We continue our second trip to Japan. On this occasion we visited Kumano Kodo – Gifu – Nagoya – Nakasendo and Tokyo.
We got up early and at 8 in the morning we were already on the bus on the way to Daimonzaka. In front of the train station, take the 31 bus that goes to the Kumano Nachi Taisa Grand Shrine (熊野那智大社). The return ticket costs 1,000 yen (€7.50). About half an hour later we arrived at the stop on the Daimonzaka slope. There we began the path of ascension towards the temples.
The Daimonzaka slope (大門坂), is a beautiful path of just under 1km long and 267 steps that goes between gigantic cedars.
After the ascent in the humid heat of the area, we arrived at the Kumano Nachi Taisa Grand Shrine (熊野那智大社). It is the main sanctuary of the more than 4,000 Kumano Kodo. Unfortunately, we caught the temple under construction and it was completely covered, but it was possible to access it.
Here we find a viewpoint where we can observe spectacular views of the entire valley.
Right next door is Seiganto-ji Temple (青岸渡寺), a Buddhist temple of the Tendai school dating back to the 5th century. It is the oldest building in the Kumano Kodo.
As soon as we leave, we find the best-known image of the Kumano Kodo and one of the best-known in Japan: the Nachi waterfall behind a three-story red pagoda.
The pagoda of the Seiganto-ji temple (青岸渡寺) is a very recent construction dating from 1972. You can go up paying but we did not.
At the exit of the temple, we find some stairs that, between huge cedars and camphor trees, go down to the Hirō sanctuary (飛瀧神社), at the foot of the impressive 133-meter-high Nachi waterfall.
Altogether the view is truly impressive.
The only bad thing is that then you have to go up the stairs again.
Just after the stairs is the bus stop where we take the bus back to Kii-Katsuura, after having an ice cream to mitigate the heat.
Back in the city, we ate at a small restaurant that the hotel owner recommended to us called めはり寿司二代目 (Mehari zushi nidaime). She is run by a very serious man, who only speaks Japanese, but has a menu in English. For 1,400 yen (€10) he gave us a varied menu with a tuna sashimi from the area that was delicious.
As soon as we finished eating, we ran to the train station and there we took the Limited Express Kuroshio at 4:15 p.m. and at 4:38 p.m. we got off at Shingu to visit the great shrine of Kumano Hayatama Taisha (熊野速玉大社). Unfortunately it closed at 5:00 p.m. and we caught it closing. Even so, we were able to walk around the enclosure and the truth is that the race we gave ourselves was worth it.
Taking advantage of the fact that we had gone to Shingu, we took a walk through the city to the castle ruins, from which there are beautiful views of the city on one side and the Kumano river on the other.
Descending from the castle we approached the small temple of Asuka, one of the auxiliary temples of the great sanctuary of Kumano Hayatama Taisha (熊野速玉大社).
Already exhausted we went to the station to return to Kii-Katsuura. But along the way we came across a building that seemed to be Chinese in style, which turned out to be Jofuku Park. It is a small park dedicated to Jofuku, a character sent to Shingu more than 2,000 years ago in search of the elixir of life.
At 19.02 we got on the train back. At the hotel, the owner offered us the sweet soup that she had told us about when we arrived the day before. It was a very, very sweet bean soup, but it tasted great and it went well as a snack.
After the exquisite snack we went to relax a bit at a nearby onsen. We chose the one from a luxury hotel called Katsuura Gyoen. It is a beach hotel but by paying 2,000 Yen (€16) per person you can use the onsen. This is amazing, it has a huge indoor and outdoor hot water pool with decoration as if you were in the countryside, it has a large hot pool and a smaller warm water pool. They want to stay there to live.
With the mountains in the background it was night and, to add more magic, there was a moment of the night when fireworks were set off. It was spectacular.
Already very relaxed after a hard day we went back to the hotel, after going through the familymart to catch dinner and sleep because the next day we had to get up super early.
Today, around 6.30 we got up. We were going to see the tuna auction at the nearby KII-Katsuura fish market. At 7 we were already in the ship, from where we could admire all the bustle of the auction.
At the end of the auction, we sit for a while in one of the many onsen for feet that are scattered around the town, which are also free. There we relaxed our feet for a while before taking the train to Nagoya.
At 8.55 we took the direct train to Nagoya where we arrived at 12.41 noon. We left our things at the hotel (the same as a week before) and ran to the nearby city of Gifu.
In Gifu, just outside the station we have a golden statue of the famous daimyō Oda Nobunaga (織田 信 長), who lived for 9 years in Gifu and was the base where he began to unify the country. This historical character is present throughout the city.
Right there we got on bus no. 80 to visit Mount Kinka (金華山), which is where Gifu Castle (岐阜城) is located. But before going up, we pass the Shōbō temple at the base of the mount.
In this temple is the Great Buddha of Gifu (岐阜大仏). A seated image of Shaka Nyorai. The image, which measures more than 13 meters, was completed in 1832.
After visiting the small temple we went to a familymart to hydrate ourselves a bit and cool off in the air conditioning and we continued on.
We took a walk in Gifu Park while going in search of the castle cable car. The cable car costs 620 yen one way (€5) and 1,080 return (€8.70). This time we took a round trip since after so many days we were starting to get tired and it was very hot.
The trip lasts about 5 minutes and a girl will explain things to you in Japanese, I suppose about the views and the castle. We were the only westerners there.
The views from the top are truly spectacular. For 200 yen (€1.60) you can enter the castle and look at the views but we didn’t. The views were already spectacular enough from the base of the tower. We settle for seeing them from there.
We went back down by cable car as we were quite tired. We took another short walk through Gifu Park and returned to Nagoya for dinner.
As we were about to leave the hotel, one of the heaviest downpours we have ever experienced fell. In no time, rivers formed in the streets.
We had dinner at the Sekai no Yamachan Ikeshita-ten restaurant, a chain specializing in typical Nagoya wings. The truth is that it was an ode to frying. It was good but too expensive for a fry up. It cost us 3,369 yen (€27).
After dinner we took a short walk through the Sakae area, going up to the terrace of the Oasis 21 building, which is a bus station and shopping center, from where you can see the Nagoya tower in all its splendor.
We get up super early again. Today is a new hiking route: The Nakasendo route. It is an old route that linked Kyoto with Edo (present-day Tokyo). We did the most famous route, which is the one that joins the towns of Magome and Tsumago.
At 8 in the morning we took the Shinano Limited Express train line to Nakatsugawa, where we arrived at 8:49.
While we were waiting for the bus, we went around the tourist office, which is also a huge souvenir shop next to the train and bus station. There I bought a fish-shaped pastry that was like a kind of dorayaki filled with watermelon paste. It was very tasty by the way.
At 9.10 the bus left for Magome. The ticket costs 560 yen (€4.60) and takes, in principle, about 25 minutes. I say in principle because before leaving Nakatsugawa we had an accident against a car that left us standing for ten minutes until another bus was sent to pick us up.
Around 9:45 we arrive at Magome, rest station number 43 on the old Nakasendo route.
In the town there are some museums but we started directly. Things start off well since the town is uphill. As soon as we start, we gather strength by buying a kind of dorayaki stuffed with roasted chestnuts at a stall. Exquisite.
In the middle of the town we find the tourist office. They offer you various services. You can take a map, you can buy or rent bells to scare off the bears and they also have a left-luggage service (for a fee) to leave your suitcases. They also give you all kinds of information about the route.
The town is well cared for and beautiful, although it seems that it is only because it is oriented towards tourism as if it were a theme park.
We continue going up to the end of the town where there is a viewpoint where we take a break to admire the impressive views of the valley. The views in winter have to be spectacular with the snowy valley.
We follow the road, from here, 7.6 km separate us from Tsumago.
Along the way we find bells to ring and scare the bears away. The truth is that I don’t know if they really work because we didn’t see a single one on the entire route.
About two kilometers away we find the Kumano-jinja sanctuary (熊野神社), a good place to take a short break in the shade.
We continue in the spectacular wooded environment scaring bears. The truth is that the route is really impressive.
After about 3 km we find a tea house in the middle of the forest. There they offer us rest in the fresh air and a tea in exchange for a tip.
A little further on we sat in the shade to eat some sandwiches that we had brought for lunch.
The tranquility of the environment infects you and you take it very calmly. A tranquility that is only broken when a tourist passes by doing the route. Especially if he’s wearing a scary bell.
After gaining strength we continue the path. Several kilometers later we leave the forest and the path continues through an area of orchards until it reaches Tsumago, rest station number 42 on the old Nakasendo route.
Tsumago gives the impression of being less artificial than Magome, but it is still noticeable that it is very well cared for thanks to tourism.
It has several points of interest such as the Kotokuji temple or the Nagiso museum, passing through craft shops.
It also has a tourist information office where they give you all kinds of information and where there is Wi-Fi and you can rest in the cool air.
We took a short walk through the town and got on the bus to the nearby town of Nagiso. There we take the train back to Nagoya at 16:55.
At 18.05 we were already in Nagoya. We went straight to the hotel to take a shower and immediately went to the street to take a walk around Nagoya.
We were walking around the commercial area of Sakae. At the sunshine mall there was a little concert by some kind of boy idol group and it was all pretty funny.
From how organized the followers were to the dances they did.
We went to freak out for a while at the pokemon center. It is located inside the luxurious Matsuzakaya shopping center (I don’t know how they let us in with the pints we were wearing).
Since we hadn’t walked enough that day, we went in search of Nagoya Castle.
At that time it was already closed but we went around the moat hoping to see it but we only managed to see the highest part and several defense towers.
After the huge tour we did, we went back to the Sakae area to eat a delicious tonkotsu ramen in one of the Ichirán chain stores. And with a warm belly to the hotel to rest the 28 kilometers that we had walked that day.
This is starting to end, it’s time to return to Tokyo. We took the shinkansen early to make the most of the day.
Around 10 in the morning we were already in Tokyo. We left our things at the hotel, which was the same as the first few days, and we went to Asakusa.
Due to personal circumstances, in 2017 I promised to return to Senso-ji Temple one day to make an offering. Promised is debt.
There were so many people that instead of going down Nakamise street, we went down one of the parallel streets. Wonderful idea because there we discovered a place where you can get melonpan filled with ice cream, what a delight!
Before entering the temple we purify ourselves with incense. We make our queue, and make the promised offering.
Then we take out an omikuji through the stick system with the number in Japanese (thank goodness there is always someone to help you).
As this time the omikuji predicted “the best” of luck, instead of leaving it at the temple, I brought it home.
There were so many people that it was uncomfortable to walk around the temple grounds. We went out the back door in search of an ice cream shop specializing in matcha tea ice cream. They have different intensities of flavor, which I had seen on a blog.
It’s called Suzukien Asakusa (壽々喜園). We did our queue and I ordered with intensity 5. It was delicious. While we were at it I bought a jar of matcha tea to bring home.
From there we went to Shinbashi to eat karaage (Japanese fried chicken) at a place we knew in 2016 and loved it is called Karayama Shinbashi (からやま 新橋店).
On that day the traffic in the area was cut off and in the station square there was a kind of festival where there were food stalls and a stage where traditional dance performances were being staged.
From there we went for a walk in Shinjuku. We visited a few shopping malls and happened upon the official store of the 2020 Olympics that had opened two days earlier.
Near sunset, we went up to the observation deck of the Metropolitan Government Building.
The observation deck has breathtaking 360º views and it is said that on clear days you can see Mount Fuji. Three attempts in two years and we still can’t see it.
The views as the sun goes down and the city lights up are amazing. There is also air conditioning, vending machines, gift store, wifi and a restaurant, and admission is free.
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On the way back from the viewpoint, already at night, we went for a walk in Kabukicho. It is the adult entertainment area par excellence in Tokyo.
There are numerous gigantic karaokes, bars, nightclubs and love hotels. Both for men and women. Although most of them are run by the yakuza or Japanese mafia.
I have read in some blogs that the PR people are very aggressive. I don’t know if it was because I went with my partner but they didn’t say anything to us.
The truth is that it is a very curious walk with buildings full of neon and local geeks like the robot restaurant or the giant godzilla in a multiplex.
From here we went back to Kamata, the neighborhood where we have the hotel. There, next to the JR station, there is a ribbon sushi restaurant that we discovered in 2016 that is delicious and relatively cheap. The Sushi Matsu Kamata 2 gōten (すし松 蒲田２号店). We ate a total of 12 dishes and it cost us 2,980 yen (22€).
That night we go to bed with uncertainty as a typhoon is expected to pass through Tokyo the next day.
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It is raining in Tokyo at dawn. It seems that the expected typhoon is deflected and will only catch us by a glancing blow, so we go outside.
Today is a new excursion. We go to Kamakura to tour the area on the Enoden electric railway.
For this we take the Keihin-Tōhoku line to Yokohama and there we change to the Yokosuka line to Kamakura station, where the rain seemed to give a little respite.
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There we stamped our stamp booklet with the corresponding station stamp and made our way to the Buddhist temple Kōtoku-in (高徳院). This is where the great Buddha of Kamakura is located.
In 2016 we also visited him and bought a lucky charm, which I don’t know if it’s because of him or it’s coincidence, but from here I had a couple of very good years and with very, very good luck, so it was time to make a new offering of thanks, just in case. I am tremendously grateful to him.
We return to the Enoden in search of the next and main destination of the day: Enoshima island.
We get off at Enoshima station. We put the corresponding stamp and we go for a walk to cross the 600-meter bridge that connects Honshu with Enoshima and reach the island.
As we finish crossing the bridge, we arrive at Benten-Nakamise Street. The street is filled with small souvenir shops and tourist restaurants.
On this same street we cross a large bronze Torii that indicates that we are entering a street that leads to a Buddhist temple.
The torii was originally made of wood but was rebuilt in bronze in 1821.
At the end of the street we find a large red Torii that indicates the entrance to the Enoshima Shrine. Next, a few steps after the Zuishinmon gate.
Just before the gate, on the left hand side we can get a ticket for about 400 yen (3.22 €) to go up the escalators, but we decided to walk up which was more charming. By the way, the escalators are only for going up. To go down, you have to walk.
We continued climbing and arrived at the Enoshima Shrine complex.
It is a complex of three pavilions: the Hetsunomiya shrine, founded in 1206 and dedicated to the deity of the three sisters.
The Hoanden Hall where the statues of Happi Benzaiten from 1182 and Hadaka Benzaiten, from the Edo period, are located.
It is dedicated to the three goddesses of Munakata. Until the Edo period, it was dedicated to Benzaiten and was called Eshima Benten or Eshima Myojin.
The current enshrined deity was changed when Shinto and Buddhism separated in the Meiji period.
From here we have a nice view of Benten-Nakamise Street and the city and its beaches.
We continued climbing and reached another impressive viewpoint with even better views than the other one.
There was a post with a small platform that turned out to be a place to rest the camera on the cell phone to take a selfie. Later on we would see more of these very well placed posts.
A little further on from the viewpoint, without going any higher… we arrive at the second shrine of Enoshima: the Nakatsunomiya shrine.
Built in 853 and rebuilt in 1689 by order of the Tokugawa Tsunayoshi Shogun. It is dedicated to Ichikishima Hime no Mikoto.
A little further up we find the Samuel Cocking Gardens. It is an extensive garden of tropical plants created in 1880 by the British merchant Samuel Cocking.
As we did not have much time and there was an entrance fee, we passed on going in and continued on our way.
We took a walk around the upper part of the island and went on our way to the modern Buddhist temple Enoshima Daishi.
Built in 1993 and known for its huge 6 meter statue of Fudomyo. Inside they were performing some very curious chanting ceremonies in front of the fire that could be accessed without problems.
We continued our walk leaving behind small souvenir shops and restaurants. One of the locals that had caught our attention, since the door indicated that only locals, i.e. Japanese, were allowed.
We had read on some websites and blogs that this happened in Japan, but this is the first and only place where we have seen it. Although I do not justify it, I imagine that they have had some bad experience with foreigners, but the U.S. flag was well placed on the door ¿?¿?¿?
After passing these small streets, we arrived at the last and oldest of the three shrines of Enoshima: the Okutsunomiya Shrine.
It was destroyed by fire in 1841 and was rebuilt the following year.
One of the pavilions that caught my attention at the shrine was the Ejima Ryugu Shrine. It is a small shrine built in 1993 in a cave with a dragon at the top of the entrance.
The pity is that it was closed that day and we could not go in to see it. Just in front of it we found another post to take selfies.
Nearby we find the lovers’ bell, which couples ring together and where they leave padlocks with their names on one of the fences near the bell. It also has its corresponding selfie pole and this gives a very good service, we can attest.
From here comes the good part, we start going down stairs… and down… and down… and down… and then we have to go up… and up… and up… until we reach the sea level.
There after a short walk along the rocky shore we arrived at the Enoshima Iwaya caves, which are caves that were created by tidal erosion.
We climbed back up the stairs and went all the way across the island on our way to Enoden again.
We got on the train and stopped at Gokurakuji station, which is basically a halt. By this time it was starting to pour rain but we still got out to see Shinsho Gokuraku-ji Temple (極楽寺). It is a temple of the Shingon Risshu sect built in the year 1,259.
Between the heavy rain and the time it was, it didn’t take us long to visit. In a while we were back at the Enoden station to take the next train.
Shortly after we got off again at the final station Kamakura to look for a place to eat under the rain of the typhoon.
The rain seemed to give a little respite and wandering around, we found a ramen place run by a rather old lady. There were only 3 or 4 tables.
We ordered a fried rice that was delicious and a ramen that was to lick the bowl. One of the best we have ever had.
The bad thing is that the name was in Japanese and does not appear in the street view. A pity to be able to recommend it.
While I was in the restaurant, the downpour started again. On top of that, on the way to the station my umbrella broke.
Back in Tokyo, we went to the Sunshine city mall in Ikebukuro, looking for some manga comics that I was looking for in a book off.
I found it and since it was closing time, my partner went to pay while I went to the bathroom. There something curious happened to him. The cashier came to talk to her in Japanese, and she was thinking that she was a westerner and that she didn’t understand a word. Until she realized that, of course, she was supposed to be speaking Japanese when she was getting 4 comics in her own language… Anyway… tourists.
After the experience and taking advantage of our last night in Japan and that it had stopped raining, we went to Akihabara for dinner and a last stroll through the freaky electronic town.
And to sleep.
Last day in Japan and we have to take advantage of it. Today it’s time for a good geeky day.
We went to the neighborhood of Katsushika to see the statues of the anime series Captain Tsubasa. The only regret I have is that months later they renovated the station and made it even more themed.
To get there we took the private Keikyū Main Line, for 580¥ (4.40€), from Shinagawa station to the small station Yotsugi station.
As soon as we got out of the station we found the map of where the statues are. We started with the Bruce Harper statue next to the entrance to the station and from there, a walk through the neighborhood to find the 7 statues related to the series.
These statues are located there because the creator was from this neighborhood and they were placed there as a tribute and, by the way, to attract some tourism to the neighborhood.
The whole neighborhood is dedicated to soccer in every corner. We went looking for each and every statue until we arrived at Keisei Tateishi station where we took the train back to the south of Tokyo.
We got off at the Kabuki Theater stop. We were going in search of the Totobe restaurant. A simple sushi restaurant near Tsukiji that we discovered in 2016 where only Japanese workers had been eating. No tourists so it was great and cheap. But we were very unlucky and it turned out that they are not open on Sundays. Cachis la mar. It was time to look for a place to eat.
We decided to take the subway to Tokyo station to eat an exquisite ramen in Tokyo ramen street in a place that we also discovered in 2016. It is the Rokurinsha restaurant. To enter you have to queue for quite a while but it is worth the wait.
To end the visit in the country, we went to Harajuku for a last walk along the most geeky street: Takeshita Dori. We bought some gifts at the Daiso and strolled along the luxurious Omotesando street.
Already exhausted, we picked up our bags from the hotel and went to the airport. The flight was leaving Haneda at 21:55.
As soon as we arrived, we were told that there was a delay. We went to the counters to ask, and they told us that the baggage belts were not working. In an hour they would give the news over the loudspeaker again. We were given a voucher for 1,500 yen (12€) per head for dinner at the airport.
We left our bags there and went in search of a place to have dinner.
Haneda airport is inspired by the Edo period and the truth is that it is very cool. We decided to have dinner at a ribbon sushi place that was exquisite.
Finally, two hours later than planned, we took off for Paris and with this we said goodbye to Japan until next time. We will be back to Japan (hopefully in
2021 2022 2024).
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