Postcards from Abroad

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A Japanese Holiday Experience by Jim and Janet Buis

The Nakasendo Way 2A Japanese Holiday Experience as arranged by Eastravel in conjunction with OKU Japan November 2016.

If you wish to have a unique holiday experience in Japan we can thoroughly recommend the guided Nakasendo walking holiday arranged by OKU Japan. Listed as a walking holiday but it was much more than that. In fact until I wrote the brief summary of our itinerary I realised just how much we packed into a few days.

 

 

 

Day 2. Tokyo
Due to flight problems we missed the evening meal and group meeting on Day 1 and so we did not meet the rest of the group or our guide Hiro until the morning of Day 2. Our guide Hiro introduced himself to us and by the end of the tour we realized how just how lucky we were to have such superb guide. The rest of the group consisted of two couples and single person from Australia, two couples from the USA and a single person from Canada. We got on really well as group. This day consisted of short train journeys and short walks to well known sites in Tokyo including the bridge that marks the beginning of the Nakasendo Trail.

HIGHLIGHT Just how clean the streets are in Tokyo with no litter or litter bins to be seen.

Eastravel Nakasendo Group

Day 3. Travelling and first walk along the Nakasendo Trail.
After a good catch up sleep in the last western style bed for a few nights we experienced the first of five consecutive train trips to travel from Tokyo up into the rural central mountains. We soon realised how densely populated Japan is with the Tokyo area extending forever! The ancient Nakasendo trail is well over 300 miles in length with 69 rural post towns along the way. On the this day we walked between our first two post towns and stayed in our first ryokan in the town of Narai.

HIGHLIGHT A clear day so we got a good view of Mount Fuji and just observing the rush hour at Shinjuku Station (the busiest station in the world) so calm.

Nakasendo Trail Day 1

Day 4. Second walk along the Nakasendo trail from Narai to Yabuhara
A pleasant climb and descent and our first chance to admire the autumn colours in the central mountains. Followed by a train journey to Kiso-Fukushima and an overnight stay in a Japanese style inn - minshuku. We lost count of the number of courses for the dinner that evening but it was memorable for its presentation.

HIGHLIGHT A bonus was a late night visit to the top of the mountain to observe the sky at night through a powerful telescope.

Nakasendo Way Day 2

Day 5. Third walk along the Nakasendo from Nonoue pass to Nagiso and then on to Tsumago
Another train journey and then a 9 mile walk along the trail. This was the day we learnt all about the history of the Nakasendo Trail enhanced by walking through some well preserved post towns. Another overnight stay in a ryokan.

HIGHLIGHT Eating grasshoppers and raw horse meat (rude not to!) and not believing the age of Japanese women. In their sixties and still look forty!

Nakasendo Trail Day 3

Day 6. Fourth walk along the Nakasendo from Tsumago to Magome then train to Nara
The day started with a relatively short walk from Tsumago to the world heritage post town of Magome. It then got hectic with bus journeys and train journeys via Kyoto to the city of Nara. Our first experience of the Bullet Train!

HIGHLIGHT All the trains run on time!

Nakasendo Way Day 4

Day 7 Nara morning tour and free time.
After a good sleep and western style breakfast we enjoyed a full day walking around the historic and well preserved former capital city of Nara.

HIGHLIGHT Being able to walk around in summer clothes after the freezing nights in the mountains.

Nara

Day 8 Train journeys from Nara to Mount Yoshino

After our last sleep and breakfast western style for a few days we travelled via trains and cable car to the top of Mt Yishono. The afternoon was then spent with a guided tour of the well known and historic shrine and temple located on the mountain top. Stayed in a very modern ryokan.

HIGHLIGHT Incredible views.

Mount Yoshino

Day 9 Train journeys from Mount Yoshino to Mount Koya
The morning was spent travelling via trains and buses to Mt Koya. Expected a quiet location! Far from it as it is very popular location for tourists and backpackers. The afternoon was then spent with a guided tour of historic shrine, temple and vast cemetery. Night spent in a temple Inn.

HIGHLIGHT Morning Pray Buddhist style – dedication or what.

Mt Koya

Day 10 Train journeys Mount Koya to Kyoto
The morning was spent travelling via trains to Osaka and on to Kyoto. Western style lunch in an incredibly modern area of Osaka. Then an afternoon tour of the old part of Kyoto including the spot that marks the end of the Nakasendo Trail.

HIGHLIGHT Contrast between the city life of Osaka and Kyoto and the tranquillity of the previous mountain top retreats.

Kyoto

Day 11 Kyoto
The morning was spent on a guided tour of temples and shrines in Kyoto followed by an afternoon of free time to explore. Then the evening was a farewell dinner.

HIGHLIGHT The evening meal where we all had a chance to thank our guide Hiro.

Kyoto 2

Day 12 Kyoto then onto Kansai Airport
The day was spent walking around the old imperial palace and nearby castle. Impressive gardens then a bit of last minute shopping before catching the train to to the airport. Then a trouble free journey back to the UK

HIGHLIGHT Watching the seats rotate on trains so they all face the same way and just how polite and helpful the Japanese were when we appeared lost.

Kyoto 3

Our Guide
A wonderful holiday (Except for the 24 hour delay leaving London). We had originally thought of doing this kind of holiday self guided. But after the guide we were provided we clearly made the right choice. Our guide Hiro was many things:-
A shepherd guiding us through some of the busiest railway stations in the world.
A walking encyclopedia of Japanese political and religious history.
A chef explaining what we were eating and drinking at every meal (not always obvious).
A big help by buying all our rail tickets for our onward journeys.
A comedian with a wonderful and dry sense of humour.
So pleased that we all had a chance to thank him.

An extremely well organised holiday and a big thank you to OKU Japan and Eastravel.

Mr &Mrs J. Buis

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