Joost

7 days Japan experience with multi-day hike - 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 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!!!