259 messages
active 1 hour ago

Mirka Niemi

I first visited Japan in 2007 and have been traveling to the country almost every year since. While studying Japanese culture and language in Kyoto for a year, I fell in love with the old capital and ended staying here even after finishing my studies. Born and raised in Finland, I enjoy the onsen (hot-springs) just as much as I love the Finnish sauna. I'm also a karaoke enthusiast and enjoy kicking it back in traditional karaoke bars, meeting local people.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"We specialize in rural off the beaten path Japan and have a strong expertise in the Nakasendo trail, the Kumano Kodo and Shikoku 88 pilgrimage routes. Our cultural and self-guided walking tours are designed to show visitors the famous sites of this wonderful country, with a specific focus on lesser-known locations: small villages, temples, the beautiful countryside and national parks. Highlights of our trips include traditional Japanese inn stays, relaxing natural hot spring baths, and the delicious local cuisine each region provides."

Featured trips & expertise

Izu Peninsula
Places Most People Miss (But Shouldn't) in Japan

Most visitors to Japan hit up Kyoto's temples, Tokyo's shopping streets, and Osaka's food scene—but there's much more to this country than what you'll find in its cities. Soak in natural hot springs, hike through primeval forest, and spot wildlife on a pristine chain of islands with these under-the-radar suggestions.

The original paved stones of the old Nakasendo trail in central mountainous Japan
Self-Guided Walking Tour on the Nakasendo Trail - 10 Days

Take a walk through time on this 10-day self-guided tour of the Nakasendo Trail, part of feudal Japan's original network of highways. Travelers on the mountain path between Kyoto and Tokyo took several days to travel the distance, staying overnight in Juku post towns. You'll retrace their footsteps as you travel through serene forests, stay in historically preserved local inns by night, and explore the vibrant cities of Kyoto and Tokyo.

The wonderful Nakahechi route
Kumano Kodo Self-Guided Tour - 6 Days

Get ready for an unforgettable village-to-village trek on the Kii Peninsula along sections of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. Perfect for avid hikers, this self-guided tour will take you past thermal hot springs, grand shrines, and waterfalls as you walk in the footsteps of emperors.

Recent trip reviews for Mirka

Vanessa

7 days japan experience with multi-day hike, Japan - Oct 1 - Oct 7, 2018

Traveler: Vanessa S. - Local specialist: Mirka Niemi

Our trip was mix of cosmopolitan Tokyo and tranquil, green Japanese countryside along the Kumano Kodo trail. Our itinerary started and ended in Tokyo, with its skyscrapers, nightlife, busy streets and great food. In between we took Shinkansen to the southern part of Japan, where time slowed down: Breathtakingly beautiful vistas, forests, rice and tea fields, traditional Japanese inns, fantastic food and relaxing natural hotspring spa’s. Most important: hospitable & very kind people. Truly an unforgettable trip.

Joost

7 days japan experience with multi-day hike, Japan - Oct 1 - Oct 7, 2018

Traveler: Joost S. - Local specialist: Mirka Niemi

Our 7-day trip in Japan was amazing. Thanks for Mirka for putting together a flawless trip. The contrasts between modern and ancient Japan made this an unforgettable trip. Too many highlights to easily summarize: Great hike along the Kumano Kodo trail, amazing food, fabulous onsens (hot springs), great Japanese hospitality and high energy Tokyo neighborhoods all made this trip.

Day 1: Evening arrival in Tokyo (Mitsui Garden Hotel), followed by a quick hunt for late night food that led us... read more

Our 7-day trip in Japan was amazing. Thanks for Mirka for putting together a flawless trip. The contrasts between modern and ancient Japan made this an unforgettable trip. Too many highlights to easily summarize: Great hike along the Kumano Kodo trail, amazing food, fabulous onsens (hot springs), great Japanese hospitality and high energy Tokyo neighborhoods all made this trip.

Day 1: Evening arrival in Tokyo (Mitsui Garden Hotel), followed by a quick hunt for late night food that led us to a cool little bar that served clams and beers. The trip plan in a handy small format, and other documents that we received were useful, and we ended up referring to the info throughout the trip.

Day 2: Very early morning departure by bullet train towards the Kii peninsula via Osaka, zipping by Mt Fuji. Great way to see Japan while enjoying a nice breakfast and reading up on the trip ahead. Arrived at the Kumano Kodo trailhead around 2pm after a bus ride from Kii Tanabe station. About 2 hours of hiking on steep trails to the first overnight, which was just off the main trail in the valley in the small town of Kurisugawa. We were the only guests in the Ryokan, and got very well taken care of by the old innkeeper.

Day 3: Great day of hiking through forests with occasional sweeping views of the valley. About 4 hours of hiking. Met about 20 other hikers (mainly from Canada and Australia, only 1 Japanese). Arrived in the pretty town of Chikatsuyu around 2pm, and visited the Oku Japan office there. Great to chat with Oku staff Noriko and Satoe about how interest in the Kumano Kodo is reviving the local economy. We stayed in Minshuku Chikatsuyu, which is run by a young innkeeper who cooks amazing food. Onsen was pretty good (but the best Onsen was yet to come the next day).

Day 4: Rainy day, so we decided to take the shortest hiking option. First section by bus, which seemed to make many loops before dropping us at the trail. Hiked through beautiful hills and villages while rain was on and off, and then arrived at Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the main shrines along the Kumano Kodo. We were early for the 2.30pm bus, but still ended up missing it, so we walked the final 4km along the road to Yunomine Onsen (which actually ended being a nice walk, glad we did it!). The small town of Yunomine was one of the highlights of our trip, with a river and hotspring that gets tapped to fuel the various Onsens. We stayed in Azumaya Ryokan, an old inn with lots of character and a great indoor / outdoor Onsen. Food served in our room was very good.

Day 5: After another great early morning Onsen session we took the 8.40am bus to Shingu. Visited the temple and strolled through town. Had a great lunch next to the station before boarding train to Nagoya. Great ocean views again from the train. Changed to the super fast Nozomi bullet train in Nagoya for final stretch to Tokyo. The Gate hotel in Asakusa was great. Amazing views from 13th floor lobby. Had dinner in nearby Shabu Shabu restaurant on 4th floor of a highrise.

Day 6: Early morning breakfast with great views on Tokyo Skytree, then off to Tokyo National Museum on foot. Really enjoyed strolling through Tokyo and see families on bicycles going about their life. At noon met with our friend Ryo at the Senso Ji Gate and started an epic exploration of Tokyo neighborhoods. Dinner at a hotpot restaurant with more friends and finally a late night drink in Hoppy Street near our hotel.

Day 7: Early morning shopping spree for presents for the kids, and then a cooking class with CookJPN. Great to see a Japanese apartment from the inside will cooking local dishes. After some final shopping off to the airport. Goodbye Japan, see you again very soon!!!