Reader tips on travelling Japan and walking the Kumano Kodo trail: Robert Brice

NAME Robert Brice, Balwyn, Victoria


THE ITINERARY A week in Tokyo staying at the Hotel Gracery​ a.k.a. the “Godzilla Hotel” in Kabukicho​. Using our Japan Rail Passes on the circular JR Yamanote​ line to explore Tokyo’s diverse sights, such as a traditional Autumn Festival performance within the Meiji​ Shinto shrine, and that evening, traversing Shibuya’s​ pedestrian crossing engulfed by neon signs and video billboards.

After Tokyo, a bullet train to Kyoto followed by a local train, south to Tanabe​ on the Kii Peninsula to start our five-day pilgrimage of the Ancient Kumano Kodo​ trail. Walking under canopies of cedar and cypress, exploring spectacular shrines such as the Nachi Taisha​, staying at traditional minshukus​ (B&Bs) and ryokans​ (guesthouses) enjoying their fine food, and the opportunity to learn about Japan’s traditional customs from our guide.

A further week in Japan’s old capital, Kyoto. Walking the streets of Gion and Pontocho, keeping an eye out for elusive geikos​ walking to engagements. Taking the opportunity to recharge our batteries in Arashiyama sitting on a stone bench in early morning light, sipping a great espresso, soaking up a zen-like ambience of red, yellow and brown foliage tumbling down the hillside into the Katsura River; all before entering the Tenryu-ji, zen shrine, and meandering through the 14th-century Sogenchi​ gardens and peaceful bamboo grove.

BEST BITS Walking in the footsteps of emperors along the Kumano Kodo.

Snapping a photo of a maiko​ and her mentor geiko on a cobblestoned laneway in Pontocho.

“Melbourne quality” espresso from Arabica​, a modern cafe kiosk perched above the Katsura River in Arashiyama.

WORST BIT Decision to fly Melbourne-Narita return, making for a 26-hour combined bullet-train journey from Kyoto and connecting flight through Brisbane. Qantas now have a direct flight to-from Melbourne to Narita. Consider departing Japan via Kansai airport, Osaka.

BEST TIP Pre-order a Pocket Wi-Fi device. Pick it up at the airport and get connected straight off the plane.

WHERE TO NEXT Iceland and Lofoten​ Islands, Norway


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