Final Day Hiking: Kiso-Fukushima to Narai

Our final day on the trail. We both took an early morning hot spring soak and enjoyed breakfast before we bid adieu to our inn. Cooler today, better for hiking. Probably the most beautiful walk yet, over the torii pass. We took a moment to admire the baby-bearing horse chestnut tree. After only a few…

Hiking Day Three: Tsumago to Kiso-Fukushima

A bit about last night, since I wrote my post before dinner. We ate with a couple from Italy and a dad and his two kids from the US. Our host was a character, showing us photos, telling stories, and even singing during dinner, all in half Japanese and half English. Come morning we were…

Hiking Day Two: Nakatsugawa to Tsumago

A confession: I don’t always love Japanese breakfast. I don’t dislike it really. But it’s often so similar to Japanese dinner, I end up craving variety and a bit of familiarity. So what a pleasant surprise to awake to a hot fried egg and breakfast meat (along with rice, miso soup, and natto). While not…

Hiking, Day One: Tokyo to Nakatsugawa

After a few days in Tokyo (more to come about that later, maybe), today we headed out for our first day on the hike. First, a bullet train (shinkansen) from Tokyo to Nagoya. Lunch in Nagoya was a hit: conveyor belt sushi with an amazing automated delivery system that deposited sushi to our booth. (Perhaps…

In praise of traveling heavy

“You travel a lot, you’re probably traveling really light, right?” someone asked me before the trip. There are times when I travel light. When I was younger, it was because I was often traveling by backpack. Light was best. Better to wear the same grubby pair of jeans than to carry around a pack full…

Hiking Japan, Take Two

Over-preparation or denial. The two options available to a timid and inexperienced hiker. The last time I hiked in Japan I went with over-preparation. This time … Next week I’ll be hiking a section of the Nakasendo, the original route from Kyoto to Tokyo. Why this area? It’s closer to Tokyo, I guess, and easier…

Towns and Villages

I get the sense that some western pilgrims expect the Shikoku pilgrimage to be a sort of “Japanese Appalachian Trail.” Woods, wilderness, nature. It’s really not like that at all. The bulk of the path follows alongside roads, with only some sections of off-road hiking trails. Maybe I’m wrong but I feel like a lot…

Shikoku Housing

A big part of the draw for me with Shikoku was the accommodation. Besides the appeal of a warm bed every night, I had no desire to add a tent, backpack, and sleeping pad to my pack. So what were my accommodations like? I stayed in five different places: a guesthouse, a ryokan, a minshuku,…

Shikoku Pilgrimage: Final Thoughts

After blogging daily about my pilgrimage, I failed to write anything about my last day on the trail, or any final thoughts. It’s been three months since I returned, and I feel obligated to do some kind of wrap-up. First, just a bit about the final day. I really can’t say enough good things about…

Day Six: Kuma Kogen to Matsuyama (halfway)

Absolutely perfect weather, easy hiking, and a spotlessly clean room awaiting me at the end of the journey … makes for a delightful day but a boring blog post. Really quite little to report from the trail, just a serene trek down the mountain. My day ended with a communal meal with other pilgrims; one…

Day Five: Kuma Kogen to Kuma Kogan

Today I’m doing a circular route, returning to the same hotel for another night. Which has the awesome benefit that I can leave a bunch of my things in the room, so my pack is super light. I got a late start this morning, unfortunate because I had the longest and hilliest hike to date:…

Day Four: Tobe Town´╗┐ to Kuma Kogen

Today was the day that I was most worried about. Off-road hiking for the first time and 800 meter ascent. The day started off with another lovely, thoughtful hand-drawn map from my favorite henro so far, Eiko. She laughed at my stupid attempts at humor, and was so patient with my pathetic Japanese skills. It…