The Imperial Pilgrimage Tour - October 2009
This was a cracker of a tour. I was thrilled to have a fully booked tour where virtually every member was introduced by a mutual friend who had been on a couple of tours with Hike Japan in the past. The members this time all came from across the pond - Eureka, California, and Reno, Nevada.
The photos from this tour about sum up the story. There was some high tech gear taking great shots. See some of them here .
Hiking the Nakaheji route – one of the Kumano Kodo, or old routes to Kumano – is harder than many people think. I've walked the route more than a dozen times, but those who live on more level land the terrain can come as rather a shock. However difficult it may be, however, hikers nearly always make it if they take it slowly. There is no pressure on a Hike Japan tour to walk quickly. Quite the opposite. I always tell my groups that I deliberately walk slowly. It's more relaxing, you see and feel more, and it doesn't take that much more time. We took our time on this tour and it worked out fine. The weather was kind too.
Fall has arrived here softly
Yellow brown red green
Highlights of the tour included a raucous night at the funky monk's house, brilliant food as usual (including dining at a new Italian restaurant in Nara), a vanishing walking pole that miraculously followed its owner, and one member of the group who delighted us all with her graceful Hawaiian dance.
Party at Kosho's
B's Hawaiian dance and song
Make the evening
Kosho-san was in his usual sparkling form. We were all encouraged to grab an instrument, after a great dinner of oden and sashimi, and blow it or bash it. Whenever we visit Oyama we are made to feel at home, and treated like good friends. Kosho is a gyoya , a Buddhist monk of the mountain sect know as shugendo . He built his own small temple deep in the Kumano mountains and farms there. Everyone fortunate enough to visit comes away with vivid memories.
Red bean Obasan
You fill my hands with Mikan
And my heart with warmth
Eric's pole. The one with the three-legged crow carved at the top. It has a mind of its own. It simply vanished one morning. We were leaving Koguchi when we noticed it was missing. It could only have been our drivers and, sure enough, when we called them later we discovered they'd taken it for safe-keeping. By that time we were in Nara and the stick was still a hundred kilometres away in Kumano. The driver offered to bring it over in his car! It was eventually delivered by courier. Eric then managed to part with it again. It caught up with him Kyoto. I understand it made the flight and is now in Eureka. For how long?
Like a faithful dog
A step behind its owner
Eric's walking stick
Walks alone today. But wait …
What was lost is found!
The atmosphere at Priest Saigyo's hut near Yoshino was special for some reason this time. The leaves were changing to red and there was a light breeze. It inspired poetry.
As friends we arrive
At priest Saigyo's hut. The wind sighs
We all write our poems
At priest Saigyo's hut
Wind caressing maples
A chill autumn wind
At Saigyo's hut. Maple leaves
Green turning to red
The indigo dyeing activity in Asuka was a great success (see the picture). I suspect one or two had mastered the technique in primary school or during the tie-die T-shirt days in the 70's?
We continued to walk (and eat on and on) along the Yamanobe no michi route. That was a memorable day, too, as we enjoyed the hospitality of a local couple who open their house for tea and coffee, and munched on persimmons, apples, ice creams, and other delicacies as we walked this country path.
The autumn days seemed to roll on and on as we enjoyed Kyoto as well as a visit to the Miho Museum in Shigaraki. I thought Nanzenji was looking great in the late afternoon autumn sunshine. There never seems to be enough time for shopping, but everyone seemed to squeeze in enough. Bags were well loaded by the time we left Kyoto.
Let's walk together again – perhaps the Alpine Route from Tateyama to Kamikochi – if you'd like to see the higher mountains?
Click to read haiku poems from