11 days 10 nights

Pilgrimage to Japan

including walking the Ancient Trail of Kumano Kudo, temple stay Mt Koya, visits to Nara & Kyoto with Venerable Kartson

Tour Highlights:

This Pilgrimge to Japan will be lead by Ven Kartson (Yaki Platt) and Ekno’s Sharon Thrupp.    You will start in Brisbane (or you can make your own way to Osaka, followed by a visit to Nara (first permanent capital of Japan), is full of historic treasures, including some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples.  Next is Mt Koya which is home to an active monastic center founded twelve centuries ago and has its headquarters as the sect of Shingon Buddhism.   Situated on a small plain at the top of Mount Koya  the Monastery is  a complex of temples, halls, and pagodas Surrounded by a thick forest of massive cedars, it is a place for reflection and contemplation.

There is also a women’s pilgrimage circuit which you may wish to complete during your stay . Next we travel to historical Kyoto, full of shrines and temples, followed by walking the ancient pilgrimage trail of Kumano Kodo at the most stunning time of year with the autumn leaves in full colour.

Our walk is very flexible with shortcut options. Without the short-cuts we will walk 54km over four days, but with two guides with the group which ever option you choose you will not be alone. The walk can be strenuous at times, but you will have the luxury of only carrying a day-pack each day.

Want to see more? Stay a few days longer to visit Tokyo or other destinations in Japan.


Tour Dates:

12-22 October 2018

Tour Cost:

$5,500 (land content only), single supplement $1,850

A donation of $500 from the cost of this trip is for Chenrezig Institute.

Tour Route:

Osaka – Nara – Mt Koyo – Kyoto – Kii Tanabe – Kii Takahara – Kii Yunomine Onsen – Kii Katsuura – Osaka

Tour Leaders

YakiPlattVen. Kartson (Yaki Platt)

Born in Tel Aviv, Yaki worked in the Israeli Armed Forces. He then moved to India and studied conversational and classical Tibetan for four years. He came to Chenrezig Institute in 2005 as the translator for Geshe Jamyang and is now translating for Geshe Tsultrim. He is a graduate of the Buddhist Studies Programme and was ordained in 2015 and is now called Ven. Kartsön.


 Sharon Thrupp

Sharon-ThruppSharon Thrupp has lived and worked in Dharamsala, India for the past 13 years. Sharon is passionate about India and is a Buddhist. She has led many pilgrimages throughout India and Nepal including the Buddha’s Sites and South India. She is also involved in an Indian NGO which provides education and mentoring to underprivileged and marginalized school girls through the Indian Himalayan region.

Sharon also spent a year in Japan working as an English teacher in Morioka (northern Honshu) where she spent her spare time walking and hiking. She now divides her time between Australia and India.

Additional information

Dates12 – 22 October 2018
Day 1

12 Oct 18

Depart Australia  and arrive Osaka

We’ll arrive in Osaka early evening and head to our hotel via the extremely efficient rail network. No activities are planned, take a wander to stretch your legs and enjoy this modern city.   Overnight 4 Star Hotel, City Centre

Day 2

13 Oct 18

Nara (B)
Leave for Nara by train (40 mins).

A full day to walk through Nara Park (popularly known as ‘Deer Park’) will take you to Todai-ji Temple – its Daibutsu-den is the largest wooden building in the world, housing a 16-metre tall image of the Rushana Buddha in bronze and gold.  Finish your discovery of Nara at the Shinto shrine of Kasuga, a serene site that features a collection of more than 3,000 stone and bronze lanterns.
Return by train to Osaka.

Day 3

14 Oct 18

Leave Kyoto for the scenic journey by train and cable car to Mount Koya, located high in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. A place of religious devotion since the 9th century and the centre of Shingon Buddhism, Mount Koya is a wonderfully spiritual place to explore and a highlight of your time here includes the chance to participate in morning prayers tomorrow morning and eating dinner with the monks.  It is also time for reflection and personal contemplation.

Dinner & Overnight: Shukubo (Temple Lodging), Mount Koya or similar

Day 4

15 Oct 18

Mt Koya (B.D)

Early rise for the Buddhist morning ceremony and Gomataki Fire Ritual which takes place in the main worship hall. The rich colors, smells of incense, and rhythmical chants of the monks are enchanting. The Gomataki fire ritual is performed daily, in which a sacrificial fire is kindled and consecrated before invoking divinities and making offerings of prayers on wooden tablets. You will be invited to make offerings of incense, allowing for an otherworldly, immersive experience.

Rest of the day to take the hiking trail (around 7.5kms)  surrounding Mount Koya to choose from, which are easy to follow. Choose from the Choishi Stupa Route, Koya Sanzen Route and the Women’s Pilgrim’s route. Alternatively you may opt to explore the inner sanctuary of Okuno-in cemetery with its thousands of graves of past feudal lords and luminaries.  You will also be able to spend the day quietly or taking part in the activities planned.

Overnight: Shukubo (Temple Lodging)

Day 5

16 Oct 18

Kyoto (B)

This morning take the train to Kyoto (taking around 40-50 minutes  hours). On arrival check into our hotel  and look forward to some of of Kyoto’s highlights. There is so much to pack in, from beautiful parks to ancient well-preserved temples to visiting the Shinto Shrine and more.

In the afternoon we will take a 3-hour private walking tour of Kyoto with a local religious scholar. This ancient Japanese city, home to countless temples and centuries of religious practice, is the perfect setting for an excursion to check out the historic neighborhood of Gion, where you’ll see Yasaka Shrine and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kiyomizu-dera Temple, learning about the symbols and practices of these two Japanese religions along the way. The highlight of this walk are the  shrines and temples and the stories around them. Rest of the evening at leisure. Overnight 4 Star Hotel

Day 6

17 Oct 18

Kyoto (B)

We’ll take a train to  Fushimi Inari Shrine famous for their Senbon Torii, thousand torii gates.  This temple is one of the most popular sightseeing spots of Kyoto.   Next is the Kiyomizu-dera Temple which is at the  top of a hill so you will get your start your walking practice. There are e many souvenir shops by the street to the temple so taking a detour is also fun!  We will return to Kyoto in time for lunch and the rest of the afternoon at leisure.

Day 7

18 Oct 18

Kyoto  – Takahara (B, D) 3.7km, 3hrs

Leaving our idyllic mountain retreat head towards the mountainous Kii-Peninsula. Our train journey will stop at Kii-Tanabe where we will have some lunch, have a pre-trek briefing and deposit our luggage to be transferred to our accommodation. The trek today is short but steep fromTakijiir-oji to the ridge-top village of Takahara. Overnight Private Guesthouse

Day 8

19 Oct 18

  Takahara – Tsugizakura-oji (B,L,D) 14km, 5-8hrs

After breakfast and collecting our lunch packages we’ll step onto the trail and follow it as it continues to climb into the mountains through the forest. There is a scenic picnic points at Jujo-oji and plenty of pilgrimage shrines and monuments, dating back to the 12th century, to stop and admire along the way. Not to mention trees which are claimed to be 800-1000 years old. Overnight Private Guesthouse

Day 9

20 Oct 18

Tsugizakura-oji – Kumano Hongu Taisha 7km – 17.8km 2.5 – 8hrs (B, L, D)

Whichever length of walk you choose today you will be rewarded with a relaxing soak in an Onsen – a Japanese hot spring. There is however, a bathing etiquette which must be observed which may include being denied entry if you have a tattoo! The highlight of the pilgrimage today is hiking into Kumano Hongu Taisha, a sacred precinct and home of one of three main Shinto shrines on the trail. Overnight Yunomine Onsen

Day 10

21 Oct 18

Yunomine Onsen – Nachi Taisha 14.5km 6 – 8hrs (B, L)

A bus ride will get us to the start of our walk today at Koguchi. This is one of the toughest sections of the Nakahechi trail of Kumano Kodo and the remoteness does not allow for short-cut options, so it’s either walk it all or none at all, you can decide on the day (bus optional). Dogiri-Zaka is the start of the walk which can be translated as ‘Body Breaking Slope’, but don’t let that put you off, pilgrims have been walking here for millennia, so you can too! We’ll finish the walk with a well earned rest at Nachino-Otaki Falls and Kumano Nachi Taisha, an icon Japanese location. Sayonara (farewell dinner)  Overnight Kii-Katsuura

Day 11

22 Oct 18

Departure  (B)

After breakfast it’s time to head to the train station for a scenic ride back around the coast line of the Kii-Peninsula, sit back and enjoy the views of the coast to your left and beautiful autumn coloured forest to your right and head to Osaka airport (if booking flights today, please book a late evening flight).


Fully escorted from Australia by Venerable Kartson and Sharon Thrupp

Meditations and Q&A Sessions with Ven Kartson

Transportation from Osaka to Osaka described in the itinerary

Accommodation each evening (Four nights in Western style Hotels,two nights in Japanese style Shukubo (Temple Lodging) and four nights in Minshuku and Ryokans)

Breakfast every morning from Day 2 through Day 11 of the itinerary

Dinner from Day 3-4 through Day 7-9, lunch Days 8-10 of the itinerary

All transportation costs when traveling with the group. (Transportation costs during scheduled free times are the tour member’s responsibility.)

Sayonara dinner at the end of the tour

Same day baggage transfer from Takahara to Tsugizakura (Nonaka), Tsugizakura (Nonaka) to Yunomine Onse,  Yunomine Onsen to Kii-Katsuura

Gentle stretching and yoga sessions

Each tour member receives an electronic copy of our tour handbook. This handbook is full of tips and suggestions taken from our Japan travel experiences that allow you to better plan and prepare for your trip, and therefore enjoy your trip even more. The tips and suggestions included cover everything from how to save while exchanging money, what to pack, some basic Japanese-language tips, general etiquette do’s-and-don’ts, ryokan customs, etc.


International Flights

Personal trekking equipment i.e. boots/poles/daypacks/wet weather gear etc

Some meals as per itinerary

Personal expenses (laundry, drinks etc)

Admission fees to the destinations and activities not listed in the itinerary

Passport & visa

Travel insurance (compulsory)

Tips & gratuities

Arashiyama, Kyoto bt walter-mario-stein
Autumn in Japan by jerome-prax
Autumn leaves by chris-lawton
Fushimi inari Trail, Kyoto-shi, by Lin Mei