A mystic graveyard with over 20,000 gravestones in the midst of a towering cedar forest. Some graves are new but many are old and covered with moss. Some are forgotten and breaking apart. But surprisingly there is no sad atmosphere but a rather mystic one and then spooky at night..
We stayed one night at one of the temples in Koyasan. Jimeiin is a quiet, serene temple with beautiful gardens.
We were welcomed by young monks and escorted to our traditional Japanese room, which overlooked two different, wonderful gardens. For dinner, a tasty tofu and vegetarian meal was served by monks and next morning we were also invited to participate in morning prayers at 6:30 am. We don’t need to be a Buddhist or to understand exactly what is happening. We can sit there quietly and simply appreciate that mystic and mysterious experience.
Kumano Kodō, from Hashinmon Oji to Hongu, stop at Yunomine Onsen.
We have been walking parts of the Kumano Kodo for two days and today is 3rd day.
Yunomine Onsen is a quaint World Cultural Heritage onsen village with hot water steaming down the river. Instead of soaking in a over-50 degree bath (obviously you need to add water), we put our feet in the downstream (still over 40 degrees), drinking beer and eating snacks. A simple, nice and relaxing experience.
Kumano Kodo, from Hashinmon Oji to Kumano Hongu,
Starting at 3 pm (due to some car problem), which is late and the over-careful tourism office recommend that we take a torch light, we walked through a very beautiful countryside dotted with hamlet and occasional tea plantation. We greeted some villagers and passed a couple of self-service stands which sell plum pickles and local tea.
We survived even without a torch light.
The most beautiful Shinto shrine I have even seen. After walking on the Kumano Kodo for two hours, we arrived at the main shrine past 5 pm. It was after the shrine offices are closed so there was almost no one in the temple compound. We sat awed by mystic, majestic shrine with beautifully thatched-roof.
We also visited the biggest Torii (the shrine gate) in Japan. It was gigantic!
One of the main three shrines in Kumano, Nachi-Taisha, nestled in a dense mountain forest. A very picturesque pagoda was erected in front of the tallest waterfall in Japan (133m).
We arrived around 3 pm and started from Daimon-zaka, walking up to the Nachi Taisha gate. This uphill path, paved with moss-covered stone and lined with massive cedar trees, is part of the Kumano Kodo (pilgrimage route). History can be felt. We were happy to see many visitors coming down and only very few walking up.
By the time we got up to the gate of the shrine, there were very few people, maybe because of the rain. We enjoyed the view of the surrounding mountains and the tranquil atmosphere for a while, before heading to the less tranquil waterfall also visited by a noisy Korean bus tour group.
A short 3km walk. First along a fascinating coast and then over the Matsumoto Pass to Onigayo. Our first few steps on the famous Kumano Kodō – a UNESCO World Heritage pilgrimage site. It’s the only pilgrimage UNESCO site in Asia. The big brother is the Camino de Santiago, also known as the St. James’s Way or Chemin de Saint Jacques.
In Ise, we stayed at the super quaint, traditional wooden Ryokan (Japanese-style inn) Hoshidekan. It is located near the river and in the midst of an old neighbourhood. This old building with tatami rooms is taken care of beautifully.
Among the many details the Suikinkutsu (water-cave instrument) is a rather unique feature. Through a bamboo stick, one can listen to the sound of water dropping into an underground cave. Very meditative.
Yen 12,500 for two with breakfast (Western breakfast available).
In the evening we enjoyed a fantastic meal with fish and some great sake in a traditional storage house turned into a restaurant. A bit less enjoyable was the loudest Japanese waiter ever encountered – but the Ryokan warned us.
Ise Jingū, the most sacred Shinto shrine in Japan, on the Kii Peninsula, near Osaka.
Going inside the deep-forested shrine compound, we felt awed by the mystic and spiritual atmosphere of the place… like the other hundreds of visitors.
For religious reasons and to preserve the shrine building skills, 16 of the over 100 shrines are rebuilt every 20 years! Its austere beauty of the architecture is impressive.
After visiting the shrine, we went around the shopping street “Okage Yokocho”, leading to the shrine. It was lined with endless souvenir and food shops and booming with many Japanese visitors and foreign tourists. It was great fun trying all kinds of snacks: famous Ise-Udon (thick noodles with only soy-sauce dashi), Matsusaka beef stick and beef bun for Philippe, tofu donuts and red bean paste sweets for Yasuko. The options were endless and we decided to go for a food tasting spree.