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Team photo

Pushing the wheel

Double cherry blossom


Miwa Shrine


Fire in the rain at Todaiji

Springtime in the Heart of Japan tour

21st to 25th March 2004

A map, or at least a very good sense of direction, is essential for navigating your way around the bigger stations in Japan. Happily, everyone turned up at the appointed time and place in Osaka's Nanba Kintetsu Station at the start of this tour.

A couple of hours later we found ourselves in the hushed precincts of our temple accommodation on Mount Koya, getting stuck into sushi o-bento lunchboxes. The cable car we took for the last bit of the journey is so much easier than driving up the twisty mountain road. Particularly if your feeling tired or queasy after a long international flight.

A steaming jacuzzi, vegetarian temple food for dinner, and a quiet night. Next morning meditation at 0630, and a chance to contemplate the meaning of life and the nature of our place in the universe.

Next day, after a guided tour of Mount Koya, we took a train to Yoshino. Trains are such a good way to travel around Japan. Hike Japan would make greater use of them, except that the tours are to remoter areas where trains simply can't go. We need vehicles to get us into the mountains and to our walks.

It was too early to see the cherry blossoms in Yoshino. Still, there were a few trees with blossom, and anticipating spring resulted in a few haiku poems. Our accommodation was in a lovely old inn with a garden designed by the tea master Sen no Rikyu. Yoshino will feature in more Hike Japan tours in future.

The next day was a full one as we travelled via Asuka, to Nara. The sunny afternoon was spent walking the Yamanobe no michi in the congenial company of Toshiko Inada.

After an interesting tour of Nara Park which included Shigatsudo temple, our Nara guide directed us to a shop selling second-hand kimono fabrics. Great bargains and a fine range of materials.

On to Kyoto and our cosy ryokan in Higashiyama. The service was impeccable and the western-style breakfasts excellent.

After visiting Nijo Castle and an old merchant house, we all went our separate ways after enjoying bowls of Kyoto ramen noodles set alight by a cook who was more performance artist than chef.

Click to read haiku poems from this tour.

Entrance to Yochiin

Monks and ceremony March on Koya san

Tsubaki on the steps to Zaodo

Purification ritual at Miwa Shrine

Along the Yamanobe no michi.j

Ramen A performance art.




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