Henro Day 3: Journal

10 02 2012

Originally posted at iHenro!

23 November, 2011, Day Three

  • Walking from 7:30 am to 4pm
  • 1 temple (Shosanji)
  • 17.9 km
  • Staying at Nabeiwa-so (6825 yen including dinner and breakfast)

Made it! I kept telling myself if I got though today I could get through anything! And I did. 17.9 km, 3 mountains, 1 temple (and 12.9 km in 5 and a half hours with breaks – I’m proud!).

Start of the trail at Fujidera

Started out after a quick breakfast of croissants at the hotel then walked back to Fujidera. Started out on the trail around 8 o’clock. To be honest, the mountains weren’t that hard, 600m, 745m and 705m, but three in 5.5 hours was a challenge. And I had a blister (but luckily it’s under my foot and gave me no trouble with a band-aid on).

Kobo Daishi at Joren-an

Kept crossing paths with new people today. And spiders. At Joren-an (the last shrine before Shosanji) there was a lovely statue with a huge cedar tree behind it.

Shosanji (No. 12)

Shosanji temple itself was lovely, up amongst the cedars. Stayed there for an hour of so before heading to the lodgings for tonight – Nabeiwa-so. On the way I was stopped at a shop and invited to have some coffee and persimmon as osettai. There I met another pilgrim from Tochigi. Most pilgrims seem to be retired men!

The lodge itself is beautiful. New looking yet traditional and rustic with exposed beams and a lovely cedar smell.

Sign marking Henro Korogashi

So my first henro korogashi challenge is past! Only one more in Tokushima. Looking forward to a good sleep and some flat ground tomorrow!

By the way, I’m in the Cosmos room 😀

Henro Day 2: Reflections

6 02 2012

First posted on iHenro!

Kirihataji (No. 10)

Day two was so much better than day one. And that was mainly because I had a lot more interaction with people. I seemed to keep running into the same people over and over. If someone was at a temple as I was arriving, I would generally see them at the next temple too, the same with people who were arriving as I was leaving. So we would all say ‘hello’ and give a few words of encouragement. Even the bus henro, because sometimes it would take the same amount of time to walk between the two temples as it would take to drive.

This was also the first day that I realised my guide-book (Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, 1600 yen on Amazon.co.jp), despite being an excellent book, was occasionally lacking in accuracy. The road maps in some areas don’t show all the details, so it can get a little confusing (like trying to find your hotel). However, in terms of the route, there are stickers and path markers everywhere marking the path, so I never got lost. (And some really cute stickers! I wish I could have bought some for myself)

Before starting out I practically had no plans as to how many days I would do, and where I would stay, etc. I wasn’t even sure how far I could walk in one day. Everything I had read recommended doing between 20 and 30 km a day, but I didn’t know if I was physically fit enough. After day 2 I pretty much decided that 25 km was probably the max I could handle, but that was mainly because doing the trip in November only gave you limited daylight hours to walk. The sun would just be rising as I left, and would set about 430, so it was getting dark around 4.

Jurakuji (No. 7) and Shukubo (on right)

Choosing where to stay was the next factor that I had to plan for. I went to the Information Centre in Tokushima and asked for some recommendations on accommodations, and the girl there said that staying in Shukubo (Temple lodgings) would probably get me through Tokushima alright. I didn’t actually, but at temple 7 I saw my first Shukubo. Next time I will probably give it a try. Ringing up the night before and booking accommodation worked fine for me, but I don’t think it would be such a good idea during peak seasons.

Kumadaiji (No. 8)

Also saw a few interesting and random things on day two. Temple 8 was my first ‘what the?’ moment. The gate for the temple was about 500m away from the actual temple, which was a bit unusual. It was sort of sitting alone in the middle of nowhere. Also saw a house like that, just surrounded by rice fields. I guess they have space for that in Tokushima.

The last leg of the journey was really interesting, and the longest of the day. Basically you had to cross from one side of the plain to the other, so you could actually see the prior temple from close to temple 11. The plain is intersected by the Yoshino river, which is the widest river in Shikoku I believe. It wasn’t all flowing water, and even had rice fields in the middle of it, but it took something like an hour to cross! On the other side was where I met my volunteer guide, and he walked with me for about an hour and a half explaining things to me. It was nice to have someone to chat to.

Yoshino River with Kirihataji (No. 10) in the distance

He was a little confused as to why I didn’t stay closer to temple 11 that night, but I was happy with my decision to stay in town. If it started raining the next day I wasn’t going to attempt to climb to temple 12. The trail to temple 12 was steep in parts, and I was only wearing trail runners, so I didn’t want to risk climbing in the rain. Also, since I was close by to a convenience store, I could buy myself some lunch to take up the mountain with me. Most days I would have great breakfasts and dinners, but for lunches I mostly relied on calorie mate, chocolate and mandarins. Not the best, but it worked for me.

The one thing I regret about day 2 is not buying a staff near temple 10. In terms of pilgrim attire I wasn’t all ‘decked out’. I only had a hakui (white vest), bag, nameslips, stampbook, incense and candles. I didn’t buy a staff initially, but thinking of day three’s hike I decided I should get one at temple 11. Little did I know that there were no shops nearby temple 11. I still managed to survive though.

Henro Day 2: Journal

3 02 2012

Originally posted on iHenro!

November 22, 2011, Day Two

  • Walking from 7:45 am to 4 pm
  • 6 temples (Anrakuji, Jurakuji, Kumadanji, Horinji, Kirihataji, and Fujidera)
  • 23.8 km
  • staying at Access Business Hotel (5,500 yen including breakfast)

A much better day today. Breakfast was early at the minshuku, and it was (partly) raw egg. Which they kindly cooked for me.

Anrakuji (No. 6)

They also gave us all a 5 yen piece (shiny) and some matches, which came in handy today. And then they drove us to the next temple! I can’t decide if that’s cheating or not, but considering the majority of people bus the whole thing and they encourage people to do it any way they want, I guess it’s okay.

Horinji (No. 9)

Today I went to temple 6 to 11. I kept running into the same people along the way, with 3 guys who were amazed at how fast I was going (not that fast really) and kept asking if I was running it. I also had a weird Oji-san talk to me at temple 7. I didn’t understand half of what he said.

Buddhas in Bibs

Between 10 and 11 had a volunteer guide latch on to me. Interesting guy. 65 and just out for a 30km stroll. Showed me the dragon on the ceiling at number 11 and pointed out that Japanese dragons only have 3 claws vs. Chinese, which have 5. He also pretty much walked me to the hotel. Except the last crucial 50 meters in which I managed to get hopelessly lost. It was hiding behind a convenience store.

Kobo Daishi at Fujidera (No. 11)

Smallest hotel I’ve ever stayed in too. More the size of a motel, but definitely a business hotel. Cold water in the shower though. 😦

Maccas for dinner (meh), did some washing, repacked bag, sent some e-mails. Oh, forgot to mention Tokushima kinda smells. Lots and lots of cows living in sheds.

Little worried about tomorrow – rain and my first Henro Kogoroshi.

iHenro is going back online!

20 01 2012

Hey Folks!  So just a little announcement to let you all know that iHenro is going back online (^-^)b

iHenro is a new(old) blog about the 88 Temple pilgrimage in Shikoku.  If you’ve been a reader for a while you would know my plan last year to do the entire pilgrimage in April/May was canned, but I actually managed to get over to Japan in November to do part of the route.

Posts will be cross-posted to yamaonna, so you don’t need to subscribe over there to read my adventures.  And will most likely be image heavy (because I didn’t lug my huge camera around Tokushima for nothing).

I hope you enjoy!

Hike – Ashinoko (Hakone) 芦ノ湖(箱根)

6 12 2009

Quick Overview

Lake Ashi

This is a pleasant (if long) walk around Lake Ashi (Ashinoko) 芦ノ湖.  With views of Mt Fuji 富士山, and access to transport to many other sightseeing places in the area, it’s quiet scenic.  The trail is mostly flat and well-defined and signed.  Usually very quite, as most tourists use the boats to cross the lake, but a good option if the weather is fine and you have the time.  Suitable for anybody who can walk long distances.  Also has a few beaches along the way to stop at and have a picnic lunch (but no shops or toilets).

Distance: 12km
Duration:  3 to 4 hours
Difficulty: easy
Season:  April to December
Starting point:  Hakone Machi 箱根町
Finishing point: Togendai 桃源台


Note, the last few kilometers of this trail won’t show on the embedded map, but you can access the whole map on googlemaps!

A full map of the hike  can also be viewed at GPSies

The Mapple 山と高原地図 map series number 29, which includes Hakone 箱根 and it’s surrounds, can be bought on Amazon.co.jp. Note, these maps are in Japanese, but have some English and furigana.

The Hike

From the bus stop at Hakone Machi 箱根町 follow the edge of the lake around to the left.  You will have to walk along a couple of streets, but as long as you stick to the route closest to the lake edge you will be able to pick up the trail.

Initially you will walk on a service road around a small mountain.  There are a number of different short trails on the mountain if you want to do some extra exploring.  If you keep to the service road you will come to a picnic area with some public toilets and a large gate.  This is the last toilet until the end of the walk.  Next to the  gate is a smaller gateway for people. Just pass through that and you will be on the path to Togendai 桃源台.

The path follows the edge of the lake, and the only deviations are little paths that lead down to the lake edge.  Occasionally you will be able to access a stone beach next to the lake, so bringing a picnic lunch and something to sit on is a pleasant way to spend some time.

Towards the end of the hike you will join a bitumen road nearby a flood gate and boat ramp.   Here, again, stick to the path closest to the lake’s edge.  After a kilometer or so, you will come to a large river crossing the path.  You will have to cross the river on the main road.  On the other side  of the river is a large camp ground.  Follow the road around the camp ground, and keep going until you reach Togendai Ropeway station 桃源台ロープウェイ駅.

To and From

As always, the following routes are just recommendations.  Please use Hyperdia or Jorudan’s Train Route Finder to find the most suitable route for you!

From Tokyo 東京, you can either catch the JR line or the Odakyu 小田急 line.  The JR Tokaido line 東海道線 leaves from Tokyo Station 東京駅, and takes 86 minutes and 1,450 yen.  Or you can catch the Kodama Shinkansen to Odawara 小田原 from Tokyo Station 東京駅, costing 3,640 yen and taking 36 minutes.  The Odakyu 小田急 line leaves from Shinjuku Station 新宿駅 and goes to Hakone Yumoto Station 箱根湯本駅.  You may have to change at Odawara 小田原 to continue further on.  The Odakyu 小田急 line either costs 1,150 yen and takes approximately 110 minutes, or if you catch the Romance Car (reserved seating) takes 89 minutes and 2,020 yen.

From Odawara 小田原 or Hakone Yumoto 箱根湯本 catch the Odakyu 小田急 bus to Hakone Machi 箱根町.  From Odawara 小田原 this takes about 60 minutes and 1,150 yen.  From Hakone Yumoto 箱根湯本 it takes 45 minutes and 790 yen.

Departing from Togendai 桃源台 you have a few options.  There is a bus back to Hakone Yumoto 箱根湯本 and Odawara 小田原 taking 45 or 60 minutes respectively, and 840 or 1,200 yen respectively.  Or you can take the scenic route over Owakudani 大涌谷 by catching the Ropeway.  The other option is to catch the boat back to Hakone Machi 箱根町 or Moto Hakone 元箱根, and then catch the bus from there.

If you are staying in the Hakone 箱根 area for a few days Odakyu 小田急 has a Hakone Freepass, which covers return trip from Shinjuku 新宿, and many of the other forms of transport around the area.  The 2 day pass is 5,000 yen, and the 3 day pass is 5,500 yen.  Details can be found here.


Odakyu Hakone Freepass – http://www.odakyu.jp/english/freepass/hakone_01.html

Hakone Zenzan, some other hikes in the Hakone area and weather reports- http://www.hakone.or.jp/english/osusume/hike_list.html

HakoneNavi, tourist information site for Hakone – http://www.hakonenavi.jp/english/

Useful Kanji

Lake Ashi (Ashinoko) 芦ノ湖
Hakone 箱根
Hakone Machi 箱根町
Hakone Yumoto 箱根湯本
Hakone Yumoto Station 箱根湯本駅
Moto Hakone 元箱根
Mt Fuji 富士山
Odakyu 小田急
Odawara 小田原
Owakudani 大涌谷
Shinjuku Station 新宿駅
Togendai 桃源台
Togendai Ropeway station 桃源台ロープウェイ駅
Tokaido line 東海道線
Tokyo 東京
Tokyo Station 東京駅

tickled pink

25 10 2009

In a way, not much has been happening lately, but on the other hand, lots has.  We’ve just finished the mid semester exams and sports day at school, and during that time I had a number of days off.  Now its the 5 week hard slog until end of semester exams and winter break.

Because I’ve had extra time off, and because the weather has been great (well, barring that late typhoon on Oct 8th), I’ve had plenty of time to go hiking.  I’ve actually gone 3 times this month, which has me at a never before achieved physical fitness level (^-^)v

Firstly I hiked from Mt Takao to Mt Jimba.  It was probably the hardest hike (barring Mt Fuji) that I have done to date.  Mainly because it was 19km.  But I survived and had a great feeling of accomplishment afterwards.  It was actually really good timing, after the typhoon, because the sky was really clear and I could see Mt Fuji, Tokyo, and even all the way to Mt Tsukuba, which is pretty rare.

Last weekend I went to Hakone for 3 days 2 nights.  While I was there I did two hikes, the first from Gora to Hakone Yumoto, and secondly a walk around Lake Ashi.  The Gora hike was pretty hard, and I have to admit that I was kinda freaked out about the possibility of seeing a bear.  The hike around Lake Ashi was a lot easier, and I actually meet with a friend I had made at the summer camp I worked at, which made the hike really pleasant.  And of course I went to onsen and had a massage, so it was also a pretty relaxing weekend.

On Friday I decided to go to Nikko for the day and walk the Senjogahara marshes.  I was a little disappointed I was too late for most of the leaves changing, but despite that, it really was a beautiful walk.  I think I might try to go again in summer next year.

I worry a little that I’m somewhat of an addictive personality.  I really seem to have caught the hiking bug, but I also know I’ll probably only be able to go once a month from now, at least in the winter months.  But I’m totally excited about using my new thermal cup when I do go hiking –

Thermal cup/mug thingyopen thermal cup

Is it possible to have a thermal bottle/mug fetish?  because I swear I have about 6 things now….  Anyhow, this one is specifically designed for hot drinks, and is really easy to use.  Its kinda sad, but I’m particularly impressed with the pouring cap –


You just push down on the red button to open the spout, and to close you push the tab on the side in!  Very smart – I like that you don’t have to touch the spout.  I tried it out on Friday, and I was also surprised at how long the water inside stayed hot.  It’s supposed to keep it at 70deg for 7 hours or so, but it lasted longer!  So now I’ll be able to take tea with me when I go hiking.  How exciting!!Azuki Flavoured Pepsi

Apart from hiking not much has been happening, however there are a few things that have tickled my fancy.

At 7-11 the other day I spotted Azuki (sweet red bean) flavoured Pepsi.  Only in Japan…

It wasn’t flavoured cola, but more like flavoured sprite.  Actually, it wasn’t bad, however it really didn’t taste much like azuki to me.  But I’ll try anything once.

I also got a delivery of bulbs the other day, in the hopes that come spring I’ll have a lovely pot of lovely flowers.  I planted them up this morning, and here’s what it looks like now –

one day, I'll grow up into beautiful potted flowers....Let’s just hope I don’t manage to kill them…  I’ll post photos when they bloom…  If they bloom…  Really, I’m good at killing plants….

Of weddings, clouds, and statues

24 07 2009

A couple of  weekends ago (see, I’m already behind…) I was invited to a friend’s second wedding party in Yokohama.

I find Japanese weddings to be very different to what weddings I have attended in Australia. Firstly, in Japan they hold a number of parties. The actual legal wedding occurs at your local ward office, and is really just like going to sign the document. Then you have wedding parties.

Most couples have at least 2 wedding parties. The first being a wedding ceremony and formal reception. The second party is more like a reception, but the couple would have had a “costume” change, and more guests would be invited. The guests have to pay for the party, around the order of ¥5000 or upwards, but this will probably include food and drink. It’s also probable that there will be some sort of game either to get to know the other guests or for prizes. These 2nd parties only last about 2 hours, and then afterwards guests will either head off to the next party, an after party, or home.

Oh, and did I mention, its also customary for guests to wear black or dark colours to a wedding in Japan???  Particularly if you go to the first party.

All in all it must be an exhausting day for the couple, with sooo many events to attend. Personally I do prefer the western style of ceremony and one reception, just seems a whole lot easier to me, because Japanese weddings are such a big production!

Anyway, the party I attended a few weekends ago was a lot of fun, and it was good to see a lot of my old colleagues. Because it was in Yokohama I opted to stay there overnight, it’s about an hour and a half from where I live, and then the following day went out further to Hakone to enjoy some hiking and onsen.

Mikas Wedding Party in Yokohama

Mika's Wedding Party in Yokohama

Alas my Hakone plans were a bit too ambitious for someone who was out late the night before, not to mention the weather wasn’t agreeable either.  Hakone, being in the mountains, is often in the clouds.  On a good day you can see Mt Fuji from Lake Ashi.

Lake Ashi and Mt Fuji

Lake Ashi and Mt Fuji

And on a bad day, well, you can’t see much at all…

Lake Ashi in cloud

Lake Ashi in cloud

On the Monday I wanted to do an 11km walk around Lake Ashi, and then hike back down the mountains to Hakone-Yumoto. I did start the walk around Lake Ashi, but about a third if the way around clouds set in and I decided it was best to turn back. So instead I headed back to my hotel, B&B Pension Hakone. My hotel was a very pleasant surprise, very cheap, but included breakfast and a discount ticket to a nearby onsen (Mori no Yu, part of Yunessun). So that evening I rested my sore muscles in the hot spring.

The next day my plan was to hike from Gora station to Tsukahara station before heading home. But again my exhaustion got the better of me (in the end I did walk over 20km in the two days) and I went to the Hakone Open Air Museum instead.

The museum was very interesting. I had been meaning to go there for a long time and I’m happy to have been now. It’s a museum dedicated to displaying statues outdoors. But for me it was very interesting to learn my own tastes in sculpture. It seems I tend towards shiny things and the human form. And not abstract sculptures, which surprised me because I tend towards more modern artwork.

Anyway, I didn’t take many photos, becuase the signs all said no photos.  But then walking about I saw many people using cameras, so here’s a couple of the sculptures I liked –

Shiny Ball thingy

Shiny Ball thingy

Disembodied Head

Disembodied Head

By the way, for anyone interested in hiking in Hakone, this site is a great resource if you don’t mind wading through the Japanese on their maps – Hakone-Zenzan.  The hikes I was planning to do were #1, #4 (which doesn’t have a map, but from Hakone Machi just keep following the closest road to the lake going left, and you cant miss the trail head), and something in the area of #18. I used the Mapple Hakone hiking map to plan my hikes.  (One day when I actually do the hikes, I’ll do a proper write up…)