The summer heat will soon begin to subside and the temples of Shikoku will once again be framed by fluttering oranges and reds whilst the hillside forests of Kunisaki will start to melt into amber as the 紅葉 - Kouyou autumn leaves paint Japan. Wherever you are in the world, we look forward to enjoying the season of Autumn with you again in the future and hope that you are safe and well.
For the adventure seekers in Japan who are looking for a challenge in the coming seasons, ⋯⋯the Kumano Wayfarer, Shikoku Wayfarer and newly added Kunisaki wayfarer present some tough and very rewarding walks through Japan's rugged landscapes accompanied by delicious local cuisine accommodation to wind down in.
All of our Self-Guided Wayfarer tours remain at 20% discount for residents of Japan until 31st March 2021. Dates are flexible for the Wayfarers, please contact us to check your desired dates if you do not see them listed on our website and we will be happy to try and accommodate requests as best we can.
A delight of walking is to observe the same, familiar scenery completely transform in different seasons.
The summertime landscape in Aizu is lush and green. Yet when those green mountains are blanketed in snow, and start to look more like an ink painting than real life, we found a whole new way to enjoy Aizu through the winter season. Although the temperature outside drops, the people remain just as warm and welcoming. Summer dishes are swapped for winter warmers, kotatsu he⋯⋯ated tables are fired up to keep the feet cozy and a dip in the onsen gives the whole body warmth for the evenings.
And so will soon release both a Summer/Autumn tour and also a unique Winter tour of Aizu. We will keep you posted with details when the tours are available to book on https://walkjapan.com/
See the photo comments for details from the most recent research trip for our new winter tour.
Walking seems to be one of the few pleasures amid lockdowns and restrictions around the world.
And what a pleasure walking really is.
Here in Japan, some Tour Leaders made the most of their chances to walk and hike their favourite locations, catching up with old acquaintances before Japan's major cities were brought under their second 'state of emergency' restrictions.⋯⋯
Tour Leaders share a collection of beautiful pictures from their personal travels and hope that we can all continue to enjoy walking wherever and whenever possible.
Whilst some charged into the year of the Ox with enthusiasm, others dragged their hoofs and would have preferred to chew grass on the sidelines for a while longer.
Saying farewell to the year of the rat, 2020, people in Japan welcome in the New Year with cards, statues and images depicting the Chinese Zodiac for 2021; the Metal Ox.
We see these symbols all around the country in homes, temples and even businesses - but what does the Ox really symbolise for Japan?⋯⋯
The Japan Times presents interesting stories, history and culture of the Ox, and looks at the characteristics of the Ox for the year ahead.
The beloved Torii gate of the Nada Hachiman Shrine in Oita prefecture was battered down from its rocky outcrop in a large Typhoon earlier this year.
A spiritual treasure to the area, the local community embarked on a fundraising mission to repair and reinstall the gate.
We are happy to share the news that their fundraising and efforts were successful, and the Torii gate has once again been restored to her protective watch post out in the Inland sea. The timing is perfect - ⋯⋯as locals and visitors from afar will gather here to watch the first sunrise of the year.
The community extend their thanks to all who supported the repair efforts. Thank you to Tour Leader Tetsuo for sharing the video and progress of the repair project.
Offerings of fish and sake neatly presented to the forest kami, and a miniature 88 temple pilgrimage are just some of the interesting things we encountered as we hiked our way through Kochi and Ehime last month.
The pictures and comments give some more information about this new tour, which we are excited to introduce more of as we continue our research.
A walker through and through, Tour Leader Diane has been taking every opportunity to explore Japan by foot this year.
Her most recent jaunt was to Nikko, a city close to Tokyo, historically and culturally significant for its Toshogu Shrine, where the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu was laid to rest. Of course, being the walker she is, Diane shares some snaps of the places only accessible by foot, which make Nikko such a great spot to visit in the autumn.
Part of the Basho Tour: Narr⋯⋯ow Road to the North, you may recognise the name and the foliage so iconic to this area.
Check out each photo to see the details of the images.
The daily walk,
The dip in the onsen,
The yukata clad group meal
"The Passage of Time" by Alexander Barlow is a must read reflection on his journey along The Kiso Road.
Travel Writer and Journalist, Alexander puts into words some of the beauty and sadness he, like others, experience when travelling off the beaten path in Japan.
We hope you enjoy this article with your morning coffee and find some personal reflection too.
We hope all the people we have met on our trips stay safe and optimistic, since we know that we will meet each other on the road again in the near future.
Passage of Time can be read here: https://atlas.etihad.com/walking-japans-nakasendo-way/
Atlas magazine has unfortunately been suspended due to COVID-19, however the articles are still available to read.
We share our December newsletter with warm wishes.
You can read about our recent activities, more details on new tours which are currently in the making, and some general positivity to keep us all looking forward to better days ahead.
We will be hosting "Walk Japan on Tour Near You' virtually this year, and would love to connect with you if you have any questions or concerns about tours with us, or would simply like to join us for a catch up and to say hello. More details c⋯⋯an be found in the newsletter.
If you would like to have the newsletter arrive in your inbox, please fill out the 'Newsletter sign up' section at the bottom of our website pages.
Just as we thought that Autumn was drawing to a close, we happened upon this last moment of beauty in the Japanese garden of Entsuji Temple, Miyagi Prefecture.
Taken during another research trip for a fascinating new tour, each time we visit we are more and more excited to walk with you here in the future.
Heading off the beaten path alone, Susan, resident of Japan, who has previously walked the Kiso Wayfarer and most recently embarked on the Self Guided Kumano Kodo Wayfarer, shares her take on why self-guided suits her most:
"I hike alone more than once a month, at least six months a year, and usually make all of my own arrangements. Even so, I love to book Wayfarer trips through Walk Japan because they give me 100% freedom to hike at my own pace, while taking care of all of t⋯⋯he logistical details. I adore having the ability to get up in the morning, hike all day, and arrive at a lovely ryokan with my luggage, room, and a spectacular meal waiting. (And these are not “budget traveler” digs - they’re beautiful, historic places.) I also appreciate that Walk Japan recommends side hikes, like the amazing climb to the Gongendaki waterfall in Kiso-Fukushima and a trip to the Kiso-Fukushima Barrier.
Even though I hike by myself, and am able to revel in the peaceful woods and natural places on the journey, Walk Japan provides detailed maps, fantastic historical and background notes, and all of the information I need to get the most from my solo tour. A Wayfarer trip gives me all the knowledge and logistical support of a personal guided tour with all the benefits of “going it alone” off the beaten path. It’s basically the perfect way to travel. I would especially recommend it to people who want to experience hiking in Japan, or Japanese history, but don’t like traditional tours. Traveling alone in a foreign country may seem intimidating, but Walk Japan Wayfarer tours take care of all the planning and execution, leaving you with “nothing” to do but relax and enjoy an amazing experience."
Whilst we look ahead to the time when we can walk with our international friends again, we continue to offer 20% discount on all wayfarer tours until 31st March 2021 for those in Japan.
Looking back on some fond memories from tours in the past, kind smiles and heartfelt welcomes are memories which we can't always capture on camera, but which remain with us for a long time, and bring a smile to our faces even in difficult times.
Rey, who has joined us for several tours, including the Kunisaki Trek and Nakasendo Way, reflects on the greetings he found along the way:
"I think many people would say that they received a very warm welcome from Mr and Mrs Ando at ⋯⋯Kaidapoppo! For my trip I asked whether their doggie Fukuchan would also be there and he was!
Another warm welcome which I seem to recall was on Himeshima, the Kunisaki Trek. I recall the waitress of the inn stopped at our table after dinner was over to have a nice chat with the guests and the guide."
A long term walker on many of our tours sums up the country, and The Nakasendo Way, beautifully:
"I‘ve seen quite a lot of Japan with Walk Japan, and have found everything very interesting. The diversity from old to modern, peaceful coast to rugged mountain is amazing. At all times, the graciousness of the Japanese people stands out.
If I had to recommend one trip for a newbie, it would be the Nakasendo, because it gives a good overview of the country, not just from the rural⋯⋯ to the city, but also across the centuries, and also offers a reasonable challenge for walking.
That having been said, I enjoy the mountains best, and would love to go back to hike the Daisetsuzan National Park again (Hokkaido Hike)"
But not only did she join The Nakasendo Way, she also hiked with us across Hokkaido, The Kumano Kodo and Kunisaki. Let's have a look at what impressed her the most throughout these trips, in the picture comments.
Finding some extra time on our hands, Walk Japan's tour leaders have been pursuing some of their other interests:
Last month Tour Leader Giorgio joined Tour Leader Ayuki on the Yamada farm in Hokkaido, where she spent the summer living and working. Together they arranged an Italian cooking class using freshly picked organic vegetables from the Yamada flower and vegetable farm. Italian born Giorgio and sake enthusiast Ayuki demonstrated 5 mouth-watering Italian dishes:
Butter⋯⋯nut squash soup (cold)
Italian Style Fennel Salad
Pumpkin risotto (with koshihikari rice)
Colourful gnocchi (lilac, purple and white) served with tomato sauce
Italian style zucchini sauté
Giorgio has shared the recipes of these 5 dishes, check them out in the photo captions.
Autumn is one of the best times of year to get outdoors in Japan. Not only are the leaves beautiful during the clear, sunny autumn days, but night viewings are also popular in parks and around castles and shrines with beautiful lighting and offerings of amazake (a sweet, non alcoholic rice drink, usually served hot in this season) and other seasonal treats.
Many shrines and temples would usually hold special events for people to fully enjoy the autumn foliage, which have mostly been cancelled or reduced this year, but we can still relish the spectacular momiji red leaves along various trails and in the countryside!
Did you spot any spectacular autumn foliage in Japan? We would love to see your pictures too!
Walking in Aizu is like being in a folk tale.
During our second research trip to Aizu, we were charmed by seeing people who still follow traditional ways of life amid the serenity of the surrounding mountains with their deep forests and trickling streams. We were lucky to have met with some locals who still practice traditional thatching, weaving and woodcraft.
Keep posted for further updates on the new tour we plan to launch in Aizu in 2021.
[At home in Kunisaki]
One of our favourite walks on the Kunisaki Peninsula is the trail between Kyusento-ji temple and Iwato-ji temple, which is a 4-hour hike on our Kunisaki Trek and Kunisaki & Yufuin Walk.
We love this walk, of course, for the beautiful view from the mountain top, but also for the enchanting stories of Shugendo, the once-powerful religious institution on the peninsula, and we cannot forget greeting the tall cast-iron man standing on the ridge, titled 'Anoth⋯⋯er time" - artwork of the renowned artist Anthony Gormley.
Walk through the images and the captions to enjoy a virtual hike with us.
[At home in Kunisaki]
A local farmer in Ota village, E-chan has never left the country, but she appreciates the simple village life that has moulded her into her cheerful self.
Being a shiitake mushroom farmer, E-chan works hard to ensure her shiitake mushrooms grow well. Even though she doesn't speak English, she loves seeing different people on our Kunisaki tours and learning everyone's stories. We are amazed at how she finds ways to communicate and understand beyond language, spreading her cheer to those who visit her.