11 days 10 nights
Duration
26 Oct – 5 Nov 2019
Dates

For a true insiders experience, join us on this pilgrimage to Japan led by Ekno Travel’s founder Sharon Thrupp. This once in a life time tour will include walking the ancient pilgrimage trail of Kumano Kodo, a temple stay at Mt Koya and visits to the culturally significant cities of Nara and Kyoto.

We will depart Brisbane and arrive together in Osaka before heading to scenic Nara (the first permanent capital of Japan), full of historic treasures and wonders – including some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples.

Next is Mt Koya, which is home to an active monastic centre founded twelve centuries ago as well as being the headquarters of the Shingon Buddhist sect. Situated on a small plain at the top of Mount Koya, the Monastery is a deeply spiritual complex of temples, halls and pagodas. Surrounded by a thick forest of massive cedars, it is a serene place for reflection and contemplation. There is also a women’s pilgrimage circuit which you may wish to complete during your stay.

Next we will 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, including doing part of the Kumano Kodo by boat. We will walk 18-20kms over two days. The walk will be gentle, and you will also have the luxury of only carrying a day-pack each day as our luggage (15kgs maximum) will be transported to our final destination. We will finish our Kumano Kodo experience at Kumano Nachi Taisha, an iconic Shinto shrine and part of the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sacred Sites.

Want to see even more? Why not stay a few days longer and visit Tokyo as an add on for 4 days and 3 nights.

 

TOUR DATES

26 October – 5 November 2019

TOUR COST

A$4,250 twin share per person

A$1,650 single supplement

DURATION

11 days, 10 nights

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Walk and travel by boat along the Kumano Kodo, an ancient pilgrimage trail
  • Stay in traditional temple lodgings and participate in monastic life
  • Trek the scenic pilgrimage trails of Mt Koya
  • Visit culturally significant Buddhist and Shinto shrines in Nara
  • Explore the historical city of Kyoto
  • Relax with a traditional Japanese onsen experience

TOUR ROUTE

Osaka – Nara – Mt Koya – Kyoto – Tanabe – Yunomine Onsen – Kii Katsuura

 

Day 1

26 Oct 2019

Depart Australia and arrive Osaka
We will prepare to depart Brisbane together or you can make your own way to Osaka. We’ll arrive in Osaka in the early evening and head to our hotel via the extremely efficient and world famous rail network. No activities are planned but perhaps you’d like to wander around, stretch your legs and enjoy this modern city.

Overnight: City centre hotel, Osaka

Day 2

27 Oct 2019

Nara

Today we will take a day trip to Nara (40 minutes by train). We will have the full day to explore this fascinating historical city. A walk through Nara Park (popularly known as ‘Deer Park’) will take us to the Todai -ji Temple – its Daibutsu-den is the largest wooden building in the world, housing a spectacular 16-metre tall image of the Rushana Buddha in bronze and gold.

We will finish our exploration of Nara at the Shinto shrine of Kasuga, a serene site that features a collection of more than 3,000 stone and bronze lanterns. In the late afternoon we will return by train to Osaka.

Overnight: City centre hotel, Osaka (Breakfast)

Day 3

28 Oct 2019

Mt Koya
Leave Osaka and take a 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. A highlight of your time here includes the chance to participate in the morning prayers as well as eating dinner with the monks. It is also a special time for reflection and personal contemplation.

Overnight: Shukubo (temple lodging), Mount Koya (Breakfast, dinner)

Day 4

29 Oct 2019

Mt Koya
We will rise early for the Buddhist morning ceremony and Gomataki Fire Ritual which take place in the main worship hall. The rich colours, smell of the 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.

You will have the rest of the day to take a short hike around Mount Koya (approximately 7.5 kms). Choose from the Choishi Stupa Route, Koya Sanzen Route and the Women’s Pilgrim’s route, all of which are easy to follow. Alternatively you may opt to explore the inner sanctuary of the Okunoin cemetery with its thousands of graves, believed to be housing the spirits of past feudal lords and luminaries. You will also have the option of spending the day relaxing or taking part in the activities planned around the monastery.

Overnight: Shukubo (temple lodging), Mount Koya (Breakfast, dinner)

Day 5

30 Oct 2019

Kyoto
This morning we will enjoy the comfort and speed of the bullet train in order to travel to Kyoto (taking around 40-50 minutes). On arrival we will check into our hotel before exploring Kyoto’s many highlights. There is so much to pack in, from beautiful parks and ancient well-preserved temples to visiting the many Shinto shrines that dot the city.

In the afternoon we will take a 3-hour private walking tour of Kyoto with a local guide. 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 neighbourhood 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 many magnificent shrines and temples and the stories surrounding them. The rest of the evening is at your leisure.

Overnight: City centre hotel, Kyoto (Breakfast)

Day 6

31 Oct 2019

Kyoto

We’ll meet our guide then take a train together to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, world famous for the Senbon Torii, or thousand torii gates. This temple is one of the most popular sightseeing spots of Kyoto, and it’s not hard to see why. 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 many souvenir shops lining the street to the temple so taking a detour is also fun! We will return to Kyoto in time for lunch. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure to relax or explore.

Overnight: City centre hotel, Kyoto (Breakfast)

Day 7

1 Nov 2019

Kyoto  – Tanabe

Today we will leave behind beautiful Kyoto and head  towards the mountainous Kii-Peninsula. Our train journey will stop at Kii-Tanabe where we will have a pre-trek briefing and a relaxing walk around the town before taking a visit to the local temple which sets the mood for the Kumano Kodo walk. Enjoy dinner in one of the small local restaurants which serves traditional delicacies as well as local beer.

Overnight: Minshuku/Ryokan (private guesthouse), Tanabe (Breakfast)

Day 8

2 Nov 2019

Tanabe – Yunomine Onsen (8 kms trek, 4hrs)

After breakfast we will collect our lunch packages and then catch a bus to Yunomine Onsen, where we will explore the Hongu area and walk the last part of the Nakahechi Kumano Kodo route (the Akagi and Dainichi routes). These are both scenic routes and there are plenty of pilgrimage shrines and monuments, dating back to the 12th century, to stop and admire along the way.

You will be rewarded with a relaxing soak in an onsen – a Japanese hot spring, either in the local town or at a secluded bath along the river.

Overnight: Minshuku/Ryokan (private guesthouse), Yunomine Onsen (Breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 9

3 Nov 2019

Hosshinmon-oji – Kumano Hongu Taisha (7km –8 km trek, 2.5 – 4hrs)

Today we will take a local bus today to Hosshinmon-oji. Once there we will take a gentle walk through the beautiful traditional villages where you can buy traditional produce and small souvenirs from the locals. The highlight of the pilgrimage today is ending up at Kumano Hongu Taisha, a sacred precinct and home to one of the three main Shinto shrines on the trail.

Overnight: Minshuku/Ryokan (private guesthouse), Yunomine Onsen (Breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 10

4 Nov 2019

Yunomine Onsen – Kii Katsuura

Today we will experience the Kumano from the river! For over 1000 years pilgrims have been making the journey to Kumano. We will take a bus to the Kumano-gawa River, once a vital section of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route between Kumano Hongu Taisha in Hongu, and Kumano Hayatama Taisha in Shingu.

You will be able to journey in traditional wooden flat-bottom boats as pilgrims have been doing for centuries.  This is a unique and fun way to get a river side perspective of the Kumano’s spiritual landscape.

After our boat ride we will continue on to Shingu and catch a bus to Kumano Nachi Taisha, an iconic  Shinto shrine and one of the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sacred Sites.

If time is permitting after arriving in Katsuura you can take a boat trip over the bay to experience the luxury of an outdoor onsen in a cave. Following this we will enjoy a traditional ‘sayonara’ (farewell) dinner.

Overnight: Minshuku/Ryokan, Kii-Katsuura (Breakfast, dinner)

Day 11

5 Nov 2019

Departure

After breakfast (included) it’s time to head to the train station for a scenic ride back around the coastline of the Kii Peninsula. Sit back and enjoy the views of the coast to your left and the beautiful autumn coloured forest to your right.

When we arrive at Osaka Airport you will either take your flight home or continue to your next destination (if you are booking flights today, please book a late evening flight).

INCLUDE

Fully escorted from Australia by tour leader Sharon Thrupp

All transportation from Osaka (arrival) to Osaka (departure) as 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 to 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 travelling with the group (transportation costs during scheduled free time are the tour member’s responsibility)

Sayonara dinner at the end of the tour

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

Traditional boat tour on Day 10

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 and ryokan customs.

EXCLUDE:

International Flights

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

Personal expenses (laundry, drinks, shopping)

Meals unless otherwise specified in the itinerary

Passport & visa costs

Travel insurance (compulsory)

Tips & gratuities

This Tokyo extension offers a unique perspective on one of the world’s truly mesmerising cities. Our local insider guide will ensure that you not only see the ultra-modern city buzzing with technology; but that you also catch a glimpse of the ancient city known as Edo which remains steeped in timeless traditions. We’ll take in districts known for their local artisans and cultural curiosities as well as visit some of Tokyo’s most significant Buddhist sanctuaries and Shinto shrines. All this and more, set against the most stunning time of year with the autumnal leaves in full glorious colour.

As with all Ekno experiences, we select our hotels and locations with an eye on combining value for money and comfort into one unique experience.

TOUR DATES

5-8 November 2019

TOUR COST

A$1,650,

Single Supplement A$540

DURATION

4 days, 3 nights

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Soak up the vibrant atmosphere of this global city with walking tours to diverse districts
  • Wander around beautiful Ueno park in spectacular autumn colour
  • Marvel at the Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo’s most popular Buddhist sanctuary in Asakusa
  • Visit impressive sites such the Imperial Palace, Tokyo National Museum and Bridgestone Museum of Art
  • Shop for souvenirs and people watch in Shinjuku, Ginza, or Marunouchi

TOUR ROUTE

Tokyo
Day 1

5 Nov 2019

Arrive in Tokyo in the late afternoon and transfer to our hotel. The rest of the evening is at your leisure. No activities are planned but perhaps you’d like to soak up some of Tokyo’s vibrant night life at Ueno and enjoy some traditional Japanese cuisine at an Izakaya (Japanese style pub) before retiring for the night.

Overnight: Hotel, Tokyo

Day 2

6 Nov 2019

This morning you can choose to meet your guide at the hotel (at an additional cost) or take the following  suggestions for sightseeing on your own:
  • Visit the Asakusa area, including the Old Senso-ji temple and the Nakamise traditional shopping street.
  • Explore Akihabara, Japan’s unique pop cultural centre which includes anime and comic figure shops.
  • Visit Ameyoko market, casual shopping streets filled with local ambience, and also a former black market after WW2.
  • Wander through the beautiful gardens at the Imperial Palace.
  • Explore the local residential area of Yanaka, which retains that retains old Japanese atmosphere.
  • Check out Shinjuku and Harajuku districts, which includes Kabukicho “the biggest” downtown which was once called the red light district, the Golden gai small bar street and busy Takesita street filled with teenagers in Lolita fashion.

In the late afternoon you can choose to return to the hotel for a rest or to shop till you drop in one of the exciting shopping districts of Shinjuku, Ginza, or Marunouchi. These areas are also great for people watching and grabbing a bite to eat.

Overnight: Hotel, Tokyo

Day 3

7 Nov 2019

Today we will explore some of the other main attractions that Tokyo has to offer. After breakfast take a wander to Ueno-koen Park and visit the wonderful Tokyo National Museum and Tosho-gu Shrine before heading back to the bustling Ueno Station area for lunch.

After lunch there is some free time for you to explore as you please. You can visit the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum or the Bridgestone Museum of Art or consider taking a nice stroll in nearby Hibiya-koen Park.

Overnight: Hotel Tokyo

Day 4

8 Nov 2019

No activities are planned for this day. After breakfast get ready to leave on your outbound flight home. Thank you for travelling with us, we hope that you have had a fulfilling journey.

INCLUDE

3 nights’ accommodation in a Western style hotel

Transportation from Osaka to Tokyo by train

All transportation costs (by train) when travelling with the group (transportation costs during scheduled free times are the tour member’s responsibility)

Admission fees to destinations listed in the itinerary

Transfer by taxi from Tokyo Station to Tokyo Hotel

Transfer by bus from hotel to Narita/Hadena Airport

EXCLUDE:

International Flights

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

Cost of a local guide

Personal expenses (laundry, drinks, shopping)

All meals

Passport & visa costs

Travel insurance (compulsory)

Tips & gratuities

Ven Kartson at the start of our Pilgrimage
Japan-1
Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine and Nachi Falls
Torii Gates, Kyoto
Japan-4
Japan-5
Traditional Kumano Kudo dress
Japan-7
Japan-8
Yasaka-jina Shrine, Kyoto