You will take a local train from Kyoto, then Osaka subway, Nankai express train, a cable car, finally a bus to get there, but it is worth it! Mt. Koya is a 900m highland, protected by eight peaks just like a lotus flower.
During your stay, you are going to see that you are getting healthier both mentally and physically among the air and warm people of Mt. Koya.
Mt. Koya is the centre of esoteric Buddhism. But you do not have to know it to enjoy the place fully. Ignorance seems to be much better than a greedy attitude on earthly matters, trying to match the information they gathered previously through Internet. Just stretch your arms and legs, then relax. Walk as you please. There are not any orders about what to visit. Listen to your inner voice to create your own story in Mt. Koya.
Mt. Koya is suitable for mature travellers who can entertain themselves. If you know who you are and what makes you happy, you will find your own distinctive way to know the place.
When you take a bus, a cable car, an express train, the Osaka subway, then a local train to come back to Kyoto, you will deeply miss Mt. Koya for a quite personal reason.
Just bring your little tired spirit to Mt. Koya anytime when you are ready.
There's much to see here. So, take your time, look around, and learn all there is to know about us. We hope you enjoy our site and take a moment to drop us a line.
More than 1200 years ago, a man thought of you deeply. He prepared an amazing highland which has a firm rock foundation, also surrounded by mountains to welcome you properly someday. He tried ascetic training in mountains when he was young to attain Buddhism enlightenment. What he pursued was only one thing, everyone’s happiness. While he ran across the mountains and meditated, he founded Mt. Koya as the best training centre of the Shingon sect esoteric Buddhism, which he learned and became the leader of in China. Mt. Koya is the place to find your clear-cut self, at the same time as getting to know the perfect balance of the universe.
Karuizawa is one of the post towns along Nakasendo trail which connects Tokyo and Kyoto. Many travelers passed through this area during the Edo period. More than 100 years ago, Canadian missionaries settled here by following their footsteps. They thought that Karuizawa was just like their own homeland, and then particularly loved to live on the north side which had not been chosen by Japanese to live. These missionaries introduced their faith as well as their Western way of living. Due to this, bread and jam, ham, and dairy products are now something you can enjoy here in Karuizawa. But above all is the view of Mt. Asama, and some quiet and sacred waterfalls and streams. Philosophical residential areas loved by many Japanese well known writers will let you spend relaxing and creative days in Japan. Karuizawa gives you a nice combination of Japanese tradition and Western influences. You can find a nice soba noodle shop and relaxing hot springs, and then have the best cup of tea or coffee as you please at the Manpei Hotel afterwards.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono used to stay in this town during summer. Yoko visited their summer house sometime after John’s tragedy. She went to their favourite café.
Then the owner of the café handed her a lighter which John had left the last time they went there.
When John realized that he had left it on the café table, he mentioned,
“Oh, dear. It’s all right. We’ll go there tomorrow, too.”
Yes, John. Karuizawa is the place that we all want to go to again tomorrow.
Kumano calls you when the time comes. It is not you that decides to visit Kumano Kodo.
I had not been invited for a long time, until an emergency call to my cell phone which told me to come right away to guide a group. The group was not so happy about the trip supported by a long experienced and intelligent guide. I was extremely exhausted right after a Nakasendo tour, another historical trail, of two weeks. However, I went to Kumano immediately with my whole guiding gear.
It was just an enjoyable walking tour after all for all of us. We talked and joked a lot on the way while walking. When the clients arrived at Kyoto after the pilgrimage tour, they were certain that they were reborn in Kumano Kodo as it has always been said. I also felt that my fatigue of the previous tour was entirely gone. Was this thanks to the Kumano Kodo?
The whole area, from Takijiri to Hongu shrine, then Shingu to Nachi shrine, is a natural mandala to show the balance of universe to all the visitors. The scenery, sound, wind and people show us the fundamental, simple meaning of life. We live to love.
A lady in the tour group asked me,
“Where is your happy smile coming from? What’s the secret?”
It must be Kumano magic that you too can also enjoy fully when you finally come here!
Food must be a big factor when you travel in Japan. Japanese cooking requires using fresh seasonal ingredients without adding too much to it. “Shun,” which means the best timing of the season to savour vegetables, fish and fruits and all the ingredients, is considered to be the most important element in it. 'Shun' has fostered variations of delicate Japanese cuisine that you will be able to enjoy when you come.
Mr. Dai Sekiya opened his restaurant in Gion known as Geisha district, or 'Geiko' more properly, in 2018. He is an absolute expert who knows this Shun of all the ingredients and provides outstanding and artistic combination of dishes in front of you. What makes Dai special is that he is doing his work just like easy daily chores. There might be many top chefs who are proud of their technique or special background to become famous figures, and try to boast of it. Dai’s approach is the opposite. He considers that his presentation is nothing new, nothing special. He says that he likes cooking very much, that’s all. His work shows it to you!
Here is the magical 'kaiseki', Japanese traditional course menu, thanks to which I have extended my life several years by enjoying it. As a starter, I opened a persimmon and found persimmon salad with mashed tofu and flower buds that woke up my stomach gently for the next one. Then in front of me was a plate of chestnut, ginkgo nuts, Matsutake mushrooms, sweet potatoes with a bit of simmered fish. At the time, I was surely in the middle of the autumn forest by a comfortable stream. Dai showed me two river smelts swimming to give me time for a short prayer to them. Fish appeared later but were not dead, still alive! It does not mean half-cooked and alive. Totally cooked still alive. Have a look at the picture! Before you believe that you must be in paradise, you will come across sashimi right in season, a subtle taste Japanese truffle Matsutake and conger soup with squeezed citrus juice, just a little steamed sticky rice with chestnuts, the best tempura in your life, and another white meat fish that you cannot tell its name but is awfully delicious with various condiments. This will tempt you to order another bottle of best sake in this restaurant! Kaiseki always ends with a little bit of rice and soup with pickles. It is like a period of a sentence. Dai places this period at the right time in the right way. I had not known the taste of rice, taro, kelp and salt was this gorgeous.
His dessert has become the prologue of your next visit to Gion SEKIYA . You always find “Shun” in it. It is not heavy at all, just right and tasty which makes you totally happy. I come to see him and find myself in Gion SEKIYA, not just to eat something delicious, but to live better and become happier in future!
In Japan, people welcome spring by conducting a unique ritual called 'Setsubun'. The date is around the 3rd or 4th of February, according to the Chinese ancient calendar. It was on the 4th of February this year. On this day, the spring eve, the whole town must be purified by roasted soybeans! In Kyoto, this ritual is considered much more important than other cities in Japan, because of its background as an ancient capital. Therefore, this year people had been waiting for its recovery after having skipped this important ritual for two consecutive years, due to the coronavirus situation.
Let’s go and enjoy Setsubun in Kyoto together. You must dress warmly with gloves, scarf, sweater, and down jacket. Setsubun is usually very cold, ironically, even though it is the spring eve. The first destination for us is the Kitano Ten’mangu Shrine. The time will be around noon.
You will see many taxis in front of the gate, expecting to be busy taking Setsubun passengers. The precinct is rather crowded with visitors already. In front of the stage, you see some people, standing and waiting. We are going to join them. Little by little, more people come and stand here, then before 1:00 p.m. we will be completely packed in a crowd like sardines. The ritual starts with beautiful Geiko & Maiko dancing. Then comical traditional drama named Kyogen follows. These are only the opening performances. What’s the main programme? Of course, the throwing roasted soybeans show! All the dancers and actors appear and simply scatter beans to us! Catch them!! They are in a little paper bag. If you are lucky, you will get a lucky card which will provide you a happy present, such as a beautiful bookmark or a design file and so forth. You are supposed to eat soybeans as the same number as your age. If it is too much, then you can cheat it. But remember, it promises you longevity!
It has not finished yet. We will go on to another Buddhist temple next. Get ready! We will walk about half an hour to the east. You can find the similar crowd here as Kitano Ten’mangu shrine. If you care for sake, you can sip some for free. Buddha buys it for you. When you are getting happier and warmer, the announcement teaches us that this temple is the only structure which survived a horrible Kyoto war in the 15th century. No other structures date back to that time, even if you have seen other beautiful and old buildings in Kyoto. Secure your standing position in front of the stage to enjoy the dancing and comical drama. During the drama, all the devils are scared away, not by nuclear bombs but by peaceful roasted soybeans! Then comes the 'Mame maki', which is the 'scattering beans' ritual. Do you think you have gotten enough beans? In this temple, the Senbon Shakado, you will receive peanuts for a change.
Across Kyoto, you can find other versions of Setsubun rituals like this on spring eve.
I hope you enjoyed it! The next morning, we cook soybean rice seasoned with a little soy sauce and sake. Soybeans become soft and tasty in this seasonal and festive rice. This is as you remember the first day of spring of the year. While we eat this soybean rice, we believe all the evil spirits and ailments are gone and the real, warm spring time is coming with a fresh hope very soon!
If you visit Hokkaido, you can meet Mizuki, a superb trekking guide as well as a fisherman. Mizuki will create the best route around Hokkaido for you to experience the essence of the area during your stay. You can stay in the mountain area of Asahikawa for several days with tents and sleeping bag away from the noise of cities. Listening to birds and finding herbs for dinner is another option. Mizuki also good at preparing your favourite lamb chops with herb tempura! River fishing is also available in a mountain stream. Grilled fish is another Hokkaido dinner for you.
You find that Mizuki is completely at home in the natural setting. He knows the area throughout. If you walk with him, your eyes will catch the most beautiful parts of Hokkaido which Mizuki loves. Don’t miss out on savouring Mizuki’s tasty ramen noodles which support his life as a seasonal worker! As you already know, he is a good cook as well.
Mizuki’s motto is “michikusa” guiding. His style is to intentionally loiter along the way so that you can take time to fully experience and enjoy all the wonderful places that you visit. Well, travelling should be 'michikusa', don’t you think? Let’s follow a 'michikusa' way of life, while a lot of other people in the world are too busy working and losing the real enjoyment of living!
Mizuki’s Michikusa tours show us the most important elements of life. That’s why the majority of our travellers book their NEXT tour of his at the end of this experience! Yes, we must come back to remember the valuable things in life. A simple happiness is in Hokkaido to be found!
Do you need art every day? Probably not. Art might be something you think of sometimes when you have extra time on your day off. However, here is some artwork that you should consider keeping near you anytime to comfortably be yourself every day!
Roppu uses Japanese traditional techniques of calligraphy and woodblock printing in a quite modern way to create his work. His art lets you know who you are, to make your life easier and happier.
This Zen and Four seasons composition panels are made for his very important friends. Usually, Roppu cannot create things without meeting the future owner of the artwork. At least he wants to talk to him/her, or listen to the person’s story. Roppu would like to know the owner of his art deeply as well as the place where he/she plans to put them. Then Roppu reads books, travels, and meditates to put his design together on board, paper, and textile. This time, the owners were already his close friends, so he started by reading Zen books and took long time to be enlightened. He was not enlightened so easily. Always, the idea suddenly comes from the clear blue sky. It came when Roppu listened to classical music. When it comes, his two hands are not enough to follow his ideas. He needs one hundred! You will see the result.
Once you have Roppu ART in your room, you find you cannot live without it. How come? Since Roppu knows what’s indispensable in your life, and who must be with you as an artist.
Welcome and welcome back to Japan.
Consider Japan as a treasure box in your heart. This little island in east Asia will give you silence,
beautiful scenery, fresh tasty dishes, warm but slightly shy people who you can trust fully with some surprises.
When you sit still in front of a garden of Zen Buddhist temple, such as Ryogen’in Daitoku-ji temple, your spirit will be calmed down and relaxed fully. Zen leads you to the state of mind in which you are free from the pressures and expectations of society. You also can be free from regretting the past and being afraid of the future. A simple quiet garden introduces you to YOURSELF, who must be the most important person in your life.
I would like to show you the shower of falling cherry blossom petals as a waterfall. So do not worry about missing the high time of blossoms. The ending of flowers is rather dramatic, somewhat sad and beautiful. I always feel they, the cherry blossom fairies, are coming back next year through this impressive timing.
Kaiseki is Japanese traditional course dinner made with fresh ingredients. It has been developed in tea ceremonies. “Shun” is the word to express freshness of the vegetables, fish and fruits. Shun is shorter and more delicate from the season. Tastiest ingredients in Shun are selected and transformed into the magical dishes in front of you. The best point of Kaiseki is the just right portion of food. When dinner is finished, you are totally satisfied. It is not too heavy, not light but right for you. It goes very well with delicate Sake.
You don’t speak Japanese? That’s fine. Look at someone’s eyes and smile, then nod to make a good friend. As a guide, I sometimes become very tired when you are too cautious for never being cheated on your bill.
It rarely happens in Japan. You can be more relaxed to meet people in this country. Japanese people would happy to show you the way you go. Sometimes he/she might go with you to the station or restaurant to help you. Japanese language exists for mutual agreement, not for communication to clarify the difference or negotiation. If you say, “So, desu-ne!” which means “I think so, too. “or “You can say that again.” You will make 100 friends in Japan eventually. We prefer to think that people can understand and make harmony with each other regardless of the nationalities. Yes, we are a big harmonious family. You are a member of it.
Oh, don’t miss to meet your naughty English and Chinese-speaking guide, Yumi-chan. You can call her Yumi, just like “You and Me”. She, and her friend guides bridge you and Japanese culture when you are puzzled with the cultural differences during your stay. We will help you so that you feel really comfortable in your treasure box fully. Be careful, Yumi will never spoil you. You might have to take a tour end exam to come home.