Mt. Fuji, I Swear

I promise that is a photo of Mt Fuji – it was taken through the window of a Bullet Train, which as you know goes a million miles an hour. Plus, clouds.

Today was taken up mostly by rushing, waiting, traveling, and then waiting again, but the evening was topped off by a ramen dinner with a relative who lives here. Afterwards, he took me to Golden Gai, an area and experience I never would have had on my own. An excellent last night in Japan.

So, yes, sadly, tomorrow I return to Hawaii, but of course Hawaii isn’t such a bad place to have to return to.

What I’ll miss: the warm toilet seats/bidets; the food; the gentleness; the quiet of the forests; the mannerly queuing, the cleanliness, and definitely the bowing.

What I’m looking forward to: my electric toothbrush and WaterPic; soft mattress and pillow; family and friends; those ocean breezes.

I am hopeful that soon I’ll be traveling again, maybe to California soon and then later on a European autumn tour: Copenhagen, Berlin, Thames River Walk, and Ireland, and maybe the Camino de Santiago . . . Wish me luck!

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Osaka Dreary

Rain, rain, rain, but I won’t complain: the weather was fantabulous for all my hiking days. How lucky is that?

Anyway, one can go pretty much anywhere in Osaka without being exposed to the elements, what with the amazing underground or skyscraper overground worlds; life in Osaka is very much an inside existence. The days here are the polar opposite of all those glorious days of forest bathing in the mountains.

I had lunch at a recommended but strange – for several reasons – Mexican restaurant. I explored the pre-mentioned worlds, and now I’m back at the hotel very much appreciating online books.

Here are some photos for you.

Yes, it’s all fake.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

What Goes Up Must Come Down

As on the Kumano Kudo, whose climbs to high peaks meant an equal decent, so have I moved from elegant lodgings in Kii-Katsuura to dodgy ones here in Osaka: this place was described as a “European palace” but “maybe once a nice place but now, not so much” is more suitable – there are even warnings about “cases of suspicious people intruding into guest rooms”! Plus it doesn’t have a heated toilet seat, the air conditioner whines constantly, it’s right next to the rattling subway, and dang it, I’m here for three nights. Why I am even in this city at all I don’t know, but I believe my suspicions that the person I worked with at the tour company wasn’t actually listening to a word I said are correct.

Sorry all I have to offer are complaints and photos from the four-hour train trip, but as you may know, I have this thing about posting every single day of my travels in order to present a realistic picture.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

And So It Ended . . . Early

Today should have been my last day of walking the Kumano Kudo, but I developed a blister under the previous day’s blister under the previous day’s blister – yes, a three-layer blister. Just putting my boots on was excruciating, and today’s walk would have taken me at least ten hours with its nine miles, 4,134 foot elevation gain, and 3,051 foot elevation loss. Notes to self: hiking boots can cause blisters no matter how broken in they are; always carry moleskin; don’t take the walking sticks out of the suitcase at the last moment.

Anyway, instead of walking and visiting the most important shine at the end of the walk – so much for my spiritual cleansing, I guess – I took a bus and a train to Kii-Katsuura, which serves as an endpoint for pilgrims. This little town was extra quiet, the previous night’s guests having left and the new ones not yet arrived.

Tonight’s accommodation – a lovely hotel, the Kumano Bettei Nakanoshima – requires a short ferry ride to its private island, and since it was too early to check in, I walked to the island’s summit where a hot, sulphuric foot bath awaited me, all to myself. I felt no guilt in using it despite not officially finishing the pilgrimage.

From my room’s lanai I can see a series of pens in the water, which I assumed at first had to do with aquaculture, but no, I think they must be training pens for aquatic mammals. Although this practice does not sit well with me, I have to admit I have a shiny happy moment each time one of them bursts up out of the water for a fish treat. I watch for hours, waiting for my own dinner.

There are several outside sulphuric onsen here, and again, I had one to myself. Sometimes onsen water is too hot and sometimes too cool for me, but this was perfect. I sat there, in the perfect water, and watched the dolphins (?) jump and the hawks soar, and it was very satisfying, finisher or not.

Among other photos, I’ve included the local wanted poster and questionable tsunami instructions from the train. And how’s this for inclusivity? Beer cans in Japan have Braille.

But gosh, I wish I had some open-back shoes right now.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to. And try plum wine!

Takahara to Nonaka

Soaring hawks, big black butterflies, blooming roses (with scents to knock your socks off), splendid weather, melodious birdsong, gorgeous scenery and I made it to the next ryokan without perishing! According to my Fitbit, I walked 13.56 miles and climbed the equivalent of 233 flights of stairs, and my feet have not fallen off. All in all, I good day.

Blessings to those who sent encouragement – it truly made a difference in my outlook. Also, the path was a bit less ladder-y than the previous day, so that was helpful.

Here are some photos for you. Enjoy.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Kumano Kodo: And So It Begins

I left Kyoto this morning for a train down the coast to the start of this ancient trail said to be spiritually cleansing; I could use some of that. I had lunch I’m 99% sure was vegetarian at a special place I discovered near the bus station in Kii-Tanabe. I stopped at the museum at the foot of the trail for water and to offer thanks I don’t have to dress like the mannequins depicting earlier pilgrims. I also offered thanks to the actual trail before starting, and I was off. The weather couldn’t be lovelier and the forest is lush and peaceful. The only thing is . . . the trail itself; it’s a gorgeous area – spring is bursting out all over – but the incline is a killer. I can walk all day and into the night on relatively even ground; this hours-of-steep climbing is an altogether different animal. And this is to go on for several days. My mind keeps vacillating between I can’t do this and I have to do this. Words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated.

The “path” is tricky to discern in some places, but there are helpful signs here and there. I see only a few other people; I practically have the place to myself.

When I arrive at my accommodations after the first leg, a resident hawk soars over the valley and mountains. The weather is spectacular. The floral scents are intoxicating. Even the frogs here are soothing. I can’t hear any human-made noise. It’s lovely. Heaven. I’m in heaven.

Here are today’s photos. Enjoy.

Yes, these are two shots of the “path.”

This is more pathy, but yikes. Most of the steps are way taller than your average step height.

A new style of bibs.

Live all you can, and don’t forget to send words of encouragement.

Mt. Kurama, and mount something else

Today’s train journeys took me on a day trip out of Kyoto to Mt. Kurama and its dozens of holy spots (and monuments to poets!) along the trail over the mountain, but it was a mere 18,000 steps and a skimpy 72 flights of stairs . . .

The walk was mostly calm and beautiful, just me and the birds and a few other hikers, until a group of shrieking American high school students came tramping up behind me. It was a combo group of them and an equal amount of Japanese students, who remained perfectly silent as they made their way through the forest. So different. And embarrassing.

Speaking of embarrassing . . . I had been noticing how nearly every window I’ve seen from a Japan train has been closed up tight with curtains, which has been very disappointing. However, that was overcompensated for today on a slow-moving local train with the unusual seating arrangement of facing straight out the windows. I scored one of those take-in-all-the-sights seats and was treated (?) to my first ever live show exhibitionists, right there, at eye level, standing on their porch, both facing the train, and, wait, were they smiling at us as they bounced away? Sorry I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo for you. I looked around at the other passengers, but no one reacted in any discernible way. But me, I still chuckle every time I think about it. What a trip.

Anyway, here are some other photos. Enjoy.

Live all you can. But maybe keep some things private?