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Chinowa Kuguri Shinto ritual

Exploring Higashi Chaya in Kanazawa

Being served green tea or macha

Hydrangea or ajisai

On Chogatake

En route from Chogatake to Jonen

Camera action Les

Shugendo mountain priest conducting fire ceremony







The Mountains of Central Japan Tour - June/July 2008


One of the friendliest of small groups, this was a great tour. The route in the North Alps had to be changed as snow was still lying on north facing slopes on some sections of the Omote Ginza route from Yari to Otensho Hut. Otherwise the weather was fortunately very good, as you will see from the photos from the holiday.


Acceptance of Japanese food varied from reluctance to try something unless it was of very familiar origin, to ‘Can't get enough of the raw fish'. But everyone got on very well, and the members were happy enough with the itinerary changes, even those these meant staying in mountain huts I was not familiar with.


Japanese town planning, or lack of it, interested Les. Somewhat different to what he was used to in Sheffield! It's a shame that much worth preserving in Japan has been replaced in a pretty random way. The countryside is being altered, too, although some idea of what much of the countryside used to look can still be seen in and around Asuka, an historically important village we cycled around on the tour. Let's hope that the government invests in policies that will help conserve the best of what remains of Japanese culture and heritage in the cities, towns, villages, and in the countryside.


We took a stroll around the Higashi Chaya area of Kanagawa shortly after arriving and came across a small local Shinto Shrine festival, the Chinowa Kuguri. This is celebrated at the end of June and on New Year's Eve. As you can see from the photos, families will visit local shrines and step through a large ring made of kaya reeds a number of times in a figure of eight before receiving the blessings from the priest and ritual purification. The ritual is aimed at warding off disasters. As I write this I October, I would suggest that a few politicians and bankers get on down to their local shrines and commune with the gods at the earliest opportunity!


Click to read haiku poems from this tour.

Climbing to Jonen peak
On top of Jonen peak
View across Kamikochi Valley to the Hotaka Ridge
Tents pitched on snow by Enzanso lodge
On Jonen
Towards Tsubakurodake
Miyama kinbai
Cycling in Asuka
Lotus flower
Sharing our inn with a large group of primary school children wearing blue hats
Kuzu noodle lunch in Yoshino
Abbot of Kongobuji attending ceremony

Shinto priests conducting Chinowa Kuguri ritual

Dressed in yukata for visit to local bathhouse

Hiking on Hakusan

Start of trek at Kappabashi

Early summer in the North Japan Alps

Ridge conncecting Chogatake and Jonen

Roadside flowers growing over a shed

Farewell dinner in Osaka








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