

Rest at wayside shrine

 Mikumari Jinja shrine in Yoshino

The mask is removed

Des and Bob at a tea house in Kyoto

Ever graceful service

Thanks note for Bob


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