Final time in Japan

It is hard to think my Japan trip is almost over. Spent the last couple days shopping around Ueno station. Since I didn’t bring any luggage with me ( just my day pack) I am going to pack two boxes with my purchases and clothes from my day-pack and will ship them as my luggage.

Here are a few photos from around Ueno, as I didn’t take many pictures.

While at Ueno park there was a street performer which was interesting to watch as I enjoyed my bento box lunch.

I did my final shopping spree and was able to get everything packed in a box.

I was able to have one last matcha latte at Starbucks at Ueno station.

Sightseeing and shopping in Tokyo

After a good night’s rest I headed for Starbuck’s at Ueno station for my morning matcha latte grande hoto.

After trying my best to get my blog updated last night I gave up as the photos seemed to get stuck. I think it was my experiment with adding a direct video of the waterfalls. So, no more videos.

It was very busy around Ueno station. It was overcast with a sprinkling of rain.

I didn’t take many photos during my shopping adventures. Was able to spend a few hours at the Tokyo Hands store at the Tokyo station and get everything on my list. Lots of people shopping on the weekend.

There were lots of Christmas decorations everywhere as well.

One last day of shopping to pick up things I have added to my list and didn’t want to be carrying it around.

Hard to believe the trip is almost over and I will have to make the journey back to Ottawa.

Friday, November 17, 2017 – Travel back to Tokyo

Breakfast was at 7:30 am and check-out was at 9:30 am. I headed to the post office to mail my Happy New Year’s 2018 post cards. The post lady was so nice and checked to make sure I did them ok. I caught the bus back to Kii-Katsuura to catch the train back to Shin-Osaka (4 hour train ride) and then high speed Nazomi super express train from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo (2.5 hour trip).

Today was a beautiful day to finish my Kumano Kodo adventure. The lady who owned the place I stayed last night was so happy when I gave her a Canadian flag pin when leaving this morning.

Still learning some of the features of WordPress. I see how you seem to be able to add video as media instead of a link. I attempted to add the direct  video media of the Nachi-no-Otaki waterfall from yesterday, but kept getting generic error messages, which was a bit frustrating and caused delays in trying to get this blog published.

The weather was sunny but cold and I had the perfect view of the waterfall today.

I had a couple hour wait for my train, so had a chance to walk around Kii-Katsuura town and do some sightseeing. 

Of course there are many vending machines in Japan. However, I usually don’t see many that serve hot food like this one on the right.

I walked down to the harbour and there was a nice boardwalk.

While waiting for the train and walking around town I found it interesting that there were parking lots for bicycles near the train station with lots of bicycles parked there.

I also came across a Home Renovation store with a small garden centre outside with some end of season plants on sale. So took a few photos for Masa to check out.

I was able to catch the Nazomi super express train from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo. I only had a 10 minute connection time in Shin-Osaka so was afraid I would miss it. I thought it was funny when we stopped at Nagoya that some one thought I was in their seat. I showed my ticket for Nazomi 38 train and pointed to the electronic board at the front of the car, which showed Nazomi 38. I pointed his ticket showed Kadama 276 and he was probably on the wrong train, which already left the station. I told him he best talked to the conductor, as I am sure he wasn’t the first person that ever got on the wrong train in Japan. Problem is the next stop was Shin-Yokahama near Tokyo. So if he was getting off some place before he was stuck on the train all the way to Shin-Yokahama.

It was a long travel day but I survived. 

Tomorrow will look at doing some more sightseeing around Tokyo and work on my last day shopping list.

Kumano Kodo pilgrimage – Day 5 – Thursday, November 16, 2017 – Kumano Nachi Taisha

After a good night sleep, breakfast was at 7 am. The shuttle bus took me to Shingu train station where I took a train to Kii-Katsuura. From there I caught the bus to the Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine.

I arrived around 11:30 am and spent the day visiting the area, the shrine, waterfall and some trails. I was able to leave my day pack at my accommodations so didn’t have to carry it around all day.

Here are some of the photos of the Nachi Taishi shrine. There were lots of stairs to climb.

There was a pond with some Koi fish and where you could buy food to feed them. Of course I had to give it a try. I enjoyed and had fun feeding the Koi fish.

Next to the shrine there was a Shingon temple (similar to the ones on Shikoku) called Nachisan Seiganto-ji. Here are some of the photos I took.

After getting my book stamped, I walked to the waterfall and to see the Pagoda. Here are some pictures.

I hiked over to the falls and they were amazing. I paid 300 yen to get up close. When I was up close the afternoon sunlight was hitting the mist at the bottom to create a rainbow. It was so beautiful I didn’t want to leave. Here are a few of the many photos I took. See if you can see the rainbow in the mist at the bottom of the falls.

On the way to the viewing platform you could buy a saucer for 100 yen and drink from the fountain, which is supposed to be very therapeutic.

I tried shooting a couple of videos of the water falling and how the rainbow changed with the mist. The only way to add it to this WordPress blog was to upload it to YouTube and add a link. So I gave it a try and here is the link. I hope it works.

After spending time at the waterfall, I was walking back to where the trail comes out at the shrine to see if Max from the USA, that stayed at the same place I did last night, might show up, since it was a big climb with a detour. All of a sudden there he was. We chatted and was glad he made it ok. 

When I checked in my room at the Mitaki Sanso I have a beautiful view of the falls. What a way to end the day. Here are a couple of photos.

Some final photos of some statues and scenery I took.

I visited the local post office to see about getting some New year’s Japanese post cards to mail to friends. The lady in the small post office was so helpful and helped with figuring out the extra postage for Canada. She explained how to address them and asked if I bring them back to her tomorrow she will do the Post mark for me.

It was a wonderful way to end the Kumano Kodo. Tomorrow I travel back to Tokyo by train. I spoke to three older ladies from Australia who did the climb and they said it was grueling. They hoped to spend time visiting the shrine and waterfall tomorrow.

Kumano Kodo pilgrimage – Day 4 – Wednesday, November 15, 2017 – Yunomine back to Hongu Taisha and Koguchi

After a nice soak in the onsen last night, a wonderful meal and being able to dry my clothes, day pack and shoes (with the hair dryer in my room) I am ready for another day.  As they say, what a difference a day makes.

I decided to take the bus back to Hongu Taisha as I really didn’t get a chance to see everything in my tired state yesterday. Weather forecast is calling for cloudy, so we will see how the day goes. Plan B is to take bus from Hongu Taisha shrine to Koguchi where I will catch a shuttle to my accommodation tonight.

I want to check at the tourist office if the trail tomorrow is walkable. If not, I will go with Plan B and take bus to my last shrine I will visit.

I spent the morning walking around Yunomine Onsen area. It was misty and cool at first, but eventually the mist cleared and the sun came out. I was able to walk to the Yunomine- Oji nearby.

I stopped at a small shop where you could buy eggs in a net bag and cook them for 13 minutes in the hot springs water in a place set up to do this in the picture below. There was a strong smell of sulfur in the steam and the minerals in the water are supposed to add to the flavor of the cooked eggs.

Here are some other pictures I took of the Yunomine Onsen area.

Here is a photo of the Ryokan I stayed at last night.

In the nearby parking area I was impressed to see another EV 240 charging station sign. I decided to take a closer look at take a few pictures on the instructions on how to use it which was also in English.

I was able to catch the bus to Hongu Taisha and spent some time exploring the shrine and sending some post cards to friends in Japan and Canada. Usually the mailboxes are red but at Hongu Taisha there is a special black one with the three legged crow (Kumano Kodo symbol) on top.

I walked to the large Tori gate that is one of the shrine landmarks.

I was able to spend some relaxing time at the shrine taking pictures and visited the Haraido-oji nearby.

There was also a special shrine dedicated to the god that protects women.

Below are some of the other pictures I took at Kumano Hongu Taisha where the weather was better for taking pictures.

At one of the building entrances they had a stuffed wild boar. I have never encountered one but heard lots of stories how dangerous they can be if you encounter one on a trail. So I sneaked this partial picture.

I checked at the tourist office and yes indeed there was a detour on the trail tomorrow that would add up to an hour to 1.5 hours to the already 7-9 hour day. The trail is a steep climb, so not sure if I could make it by 4 pm when it gets dark. So I decided to take a bus to the shrine and spend time enjoying the shrine verses being concerned if I would make it before it gets dark.

I met up with Max from USA while waiting for the bus to the onsen where we were staying. We were able to share our walking in the rain horror stories. He is planning to try and do the hard climb and detour tomorrow. He is a brave soul. Hopefully he makes it ok. 

Today was a much better day than yesterday. What a difference a day makes.

Kumano Kodo pilgrimage – Day 3 – Tuesday, November 14, 2017 – Tsugizakura-Oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine.

It was a dark and dreary day, pretty well sums it up. After a peaceful sleep I had an early breakfast at 6:30 am. At that time it was just cloudy. Had a wonderful breakfast and just as I was starting to walk around 7 am there was a light rain. 

I said good bye to wonderful hosts and got to feed the two pet goats, which were so cute.

With raingear on and umbrella in hand, off I went on my journey for the day. The light rain was ok to deal with. At one point it stopped and looked like the sun might break thru, so took off my rain coat. However, that was short lived and on went the rain coat for the rest of the day.

Last night there was also a guest from Spain who had done the Camino. He was doing it the opposite way and said he thought the last trail I was planning on doing was closed due to the recent typhoons. He said there were signs in Japanese which seemed to appear the trail was closed. He decided to bypass it and take a bus. Since he had a long trek he was looking at bus options as he thought some of the wet trails might be dangerous.

Needless to say I didn’t take many photos due to the rain. I will include the limited ones I did take before the rain got too bad.




As I started one of the first big mountain climbs, the rain got very heavy. The leaves and moss on the trail made it more slippery. I took my time and there were a few times I said to myself when am I doing up here in the pouring rain. To help clear my mind, I thought I would pray to the rain gods to take pity on me but it didn’t work. I needed a different strategy to get me through this. As the trails, became small rivers and my sweating from the climbing justade me soaked thru the bones, I think the new lightweight umbrella I brought at Tokyo Hands was the only thing keeping me sane. I thought on a positive note at least I get to use my new umbrella.

I remembered as a kit jumping in mud puddles with rubber boots on was fun. I thought as I sloshed thru the rivers of water with my soaked shoes this was like being a kid again. But that novelty soon wore off as my feet felt like they were in ponds of water. Thank heavens I had on my Monthly Merino wool socks, even though they were soaked my feet were surprising warm. I didn’t want to stop too long as I knew I would get a chill.

I ran into the Australia friend from yesterday who caught up to me and she was hoping for a shelter to stop for lunch. I agreed. The Kumano is not like Shikoku which has much more rest stops with places for pilgrims to sit out of the rain.

Thanks to her we both kept up our spirits and pushed forward as we slugged along in the river trails and mud in places. Heaven knows why we didn’t trip and fall as the trails we’re on the trederous side.

Well the gods were in our favor as we were able to catch a bus from Hosshinmon-Oji. At this point we were so wet, the sky was still dark and dreary, the rain was still pouring down, we both agreed enough was enough. We took the bus to Hongu Taisha theain shrine, since I still had a couple hours to wait before I could check into the Ryokan Yunomine onsen.

I found a coffee shop and met up with this woman who I saw the day before who was from France. She was so cold they brought a heater to warm her up. She said she had to change out of her wet clothes in the washroom across the street. I said the heck with that and preceeded to take off my wet upper clothes and get on a dry t-shirt as I was getting chilled. Thank heavens for my Merino wool sweater as I was finally able to get warmed up. She was catching the bus to Yunomine to see if she could check in early. I decided to have a look around the shrine before catching the bus to Yunomine. Here are some of the photos I was able to take in the rain.

Kumano Hongu Taisha

I then took a bus to Yunomine Onsen to check in. They had WiFi and the onsen is open 24 hours. When I asked if they have a laundry machine, he said bring down the clothes in a plastic bag and they would wash and dry and have ready for tomorrow morning for 540 yen. Bonus, at least the laundry God’s were being good to me. 

I have a nice room with toilet and sink. There is a hair dryer in the room so I will see about trying to dry out my shoes and day-pack overnight.

The Yunomine Onsen area has a natural hot springs which I took some pictures when I arrived. You can see the steam from them.

It was a dark and dreary day, but I survived. It sure makes you appreciate the nice weather.

Kumano Kodo pilgrimage – Day 2 – Monday, November 13, 2017 – Takahara – Tsugizakura-oji.

The Kirinosato Takarhara Inn was wonderful to stay at with a beautiful views and wonderful friendly staff. It was nice to rest and have a hot bath after walking yesterday.  In the morning it was beautiful to wake up with the morning mist in the valley below and the mountains in the background.

Here are some pictures of the room:

For supper they served local grown organic vegetables. For dessert they serve ginger sorbet. I must admit it is the first time I ever had ginger sorbet and I really enjoyed it since I like ginger. 

I also noticed when I walked thru the parking lot they had a EV charging station sign. I told them at check-in I was impressed with the two electric car stations they have since I have an electric car. 

A definite stay again place and since they had a 2016 trip advisor award banner I will be giving them a good review on trip advisor.

Today looks like a climb from 300 meters to 700 meters with a few uphill climbs and downhill treks. 

Well, the day started with a steady uphill climb on a beautiful cobblestone path.

It was a beautiful sunny day, which made it nice for walking. There are six Oji’s along the way. Here are some pictures I took:



Since there was no Oji, just the site where the Oji was, I didn’t take any photos of it. There was a nice rest area nearby.


There was an interesting jizo statue and a sign stating it is where someone died on the Kumano. I thought if I had a heart attack now this would be a very peaceful place to die.

I stopped at a rest area for lunch which had an interesting statue of a man riding a horse an cow. Later on there was a little shrine comemorating the statue with an explanation.


Again for this Oji there was only a stone comemorating where the Oji used to be.

It was here that I took a small tumble. My shoe slipped on a moss covered stone and my shoe drove my big toe into a root and I fell on my left hip. Luckily I landed on some soft moss and small tree branches which softened the fall. Amazing how such a small fall can throw you for a loop. When I got back up I could feel my big toe paining and my hip felt sore. I decided to wait til this evening to check it out. As suspected my big toe nail was a bit black on one side but was ok. I will see how sore my hip is tomorrow morning after a sleep.

Thank heavens no one saw me tumble. As a matter of fact, I saw no one else on the trail. It was very peaceful and serene. I enjoyed my walk and was trying to be careful around the roots and rocks.



I stopped at a wonderful tea shop next to the Oji and had a nice rest as I waited to check into my accommodation.

I took a couple photos of the beautiful trails.

There were some beautiful pink flowers growing on one of the stone walls with my shadow.

At one place they had some nice decorations outside with a welcome Kumano Kodo sign.

I stayed at Guest House MUI this evening. I was able to find it ok. Just before it there was a old cherry tree remains.

I didn’t meet many fellow Kumano Kodo hikers. Only two while I waited at the teahouse from Australia and United States.

Tomorrow the forecast calls for rain. After two wonderful days of sunshine I will see how it goes. Can’t compain. So far so good.

I had an excellent dinner. Here is a picture of the wonderful meal.

Kumano Kodo pilgrimage – Day 1 – Sunday, November 12, 2017 – Nakahechi Main Route.

After a nice rest, I was up for breakfast at 8 am and caught the 9:10 am bus for the starting point of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.

Since it is only a 3 hour walk today, I decided to start early to spend some time at the Kumano Kodo Kan Pilgrimage Centre which is at the start of the trail head.

From there the trail starts at Takijiri-oji, which is one of the five major Oji shrines – the entrance to the abode of the gods and Buddhist paradise of rebirth. There was once extensive halls, a bath house, lodging for pilgrims, and residences for priests, priestesses, and monks located here.

Oji are subsidiary shrines of the three Kumano Grand Shrines that line the Kumano Kodo to protect and guide pilgrims. These shrines house the “child dieties” of Kumano and serve as places to worship and rest.

The formation of these shrines has been attributed to the Yamabushi mountain ascetics, who historically served as pilgrimage guides.

Before catching the 9:10 bus I was able to visit the Tokei-jinja which was close to where I was staying. Here are a few photos I was able to take:

The start of the walk was indeed steep and found the Chichi-iwa Rock.

There was also another rock you could climb through if you had faith. I could have but unable to get through with my day pack on.

Along the trail there were some nice views.

There was a mount of rocks where people would bury containers (jars) with their sutras.

The trails at the top of the mountains were beautiful.

The trail markers were great to give you confidence you were on the correct trail.

Along the way there was a nice little shrine where I stopped to have lunch.

There was a nice view of the mountains and a nice place to rest as I waited for my check-in time in Takara.

The weather co-operated and it was beautiful and sunny all day. Tomorrow is a full day of walking with a few mountain climbs by the look of things. WiFi is spotty, so hopefully will be able to get my blog published, as I lost my data connection due to being in a remote area.

Kamikura-jinja Shrine

After a wonderful rest last night and nice breakfast buffet at the hotel, I walked to the train station and put my day pack in a locker since my plans were to climb up the Kamikura-jinja Shrine. It is halfway up the east side of Mt. Gongen where there is a huge stone (monolith) known as Gotobiki-iwa, where it is believed that the Kumano deities first descended. Under Gotobiki-iwa is Kamikura-jinja Shrine which has a panoramic view of Shingu city.

The steps up were very steep and scary at times especially on the way down. On the way down there was a Japanese woman stuck. Afraid to continue to climb up and to go back down . I told her not to look up or down but just take it one step at a time like when doing the Shikoku pilgrimage.

When checking the ohenro Facebook page there was a link to how to use the Goshuincho (book to collect stamps from temples and shrines) which I thought I would share:

On the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage there are three main world heritage shrines which are part of the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage is link with the Camino de Santiago in Spain. If you complete both you can get a dual pilgram certificate.

I walked back to the main shrine, stopping into some of the other temples as there were many along the way.

I visited Asuka-jinja  and collected another Goshuincho. The monk spoke wonderful english. Here are some of the photos:

I then hiked up a small hill to these old castle ruins. I was the  only one there and was able to sit and enjoy  the view (below), while I enjoyed a couple Japanese oranges, which are now in season and taste wonderful with no seeds in them and are nice and sweet.

The oranges  are sold everywhere in the shops since they are so plentiful.

After my walk and visiting the temples I caught my train to Kii-Tanabe, where I stayed overnight. I visited the Kumano travel office to get the bus schedule for tomorrow morning. The Ryokan owner was very nice and lived in Vancouver for a year to learn english. I will start the walking part of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage tomorrow, Sunday, November 12, 2017.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha

Friday, November 10, 2017 – Today I took the Kuroshio 9 Limited Express train to Shingu where I visited one of the three major shrines of the Kumano pilgrimage. The train trip was a little over four hours. Japan is amazing for it’s network of trains.

The trip along the coast was beautiful. I found it interesting in the seat pocket there were instructions on what to do in case of tsunami. In Japan, they take safety seriously.

There was an interesting statue outside the Shingu train station, which turned out a little dark.

I was able to find my hotel easily. I like using the Agoda website to make my hotel bookings, as I have never had any problems with the booking. After check-in I walked to the Kumano Hayatama Taisha shine and had my temple stamp book stamped along with getting my first stamp of the Kumano pilgrimage in the official Kumano stamp pamphet.

Here are some of the pictures I took at the shrine:

The Tori gate entrance.

The gate to the shrine with the hand washing station on the right.

Hand washing station.

Main shrine.

Some photos I took around the grounds:

I think the sign is of the old moss covered tree.

On the walk back to the hotel, as it was getting dark (beyond dusk, as it gets dark around 5:30 pm in Japan), I came across this traditional Japanese statue I liked so thought I would use it to end my blog for the day. I stopped at a grocery store on my way back to the hotel and picked up a bento box and yogurt for supper. The hotel has WiFi, which I am glad so I can upload my photos.

Christmas in Osaka

Spent a wonderful day shopping and enjoying the beautiful Christmas display windows outside the Hankyu Department store near Osaka station. Here are some of the photos I took.

Inside the beautiful Hankyu Department store, I took the escalator up to the 10th floor, where they had a nice opened sitting area (four stories high) which can be used for shows. As well, there were lots of well done displays.

A great day exploring Osaka. Tomorrow I will take four hour train ride to Shingu to start my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.

Osaka sightseeing

Spent the last couple of days sightseeing around Osaka. Went to see the Osaka aquarium which was fantastic.

I enjoyed watching the penguins as the dove into the water and how they swam.

There was a huge tank inside where you started at the top and walked around it, until you finally got to the bottom. There were spots you could sit and watch the fish. Could have spent all day there.

There were lots of school children wearing different color hats. I took a few photos of them as they walked by and were getting their pictures taken by the Lego giraffe.

At the aquarium they have a pond where you can reach in and touch the stingrays and sharks, after you wash your hands of course.

When I arrived in Osaka there were young Japanese singers, performing at the station, which were very good. The difference in Japan is they are not allowed to beg for money. I guess they see it as a way to build up their singing confidence.

At the Osaka station they have this wonderful water fall that drops the water and makes patterns. It was hard to get a good photo of it.

Of course every day I have been able to have my matcha latte hoto grande at Starbucks.

I also visited the Osaka tower, which was interesting. I was able to get a day picture (even though it was cloudy) and a night picture.

All in all, a good couple days in Osaka. I have enjoyed staying with my Airbnb host Taz. Tomorrow I am going to try and take some pictures of the beautiful Christmas store window displays, which are very unique.