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One of our excellent guides reveals all  on Mount Koya

Evening descends in Oku Kumano

The art of gardening

Room with a view

Preparing lunch at Sangakurin

Towards Nachi Falls

Planting rice

Guardian deity at gate to Kinpusenji Temple

The Zaodo

Wall painting

Wedding at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto

The Imperial Pilgrimage Tour - May 2010

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Blessed by warm sunshine, and trekking through lush green mountains, this year's May Imperial Pilgrimage Route walking tour was fantastic. A memorable tour, up there with Hike Japan's very best. Six members were good friends already, and two more were also good friends (and repeaters to boot). We'd last hiked together on Yakushima Island a couple of years ago.


Nothing in my head to say
Write me a haiku
Taking a break from it all


The day we stayed on Mount Koya was special. During the day, and long into the evening, ceremonies were held to celebrate Kobo Daishi entering a state of eternal meditation. The temples and surrounding forest were lit by candlelight and filled with the sound of chanting and temple bells.


Ryujin village was as restful as ever. We discovered the double cherry tree outside the Tibetan mandala museum there in full bloom. Spectacular!


It was delightful to have lunch and dinner with the shugendo gyoja monk we have frequently shared a few drinks with on the tour. We helped prepare lunch, a healthy salad, and then drove over to a nearby site where flooded rice fields still seem to climb, step by step, to the sky. It was raining, rice planting was in progress, and Karen discovered one of the massive boulders the size of a three storey building that pop up mysteriously on these mountainsides. A local TV station was filming a documentary with an actor dressed as a wise man of old. The frog croaks echoed around the hillside.

Gentle laughter
Falls around us
Like spring rain


After an interesting afternoon discovering what the countryside once looked in the mountains of Japan, we returned to Kosho-san's house for a hearty dinner, well-lubricated with plenty of delicious saké.


At Kosho-san's house
For god's sake we drink saké
In celebration


We came across other practising shugendo monks at the Zaodo Hall of the Kinpusenji temple in Yoshinoyama. Meanwhile our visit to the old Mikumari Jinja shrine was as moving as ever. The party later, in the old ryokan, could have turned into a riot. Although we had the place to ourselves, we were good, and eventually turned off the karaoke before retiring to our futons.


Follow kodo trail
Collecting words like driftwood
Give form to your dreams


I begin to see, as time passes, and those who walk commit their thoughts to paper in poems, threads that join us all together, like the paths we tread. Tom, who bumped his head on a fallen tree above Nachi Falls, went on to write the award-winning haiku poem on the tour -


Sun peers through the mist
Mossy stones to balance on
Strolling with grey view


It was a real delight guiding such spirited and generous folk from the States. I look forward to more good times, walking together.

Click here for more haiku

Heijokyo near Nara The party warms up in Yoshino
Indigo dyeing Nanzenji Rinzai Zen Temple
Ginkakuji Great gate at Nanzenji Temple in Kyoto
More and more deliciousness discovered in Kyoto
One of many dishes served at our Kyoto ryokan

Hiking into Kumano Hongu

Kobo Daishi is celebrated on Mount Koya

Happy hikers

More happy hikers

Linda appears from the tree at Nachi


Gyoja at Kinpusenji

Ornamental roof carving

Dainichi Nyorai in Nara

A couple of Kyoto beauties

Peony on the Yamanobe no Michi hike

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